Step Inside readers first met designer Laurie Whitaker of Whitaker Designs nearly six years ago when we were fortunate enough to visit with her on Bartram Road (“At Home with Laurie Whitaker,” August 2014). Once a woman who day-dreamed in numbers, we learned that the former finance and tax specialist followed her passion for decorating into the world of interior design. Since then, Whitaker has expanded her list of clientele to include projects across the country. We caught up with the designer over the holidays for a little informal Q&A and a brief update of her current projects.
1. How would you describe your personal style?
“I love to fill my home with things that reflect nature: Faux bois [French for ‘false wood’] in a fabric or garden ornament, or fine china that features birds, butterflies, fruits, and flowers. Comfort is important, too. I want my home to be inviting, welcoming; a ‘kick-off-your-shoes-and-relax’ kind of place. Layering beautiful antique furniture with amazing patinas and upholstery along with crisp fabrics and rugs creates a ‘curated over time effect’ that goes a long way in making a home feel lived in.”
2. What changes in style did you notice in 2019?
“2019 brought a touch more color into an otherwise tonal design trend in the last decade, as well as a focus on sustainability and durability in fabrics for your home. A new fabric line, ‘Inside Out,’ was introduced at the spring High Point Furniture Market with beautiful textured solids offering a cleanable option for your foundation upholstery. I think the mid-century modern influence in furniture and fabrics is here to stay for a while, and more formal design styles will continue to relax in favor of more livable and comfortable spaces.”
3. What frequent mistakes do people make when decorating their homes?
“One of the biggest mistakes people can make when working on updating their home is to purchase furniture and accessories without an overall plan in place. Ask yourself, ‘What is the item in the room that you want to be the focal point of your design? Is it a fantastic rug, a piece of art, or is it a fabric you found that becomes the jumping off point?’ That item needs to be the focal point considered with every purchase. Begin layering your room from there with great colors, texture, and proper scale in fabric selections, as well as furniture. If possible, add in a few antique piece(s) to affect a curated look. Measure carefully before buying furniture and don’t overfill your space. Good design requires space for your eye to rest as it takes in a room.”
4. What tips would you give those who consider themselves clueless when it comes to home decorating?
“The last decade has completely changed the way individuals think about design. With the explosion of companies like Restoration Hardware, One Kings Lane, west elm, and Serena & Lily, design products have never been easier to access. Online sites like Pinterest and Houzz also make it easier for people with a propensity for design to DIY their home’s interiors. It’s a large landscape to navigate well, so again, I would suggest having a plan in place for each room before you begin to shop.
“When you walk into a room that’s been carefully planned and executed, it should possess a feeling of calm. Your home is your sanctuary, your daily retreat from an otherwise frenzied world. Good design is really a quality of life thing, and that attention to detail can result in a home environment that actually re-energizes you.”
5. What are you currently working on?
“I am working on a couple of fun projects right now. One is a stunning beach house at Figure Eight Island near Wilmington. Since it is new construction, we’ve selected every inch of the home’s building materials — tile, countertops, cabinets, flooring, wall coverings, as well as every piece of furniture, lighting, rugs, etc. It was so much fun watching my ideas come to life and seeing my clients happy with the results. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: creating spaces that reflect my clients’ lifestyle so that they feel completely at home.
“Another project is a 6,000-square-foot home for a couple of avid mid-century modern collectors. While the house is very traditional in style, they wanted to elevate their design using their collections while honoring the architectural style of the home. It’s always interesting working with sophisticated collectors who bring their own sense of style and design to a project. It’s all about the art of compromise in an ongoing exchange of our respective expertise to achieve the perfect balance in the final design.”
6. Would you divulge a few of your favorite shopping spots when decorating?
“I buy the majority of my products direct from my wholesale resources, but as the daughter of a lifetime Chamber of Commerce executive, I have to say to always shop local if yo