In addition to designing kinder spaces for her clients, Anne Kellett uses her knowledge of the business world to teach the next generation of interior designers.
Thanks for joining us, Anne! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design.
I’ve actually been an interior designer for almost 40 years now so how I got into it is a bit of a distant memory. I went to college at the University of Connecticut and after changing majors three times, I finally found the interior design department and felt at home. I had been an Army brat and my mother in 22 years of marriage made 30 different homes so I learned how to create “home” at her knees. I’ve worked for furniture stores, small design firms and had my own business since 1984. I’ve lived and worked in different regions of the country, from New England to Virginia and now in California. The styles in each area are quite different but the design process of working with clients remains the same. Creating a space that makes a difference in a person or family’s life is universal. It’s not about the style but about making it work for them in a beautiful way.
How would you describe as your style? Influences? Designers you emulate?
My personal design style is eclectic, more transitional than “a style” per se. I personally like elements of traditional and contemporary. 18th century Chippendale dining chairs with a glass table, for instance. I have been influenced mostly by textiles, which I absolutely love! I have quite a background in historic textiles and am fascinated by how an ancient motif can be reused in a fresh new way. I am thoroughly at home in a fabric showroom.
When I work with clients I try to make their style my style. It’s not about me, it’s about them. My job is to help them define their style and create a space for them that express who they are. If I were to say what my “signature” is – it would be the use of color and beautiful fabrics.
I’ve never emulated other designers. There are those whom I respect – Barbara Barry, and Candice Olson – to name a couple but I’ve never tried to copy them. I just enjoy their creations.
When you enter a room can you tell if it has been professionally decorated? What are the tell tale signs?
Most definitely! There is a cohesiveness and level of sophistication in the use of design elements that very few amateurs can pull off. In my opinion very few homeowners or “DIYers” have the ability to look objectively at a space and pull it together professionally.
Which project are you most proud of and why?
Tough question for someone who has been designing for as many years as I have! I would have to say, however, that the Williamsburg Area Hospice House tops the list. It was a two-year pro bono project to create a four-bedroom respite care facility that “felt” residential but “worked” as a medical space at the same time. I knew I had done it right when a friend later told me that when they were there with a relative, they felt hugged the minute they walked in the door.
Are there any rules you must follow when decorating your own space? When should you call in a designer?
First of all be true to yourself. Know what you like and what you don’t like. Don’t try to copy exactly what you see on HGTV or Houzz or Pinterest. If you can’t define your style in words, gather photos of spaces that evoke the feeling you want to incorporate in your space and call in a designer who can help you. Good designers are problem solvers at heart and know how to interpret YOU. They have the resources you don’t to make a space truly yours.
We like rugs. Tell me a little about the various ways your incorporate them into your designs.
I like rugs too! I actually love area rugs, particularly handmade Orientals. I was very fortunate when I lived in Virginia to work with Mark Gonsenhauser, a second generation rug dealer from South Africa. He taught me so much about the history of rugs and how they differed regionally. One of my favorite things to do as a designer is to start with a fabulous rug and choose all the fabrics and finishes from it. Nothing makes a room’s focal better than a great area rug.
Why do you rely on area rugs? What is the biggest addition they make to a room? Do you have a particular type, size or color rug that you like to include in your work? Any that you avoid?
Area rugs, especially the handmade ones, are like fine art. The client has to really love their design. I tell them to choose a rug that will delight them every time they walk into the room. My role is to guide them through the process of finding that rug. The particular type, color or size depends on the style and function of their room. If the room is a formal one, then I will most likely guide them towards a floral motif. If it is a casual space, then a more geometric design might be the ticket.
I guess the only type of area rug I might avoid is a long, thick shag rug. A lot of young people think they are really cool but I’m old enough to have lived with them in the 70’s when you needed a rake as well as a good vacuum to keep them looking good!
Anything else to add?
Moving to San Diego has brought some new avenues to my career. As a leading edge Baby Boomer I enjoy incorporating more universal design features into my spaces so my clients can “age gracefully” in their homes. I have become a local spokesperson for this issue and often speak at events with a presentation “So Where Do YOU Want to Live When You Grow Up?” which addresses the challenges of aging but show beautiful solutions for specific spaces like kitchens and baths.
I also have become a designer of cat habitats. I won a design competition for a multiple cat space in our local humane society which has led to other clients who want functional but whimsical spaces for their feline family members.
Teaching and guiding the next generation of interior designers is also part of what I do. Design Institute of San Diego (www.disd.edu) is an excellent four year small, private college that only teaches interior design, conferring a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design degree. I’ve taught Textiles, Business Practices and an the introductory design class. Currently I administer their Internship program and career services. Being around young people and watching them develop as designers is very rewarding and fun too.)
Thanks for your time, Anne!
Thanks to you!