Designer Friday: An ASPIRE Exclusive Interview With Kathleen Walsh

Though her design career began with her degree in fashion, Kathleen Walsh made a quick transition into her passion for interiors. With two decades of experience under her belt and the founding of her design firm in 2004, Walsh has had the opportunity to create and curate interiors all over New York and New England. In addition to her long roster of charming abodes, she has also been featured in major publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Kathleen Walsh.

This secluded home in Westchester, NY was designed by Kathleen Walsh for a New York City family. Since acquiring it in 2010, the couple decided to completely renovate the home, giving Walsh a gorgeous blank slate.

Andrew Joseph: Describe your design style as if you were explaining it to someone who cannot see.
Kathleen Walsh: I love this question. The best designs speak to more than just the sense of sight- to me, they engage all the senses. I would ask the person to start by clearing their ideas and mind, taking a few deep breaths, and feeling an inner calm that can be achieved. I start by letting them know that that feeling of clarity is my first goal when designing any space.

In short, we design orderly, deliberate spaces that ease up once all the functional needs are met and then we celebrate the homeowners through design and distinct mixes of art, materials, furnishings. We love a wide variety of natural materials in various textures to reveal the hand of the maker and tap into my clients’ sense of who they are and where they are going.

We design to reflect a sense of place and we highlight perfectly imperfect details to put inhabitants at ease. We’re not afraid of color and pattern – in fact, we love them. But you won’t find either incorporated ad-hoc, everything I do is thoughtful and has a reason. Likewise, we balance textures and materials so that sense of order and proportion is achieved. Imagine tactile materials and textures providing enough interest to keep you engaged in each area of a space. We use them to define the map of a room, to clue you in as to what to do and how to use the furnishings and environment.

I love a balance of spaces in a home that acknowledge the dual needs of gathering and privacy. Communal spaces like living rooms and kitchens should encourage plenty of family time and togetherness. Cozy seating materials and places to put a drink or pull up an ottoman are just part of our DNA. Adding in technology to allow for beautiful sound systems, to allow in sunlight, shade for privacy, keep things temperature controlled are modern conveniences that allow the users focus to stay focused on layout and proportion and details that make a room unique. Private areas like bedrooms and home offices are often peaceful and exude a sense of tranquility – they are sanctuaries. You’ll find top-of-the-line linens that look effortless here, and perhaps a window seat, textures underfoot that engage a sense of touch. Natural materials like subtle soft linens, warm wool and cozy cottons are usual textures to be found. In offices, ergonomics takes precedence and we design a workspace to make you feel on top of your game.

Personally, I prefer the “less is more” approach to design, I’d rather have fewer and better any day of the week. But for clients who revel in a more is more approach, we still get hired when the desire is to corral possessions into a warm, joyful space that celebrates the things in life that matter most.

Above all, a sense of place matters. A city apartment has a different design solution than the same house located at the beach. Likewise, we design spaces for individuals and families, so two neighbors in identical houses should have entirely different interiors.

The inspiration for this Martha’s Vineyard vacation home was comfort, napping, and gathering. All of the art is sourced from local Martha’s Vineyard artist, which is great for a home that prides itself on connection.

Andrew: If you could live in any home in a movie or television series, what would it be?
Kathleen: I would pick the “Vandamm House” house from Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. It’s a set- not a real house, but I love modernist architecture and appreciate that the “home” mixed the influence of Frank Llyod Wright with more luxurious furnishings and generous ceiling heights. It’s nod to natural materials- there are rock walls and handsome wood throughout, as well as the proportional drama via the double-height Living Room, and of course, that cantilever, is everything.

Andrew: What would your dream project or dream client be right now?
Kathleen: Most of my projects are in either New England or New York, so I’d like a change of scenery. It would be fun to get to do something that I don’t typically do in this region – a big Adirondack-style lake house on an emerald-green Canadian lake, or a modernist desert home would be a dream.

With the client’s one request to include as much blue as possible, Kathleen certainly delivered just that. She changed up the proportions and tones in each room making sure the aesthetic remained consistent but the space still felt fresh.

Andrew: What’s your favorite cocktail?
Kathleen: A Negroni, specifically from Rucola in Cobble Hill. It is the coziest restaurant that serves northern Italian cuisine. For their Negroni, they use Aperol instead of usual Campari. Cynar instead of the Sweet Vermouth.

Andrew: Must have clothing item everyone should have?
Kathleen: I can’t pick just one! I believe everyone needs a high quality, perfectly fitted jacket. It should accentuate the shape that suits you best and take you from day to night, all while helping to hide holiday cookies. A go-to pair of high heels is essential – ones that you can actually wear and walk in – and a stellar piece of statement jewelry is a must. Whether it’s earrings or a cuff, doesn’t matter, but the piece should be a statement and give you something to talk about with others.

The client’s exquisite art collection in their West Village home was the centerpiece of this design. The anchor of this room is the antique hot pink and tangerine rug, which perfectly ties this kaleidoscopic room together.

Andrew: How do you define beauty?
Kathleen: Beauty is some unexpected quality that makes you look twice and reveals confidence – whether that is in your home, fashion, personal appearance, flowers, any of it. It is a combination of elements that portray a distinct point of view. Beauty makes your heart leap, and is just enough, but never too much.

About The Designer | Kathleen Walsh is the Principal of Kathleen Walsh Interiors – an Interior Design firm she started more than fifteen years ago.

Today, Kathleen’s tailored and serene interiors strike the right balance of interesting details, luxury, and the perfect imperfection of things that are made by hand. Her clients appreciate her easy, logical approach, signature process used for every project whether it’s a client’s first or fifth home, and her ability to work with clients to find their true voice when approaching their home.

In her spare time, Kathleen enjoys giving back to the design community through work with the Bailey House Design Committee and through The Decorators Club of New York. She is also a member of the Design Leadership Network and Female Founders Collective.

Kathleen lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two young daughters. In the summer, her family likes to spend as much time as they can on Martha’s Vineyard. Kathleen is also a big fan of the Berkshires and can be found vacationing there. She is an avid runner and just completed her first half marathon.

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME magazine. See more of his work here.

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