On a Clear Day
June 16, 2014

This past April marked the ten year anniversary of Kathleen Walsh Interiors. Don't worry, you didn't miss the party—I glanced at the calendar, smiled, thanked the stars and then got back to work. It seems fitting that these ten years have been bookended with career highlights involving the same client. Years ago I was working at the Office of Thierry Despont, an amazing firm you don't decide to leave lightly. I was doing work most designers only dream of, with clients that were living lives that still send a mind reeling. When a friend and former client called about a project big enough to launch my solo career, I took stock of where I was, what I wanted for myself, what I would leave behind, and I decided to take the opportunity. Though my practical mind was telling me I shouldn't leave, my heart said "go." The gamble (and it was a big gamble) paid off; I spent 15 months decorating every square inch of their Greenwich, CT, house and then, to my delight and relief, more clients came calling. This month, the July issue of Architectural Digest features our work on that same client's new, modern farmhouse on Martha's Vineyard. We are, needless to say, over the moon—our first national exposure, in Architectural Digest, with a client to whom I am forever grateful.

I love the work we've done for this client, starting with the NYC apartment that I helped them decorate while they were in their mid-twenties, well before their kids were born, while I was working for other firms. Their Greenwich house was a wonderful adventure, and I was sad when they decided to relocate for work mere weeks after the last piece arrived and then immediately after the photos were taken. I almost fell off my chair when they called and said they were moving back, to New England this time, to start a new chapter on Martha's Vineyard as farmers. I'm sorry, what?! But I've come to realize that when this client calls, things get interesting, so I composed myself and put my listening ears back on.

Once they started to describe the vision they had for the lifestyle they were looking to achieve, and the house which would support that lifestyle, I was struck by how clear their ideas and priorities were. Although they had always lived in lovely homes with pretty décor within nice communities, this new vision was completely different from anything they had done before, but I understood the goal and was immediately able to visualize the home they needed to make the idea reality. And likewise, the rest of the team—the architects, the landscape architects, the contractors, and the artisans were able to grasp it, too. Once the clients got that we were all listening to them, and that we had heard them, they turned and listened to us, and the conversation, the collaboration, and the trust continued straight through the entire project, and it shows. In the end, the entire team was so proud to have worked on this project, but most importantly the clients live in a home they finally love.

Achieving clarity is not always easy, but it is essential to the success of a project. We ask a lot of our clients at the beginning of each project; we tour showrooms with all the decision-makers so we can question ideas of what they like and see if there are aesthetic options that surprise them. We provide a bit of education about value and available options so that we can help clients understand when a purchase should be thought of as an investment and when it makes sense to be conservative. We want clients to discuss with us what is important to them so that consensus about function and budget and aesthetic can be achieved early, allowing us to get the design moving in the right direction from the very beginning. I'm here to be another voice in the conversation, as is the architect, your art consultant, your contractor, and your landscape designer. We fully expect ideas to evolve, for our clients to grow throughout the process, but throughout the changes we ensure the integrity of the vision stays intact.

The house you had in your mid-twenties should not be the house you have in your mid-thirties, or forties or fifties for that matter. But that doesn't mean that a piece you bought when you were 25 needs to go by the time you're 33. The thing we want our clients to do more than anything else is make decisions with their hearts. It's not about fashion, or what was on the cover of last month's magazine, or what your stylish friend put together, or what your parents tell you is "right," or even what you've always done in the past. Clarity is about listening to your heart and hearing it, then taking the courage to say "this is how we want to live." Don't worry about the details, the ramifications, the budget, what your friends and family will think—we take care of all that. Think about your home, your family's home, and what works for you. Talk together and share those ideas—chances are a few more will materialize. And then tell me about it. We're here, we're listening, and we want nothing more than to make your vision reality.