Quintessentially Caitlin Wilson Design

A new week and a new feature; quintessentially q & a.  I know from personal experience how setting up an interiors business on your own is both wonderful and terrifying and how helpful I find it being able to discuss with other designers how they figured it all out on their own and what makes them tick.

I am thrilled that the first quintessentially q & a is with Caitlin Wilson Design.  I discovered Caitlin via Oh Happy Day and literally devoured her design blog, she is absolutely inspirational.  Not only is she beautiful and very sweet, she is a phenomenally talented designer, her work is gorgeous, she creates extraordinary interiors, rich and sumptuous, vibrant and sophisticated, classic and enduring.  Caitlin currently lives in Dubai with her husband and beautiful baby Olivia and continues her design business internationally working from home.

photo by nicole carman

Have you always wanted to be an interior designer?  If so what made you realise this?

As a little girl, I wanted to be an artist.  I had a big sketchbook and spent a lot of time drawing and painting.  I also used to set up little businesses around my house such as wrapping presents at Christmas time {I was pretty good at it!} – so I guess you could say I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit.  My parents have great taste and always built custom homes so I grew up noticing the detail in the millwork, the marble floors, and the fine art in our homes.  At age 10, I began acquiring what eventually became an extensive candle collection. At 11, I very insistently chose “periwinkle” walls for my bedroom.  And I admittedly have always loved re-organizing, re-arranging, and even vacuuming my bedroom.  {Oh the memories of childhood}!

My creative side went into a brief hibernation during my high school years filled with cheerleading and dance but emerged again sophomore year of college, when I entertained the idea of beauty school.  Luckily, I recognized that I was just needing a creative outlet so I obeyed my parents wishes and continued pursuing my Bachelors degree.  That next semester I took an art history course from a fabulous professor. That was followed by a study abroad in Paris where I came to love even more art & beautiful design.  I came home, changed my major to interior design, added a minor in art history and started working at a flower shop / boutique.  I became the display designer until I graduated and eventually worked as the buyer & store designer.

Do you have any formal training in interior design?

I have a Bachelors degree from Brigham Young University, emphasis in Interior Design.  I completed a summer intensive course in Interior Design at Parsons Design School in New York City.  I also received a lot of valuable training working at two design firms before starting my own.

As a working mother to the beautiful Olivia, wife and designer how do you manage to keep organised and on top of everything that all of these roles entail?  Any systems or tips you’d like to share?

I am a wife & mother first before everything else.  So when Olivia is napping or asleep at night, that’s when I get my work done.  I am very organized, keep a continuous to do list, and have a filing system that works well for me.  I am not as productive as I was before motherhood, but I know I will miss this time I have with Olivia so I try to cherish every minute I have with her.

Do you have a signature design style or design element that makes your interiors recognisable as your own?

Wallpaper and bold pattern. You can almost always count on wallpaper being in my projects.  And PAIRS…not pears, but pairs of anything- lamps, accessories, foo dogs, pillows, you name it.  In my book, two is always better than one.

Favourite fabrics or textures?

Love geometrics & florals- especially together.  Linen is my standard.  I’m also into velvet & mohair at the moment.

Favourite suppliers?

Fabrics- Schumacher, Quadrille, Osborne & Little

Wallpaper- Designers Guild, Osborne & Little, Manuel Canovas, Cole & Son

Furniture- Lee Industries, Williams Sonoma Home, IKEA!

Little things that make life lovely?

Candles, Molton Brown soap, Peonies, Orchids, succulents, & French music.

How would you describe your home?

I would describe our home as eclectic, Eastern inspired, modern, and vibrant.

What is your favourite place in your home?

Favorite place in my home is Olivia’s room…it’s very happy and peaceful. There isn’t a better feeling than when I am rocking her to sleep at night in my chartreuse rock & swivel chair.  I look around the room and I’m reminded how lucky I am to have her.

What is the hardest thing about being self employed and working from home?

That you can’t leave your work at the office…there’s always something to be done.

What’s the easiest?

Not having to get ready for work!  Somedays I just stay in my pjs all day.  I can take care of my baby and design from home.  It’s the best of both worlds.

What is the biggest professional challenge you have faced so far?

Working on the penthouse fit-out of the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman.  Because I couldn’t be on-site, I was constantly emailing and talking on the phone with the architect, project managers, and tradesman on the project.  We had two goals in mind- to design & decorate for re-sale and to please the client.  It was a long, constant battle between the two but in the end, I think we reached a happy medium and I’m pleased with the result.

You lived in London for a little while, did you pick up any style ideas while here?

