A LONDON home tour- INSPO exclusive!

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The first time I stepped into Kathryn’s home was on a dreary London morning. Pretty chilly, rather gray. About as London as it gets. I popped her address in on my phone and google maps directed me to her quiet street in the heart of Chelsea and I located #13…

And I walked into utter happiness. The bright colors, the fun-loving art, and the whispers of inspiration and joy greeted me. And refreshed me. From small details, like a statue of a dog peeking out of the fireplace to grand gestures, like a hand-beaded reindeer head mounted on the wall, it was a satiating mix of classy & whimsical. Which can be said entirely true of Kathryn as well.

Naturally, I asked if I could have one of my other ridiculously talented friends, Slaviana, take photos so we could share their talents with Inspo readers. And they both complied. So, I sat and watched them each in their element and smiled in my heart for the way God has made us each so unique and so differently gifted & talented to make the world a better (and prettier) place. And how that is really made apparent, when we can take the time and the perspective shift to appreciate it about one another.

Anyways, do you want to see some rooms in her house or what?! OK, they’re below. And Kathryn’s work can also be appreciated on her newly launched website Gertrude Street. So check that out, too. And after seeing her pieces in person, trust me, you should get one.

And now as I read thru her answers to the questions below, I hear her gorgeous southern accent and see her quick smile and dark, deep eyes. There’s your context. Without further adieu, the home and heart of Kathryn Saunders…

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia and lived in the south until I was about 20. I moved to New York after attending Vanderbilt University to work in design. I only wanted to live in New York for 1 year and then move back south but I ended up staying for 16! During my time in NYC- my first job in interior design was for Richard Keith Langham – I worked for him for 7 years. He is a very talented NY decorator but was from Alabama with an English sensibility andf flare so I feel like I always have had a strong influence from the south- even at the start of my career. After getting married, I started  my own firm and worked for clients in NY , NJ, CT and the south. It has been a wonderful career for me as I was able to start and stop working while having 3 children. We moved to London 3 years ago and I am so inspired by the design sensibilities here- and all that is all your finger tips. My husband is from New York City and I have 3 children that were born in NYC – Tatum (9) Henry (7) and Ruby (5)….I am constantly dragging them with me to auctions, flea markets and to work rooms.

How would you describe your personal design style?
I love color and pattern and am not afraid to use it in bold ways- I love applying a modern twist on a traditional piece…..growing up in the south and now having a family of my own has taught me a lot about creating usable, comfortable rooms that are also pretty and nice. It inspired me to want to create easy genteel rooms but I love to throw in an element of surprise. I love pretty rooms but not too precious and I think that you can raise children in homes where they learn respect for nice or special pieces. When I started having children, I never was one to buy the upholstered ottoman for the coffee table because it was safe, I just taught my children not to touch things. It did not always go so well but they learned!

I have also been influenced by travel and I love to find eclectic pieces as souvenirs which will always remind me of different places. For instance, the glass grapes on my coffee table were from a little store in Posinato on the Amalfi coast….I can still smell the man’s cigar who ran the shop- I picked these up for 20 euro and I love the pop of color that they add to a coffee table.

What advice do you give to a woman who doesn’t know where to start in decorating her home?
Have a party in your home- its a sure fire way to jump start! It’s nice to have something to get ready for and even if it just means rearranging some furniture!

I think that people are always waiting for the “right” time to start to decorate – peoples lives are so transient these days that even if you are renting a home with small children it is not too early to collect a thing or two that you love….maybe its painting the backs of some book cases a bold color or picking up a painting from a flea market or reuoholstering a pair of chairs. It only takes one or two things to transform a room. I think that people are overwhelmed by “doing” a whole room but baby steps are fine and you really don’t need to spend a lot to make a big change.

Have you ever had to overcome criticism in your line of work?
Yes- I have made many mistakes…..until recently I have not had a website and I’ve often been asked to send pictures of some of my work to someone who is interested in hiring a decorator, and then I do not hear back. That’s hard, but I have to remind myself that it’s not meant to be so I try to move on.

How do you balance work/home life?

I am fortunate to have my own company so that I can make calls/site visits/meetings around the children’s  schedules, but it’s also hard because it never leaves you. There is so much that you can do online now that I do office work a few nights a week.

Can you tell us about some of the art in your home?
My parents live in downtown Savannah surrounded by SCAD….Savannah College of Art and Design.

So, I have had the opportunity to see a lot of student art in local galleries and exhibits. Two of my favorite pieces were done by SCAD students and I just adore them. They were affordable and really spoke to me and I still love them. They hung in our NYC apartment and came with us to London. My husband and I also decided to buy a piece of art instead of gifts for each other for anniversaries, etc. so we have had fun doing this over the years.

I have a dear friend who is an art consultant in NYC- Blair clarke of Voltz Clarke and she has introduced me to several amazing new artists. As well as Alice Parker of Parker Galleries, in St Simons, GA who finds amazing artists to represent.

Tell us about the pieces that you restore. What is your process?
I have found a very good upholsterer here in London and he does a great job at bringing a piece back to life. If I pick up some chairs from a flea market that look like they could have been left by the side of the road, he never looks discouraged. I love adding trims- fineries, bobbles, tapes…etc …

What is your favorite part of interior design?
Scheming in the beginning and the installation at the end……I wish that the middle part- the ordering/paper work/etc was not necessary, but it is.

If you could tell yourself anything 20 years ago, what would it be?
After working in the design industry for a few years, I was slightly discouraged and thought that I wanted to do something else with my life. I thought about going back to school for teaching as I felt that what I was doing did not have any meaning- even though it was a wonderful creative outlet for me. I remember a friend telling me that interior design in fact had a huge amount of meaning because how was I to know what was going to happen in the spaces that I would help to transform? And she was right,  I’ve worked for some amazing clients who have used their spaces for wonderful things like raising children, hosting charity events, meetings and religious events… I would maybe myself to trust myself and go with my gut more. I’ve met some really amazing people through this career – you really get to know your clients and their families when working together on a home. I’ve learned a lot from my clients and its really fun to (hopefully) see them happy in their homes and I feel blessed to have lived in amazing cities like New York and London where there are so many opportunities to learn and grow in design…..

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