Welcome to our new series, Creative Types, where we talk with industry professionals about what they do and why they love it. Today's column features interior designer Isabel Borland whose work you may recognize from this recent Friday Favorites column. Isabel is a self-described designer and writer and currently resides in Austin, Texas.
Photography by Jean-Marc Fray
How would you describe your personal style?
Eclectic with a bent towards classic. I gravitate towards interiors that are the result of collecting over time, a combination of high and low, nothing too precious and with some frayed edges here and there. [Interiors that are] representative of the inhabitants' soul.
Who are your style icons?
I admire Sofia Coppola's understated style. I love a smart girl who wears flats on the red carpet. Also Diane von Furstenberg. She's such a pioneer. Plus I'm a pattern girl - I prefer them for clothing and interiors - and hers are always bold and fresh.
Highlights from the C-Project. Photography by Jean-Marc Fray and Isabel Borland.
What inspires you as an interior designer?
I find inspiration everywhere: fashion magazines and clothing stores, movies and television (Mad Men!), flea markets and estate sales, friends' houses. I also look at garden and landscape design for inspiration on color, texture and space planning. The idea of setting up vistas and destinations (so important even in small spaces) is played out nicely in good landscape design.
What are your favorite books or resources?
My favorite magazine is Elle Decoration UK. The editorial all looks so unstaged and real ad the homes always have a layered look with things collected over time, worn-in and well-loved. I get a little tired of the perfectly staged spreads in most interior design magazines, though I enjoy Elle Decor, even if they do usually fall in the "too perfect to be true" category. As for books: Elle Decor Style and Substance and Celerie Kemble's To Your Taste are practical guidebooks for me. I also use David Hicks' A Life of Design and The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge when I am looking for unusual color and style pairings and general inspiration.
What are some of the blogs you frequent and are inspired by?
Besides Here In This House (which I love!), Vincente Wolf (he is so generous with inspiration and nuts and bolts information), Habitually Chic, Design Milk and What is James Wearing? (I love the outfits and unabashed vanity).
What does a typical work day like for you?
There is no typical day. It all depends on what stage I'm in on a project. I might be scouring blogs and magazines for ideas. Or driving around the city to fabric and furniture stores. Standing in line at 8 AM on Saturday to get first dibs at the local monthly flea market. Wading through paint swatches at Benjamin Moore. Knee-deep in glue, hanging a world map mural in a client's boys' room. Lately I've been very focused on my jewelry line so I wake up, go for a run, make some tea and get to work at the bench. Eight hours straight can go by carving or finishing pieces, I get totally lost in it.
What is your most prized possession?
An old faded out picture of me when I was maybe two years old and my older sister. We are wearing dresses with my mother, who was wearing a trench coat, standing in a light green field with sheep milling around us. It is so random and I have no memory of it. I think this is why I love it so much. It makes me think about the magic and mystery of childhood and how fleeting it is. I also love my jewelry collection - I couldn't pick one piece, it depends on the day. And I love my red cowboy boots.
What’s one thing you will always splurge on?
Jewelry. Shoes. Good food... (I will splurge on many things)
What your best advice for an up & coming designer or stylist?
"Decide what to be and go be it." I heard that (slightly cheesy) lyric recently on the radio, and I think it's a good way to approach life: start acting like a designer or stylist, tell everyone that this is what you're doing, and you'll be one. More specifically, if one is at ground zero, writing a blog is a great way to get the ideas flowing and out there. Also getting to know the local dealers - antiques, textiles, tiles, fixtures. You'll learn about those areas as well as establish important contacts since their customers are your potential clients - and you are also their potential client! This is a relationship business as much as anything else, so start building those relationships. Also, don't hold onto ideas too tightly. It's a delicate balance in the beginning between offering up your ideas for free, and then learning how to get paid for what your ideas are worth - but letting people know you have great ideas is the first step and they can't know this unless you share openly. Worry about getting paid later - it'll happen organically before you know it.
Highlights from the Fay residence. Photography by Mae Hacking.
If not an interior designer, what would you have considered being?
A jewelry designer and a writer. Both of which I also am.
What’s currently playing on your iPod?
The Tallest Man on Earth. Obsessively. I can't stop and I never seem to grow tired of him.
A lifelong passion for art, architecture and beautiful things led her to interior design. She has a degree in art and architecture history, an MBA, and sales and marketing experience in several industries including fine art and textiles. Her aesthetic is eclectic with a keen eye to proportion, color, texture and unexpected combinations of high and low that feel fun but always balanced and grounding.