Kathryn Ireland is a tour de force. She has done it all: actress, producer, clothing designer, filmmaker, Mother, interior designer, fabric designer, author, and reality TV star on Bravo TV’s Million Dollar Decorators. That’s only a portion of the full list.
As Design Week kicks off, we talk with Kathryn about her journey to where she is today, what factors go into creating a timeless space, and we do a fun “Inside the Designer’s Studio” Q&A segment.
MH: How did your childhood and upbringing in London and Scotland influence who you are today?
KI: When you grow up surrounded by beauty, it cannot not rub off on you. I was fortunate to grow up in London and on the beach of Scotland. I had a privileged upbringing, having access to museums and other culture.
It’s all those things you don’t realize at the time and as I grew up and evolved, I realized my interest in design started at a young age.
Architecture has also been influential. We had a modest cottage on the coast. I had access to the best.
I came to America and joined the fashion business in New York in the early ‘80s. I then went to L.A. on a whim to see a friend and met my husband who was a film director and for five years I produced music videos.
Kathryn in her studio. Photo via kathrynireland.com
MH: Where do you draw inspiration for your fabric and interior designs?
KI: Typically from where I’ve been traveling. Lately, it’s been far East Europe. Now, my collection is inspired by traditional English and Scottish influences from my childhood.
For interior design, I approach my collection as a whole room in one collection. If you take the entire group of work I did in ‘97 and compare to my current collection, you’ll see that I blend my colors. I take inspiration from my first collection and add to it today and build it up as a collection.
Everything I’ve done in my career has built off of each other.
Fabrics designed by Kathryn Ireland. Photo via kathrynireland.com
MH: Tell me more about your book, Timeless Interiors.
KI: It’s a collection of houses I’ve done and the ideas all are different. It shows how diverse I can be. From a Spanish colonial farmhouse to a contemporary barn in Montecito, to a house on a Normandy farm. It also shows small houses and cottages in Beverly Hills. It all shows my range and that I’m as comfortable doing a grand silk bedroom as I am designing a modest cottage.
MH: What makes a space timeless?
KI: A space is timeless when the person continues to enjoy it over the years. I’ve lived in Santa Monica over the years and I still love it. What makes it timeless is that it has in some way a classical approach.
Not one thing shouts at you when you come into a room—it all fits harmoniously together.
MH: If you could work with any person living or dead, who would it be?
KI: Catherine the Great. I’d like to work with her and her opulence. I’m getting towards grander influences.
MH: Other than budgets, what are the differences between a million dollar design client and a several thousand dollar design client?
KI: Every budget is unique to its property. One has to be realistic about what can be done.
I don’t have a specific idea when I start. I get color palettes done and then show ideas. It’s then going out, the hunt, and then sticking to the budget.
At the end of the day, you want a client to be happy. You want them to be happy with what they pay and say good things about about you to others. It’s all about word-of-mouth referrals.
MH: Who would you want to decorate your own home?
KI: I loved David Hicks and how he mixed color. He was a genius.
Spanish revival living room designed by Kathryn Ireland. Photo via kathrynireland.com
MH: What advice would you give to someone reading this interview and is inspired to start his or her own career in interior design?
KI: You can work for friends and family to get experience. Photograph everything you do, no matter how small it is. Take these photographs to share with your clients.
You could even decide to design your own house. It’s not about spending a lot of money, but how you put it together.
Kitchen designed by Kathryn Ireland. Photo via kathrynireland.com
MH: In honor of another Bravo TV show, Inside the Actors Studio, let’s play a game called, “Inside the Designer’s Studio.” I’m going to ask you the same ten questions James Lipton always asked guests on the show, but with a design twist:
What is your favorite design word?
What is your least favorite design word?
What do you love most about your career?
It’s on my schedule. I travel and I’ve been able to bring up three boys. I work hard and have accomplished a lot, but being a mother has always come first.
What do you least love about your career?
Relying on others.
What sound or noise do you love?
The sound of an elated client. When I’ve done more than they’ve expected.
Also, my workrooms. Listening to the upholstery department and all the staplers and tools. I like the sound of people working and getting on together. Everyone is as important to make a product and the beauty is to create magic. We make rooms and build buildings.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Me in a filthy mood swearing.
What is your favorite curse word?
Let’s just say, “See you next Tuesday.”
What industry profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I already do everything in the industry. I create and make.
What industry profession would you not like to do?
Again, I’m doing them all.
If a design heaven exists, what would you like to hear the design Gods say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
We don’t need any curtains or pillows.
Thanks so much Kathryn! You can see Kathryn’s work on her website.