Today is the first installment of a series about the designers contributing to the 2011 Charlottesville Design House, which benefits the Shelter for Help in Emergency. Between now and the opening of the house in May, I'll be interviewing designers and sharing photos of some of their work.
Special thanks goes to Chris Scott of Chris D. Scott Photography (here's his blog) for donating his time to this project. He graciously offered to photograph designers and newly completed spaces so I could share their newest projects, which might not have made it into their portfolios yet.
First up, meet designer (and blogger!) Ami Smith of Embellish Interiors...
S&C: Where are you from originally? What brought you to Charlottesville? How did you get interested in interior design?
AS: I grew up in Morgantown, WV, met my husband there (in high school!), went to college at West Virginia University and then to grad school. I have two "Multidisciplinary Studies" undergraduate degrees; one with a concentration in dance and Japanese and another in allied health. I got my Master of Occupational Therapy degree in 2000. We targeted Charlottesville when I finished my master's program. Being from a college town, we were drawn to that atmosphere and then fell in love with the rest.
Obviously, my interests are all over the place, but I have always loved the concept of home and making it stylish. I always helped friends and family with their decorating dilemmas and was always giving advice for their interiors. When a friend of mine moved from here, she called me to tell me she was now paying someone to do what I always did for her and encouraged me to give it a try. I am an HGTV junkie and felt confident that I had the skills to create interiors like those featured on the shows I watched despite lacking a formal education in design.
I also think it's important to show my daughter that it's a good thing to pursue your passions and not to be too fearful of failure to try.
S&C: You created Embellish Interiors recently, after working at another firm for some time. What was that transition like? What advice do you have for designers who are thinking of striking out on their own?
AS: I was co-owner of Room for Change and truly I think we were just so pleasantly surprised that there was such an interest in our work that we didn't iron out the logistics of the actual business. I think most people who are drawn to design are not equally drawn to the bookkeeping and numbers necessary to run a business. My advice to anyone who is wanting to start their own design business is not to ignore the business aspect. My primary interest is design, but I have to be able to manage the business to be a successful designer. I am truly enjoying being able to see my own concepts come to fruition and being responsible for my own work.
S&C: How would you describe your design aesthetic? How has it evolved over time?
AS: It's funny, I spend so much of my time working on determining what my clients' aesthetics are, I am all over the board with my own. I am drawn to more dramatic, bold looks. I love things that are sparkly and shiny and a bit opulent. That being said, I am a mom with a limited decorating budget and I have modified my likes to fit my needs in my own home.
S&C: When you start the design process, what elements have you most excited?
AS: I'm a total fabric person. It's something that can be used for any budget and can really create a "feel" in the space.
S&C: What is your favorite design resource in Charlottesville?
AS: My favorite places for inspiration are often the fabric stores here. We have quite a few great ones and I find myself basing a lot of my rooms on a pattern or color from fabrics.
S&C: What is your favorite design resources outside of Charlottesville?
AS: Is it a cop-out to say just the internet in general? I spend so much time reading about what others have done and looking at photos of projects to get inspiration. I also do a lot of on-line shopping and find it handy to be able to look for a piece without having to jump in the car. The possibilities are limitless too! Having family responsibilities, it is so convenient to get inspiration here in my own home.
S&C: Who are some of your favorite designers and why do you like their work?
AS: My all-time favorite is Candice Olson. I truly have never seen anything of hers that I have not liked. I love how Candice is able to create modern, clean spaces, but still make them user-friendly.
I had the opportunity to go to a resort in Anguilla designed by Kelly Wearstler and I really enjoy her work as well. I like how some of her interiors are so organic and use such natural materials while others are almost synthetic but all showcase her unique sense of style - a bit quirky but not uncomfortable or too serious.
S&C: Is there anything you've been hoping to use in a client's home?
AS: I try not to come into a project with my own ideas so that I can truly create what my client wants. However, I would LOVE to incorporate more slick, shiny surfaces in my designs. I'm really into lacquered furniture and patent leather. Not only do they look really cool, they are practical to put in a family home.
S&C: What was the last thing you bought for you home?
AS: What comes to mind first is shelving to organize my basement -- not so fun! The last exciting purchase for our home was a mirrored console for the dining room.
AS: I am hoping to inject a little whimsy in the house this year. I'm not afraid to have a little fun with my space and I hope those who come out to see it will find it pleasurable as well.
S&C: Any hints about your plans for your room in the 2011 Charlottesville Design House?