I fell even harder for the fabulous florals of Designers Guild and CathKidston.   I spent a whole day perusing the Designers Guild Flagship store and almost took home the entire new Darly collection.  The Cath Kidston store knew me by name… I think I actually DID take the whole store home with me!  My favorite, new find was Graham & Greene… so fabulous!

Most interior designers I know are also closet party planners, is this true with you?

I definitely like to throw a good shindig.  Whether it’s my wedding, a baby shower, or just a tea party with a few friends- anything that gives me an excuse to dress up & decorate!

How do you get most of your work?

Word of mouth & my blog.  My first client walked into the boutique I worked at looking for the display girl and the second saw my bedroom on my personal blog.  From there, it just took off & it has been amazing. I am so lucky to have such wonderful clients.

Where do you get inspiration and how do you stay up to date with trends/suppliers?  Any favourite sources/subscriptions/books/blogs etc?

I get my inspiration from a lot of places…design centers, fabrics, fashion.  I frequent the SFDC, San Francisco Design Center when I am in the states.  I am drawn to color and pattern so I’ll usually find a fabric or wallpaper that I love and go from there.

A great deal of design inspiration has come to me on my travels around the world- I am intrigued by other cultures and lifestyles.  At the moment, I am enamored with the Asia, India, and the Middle East since I am currently in Dubai. The myriad of fabulous markets and antique shops that are available to me here is incredible…I would go everyday I could!

I have been a domino fan since the very beginning so I am still mourning the loss of that blessed magazine {at least I still have all the backissues}. But I am loving the new LonnyMag online & I also pick up Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Country Living, Cottage Living, Dwell…I’m an admirer of all styles so I enjoy reading them all.  I also look at my suppliers’ websites and magazine websites a lot (especially because magazines cost $10-$15 here in Dubai!).

I’m also a design book fiend…{and seriously missing my collection in storage in the states}.  Design books are my weakness. Some of my favorites at the moment: Celerie Kemble: To Your Taste Thom Filicia: Style.

Do you have an interior designer style icon?

I have too many!  Kelly Wearstler, Celerie Kemble, Ruthie Sommers to name a few.  I love old Hollywood Glamour- how Kelly (yes, we’re on a first name basis) uses bold pattern, dramatic furniture, and quirky accessories.  Celerie’s take on traditionalism is so refreshing- I love her color combinations and femininity.  And Ruthie is a master of eclecticism…I still study her work featured in domino.

In fifteen years where would you like Caitlin Wilson Design to be?  How do you see your company growing over the years?

I’d like to have published a design book of my work, been in a few magazines, and possibly have a furniture & home décor boutique.  I’m also very interested in textile design.

Dream projects/clients?

A celebrity or fashion designer’s home in LA or a boutique hotel with no budget!

I love the San Francisco remodel you did recently, the kitchen was seriously gorgeous, can you share the ideas behind it and what went into the design?

The concept of the Presidio Heights apartment was modern traditional.  I wanted to keep the overall style very refined, formal and traditional but bring in modernity through interesting fabrics, patterns, and textures.  The gray color scheme was chosen to create a neutral setting for my client’s extensive California art collection.  I chose putty grays for the walls with high contrast white moldings and knowing that the gold frames {for the paintings} would be a huge presence-Calacatta Gold marble became the perfect choice for the kitchen & bathrooms.  Blending the subtle tones of gold and greys, I used Walker Zanger Calacatta 5”x8” marble tile for the backsplash & Misty Carrera Caesarstone for the countertop. I love Caesarstone because it gives you the look and beauty of marble without the price tag & risk of damage.  White cabinets are always my first choice and I added pattern and dimension with the formal damask wallpaper and bordered linencafé curtains.  The lighting & accessories added the final touches to give it the modern yet sophisticated look I aimed to achieve.

All images unless otherwise noted are courtesy of Caitlin Wilson Design

Many thanks to Caitlin for providing quintessentially b with such a wonderful q & a!


  1. caitlinwilsonMonday, March 1, 2010 at 8:41 am

    thanks sarah! this was so fun to do!

  2. LizMonday, March 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I love Caitlin! She is so talented, & I love hearing all these things about her. I’ve known her for quite a while, & she answered all the questions dead on – I can still picture her with her wrapping paper station & candle collection.

  3. ArleneMonday, March 1, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I very much enjoyed this Q&A on Caitlin Wilson. Her design style and taste are simply gorgeous so fresh. Thank you for “picking her creative brain” for us! I look forward to reading about her projects and following her career.

  4. KirstenMonday, March 1, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    That was so great to read! Thanks for that!

  5. lisaTuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:26 am

    so happy to have book suggestions, as well as brand suggestions. this has inspired me to find out more about my style!


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