HOW THIS CHARLOTTE DESIGNER SPOTLIGHTS RISING ARTISTS: CATHERINE M. AUSTIN INTERIOR DESIGN VIA ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST

I am delighted to share this lovely article that appeared in Architectural Digest this past week about my passion for working with artists and connecting them with clients. Using original art and educating clients is a cornerstone of my design aesthetic. I am so grateful I found a profession that allows me to combine all of my desired careers (artist, art history professor, curator, and designer) into one! Thank you to Katy Olson for sharing our story and to all the artists and galleries I have had the privilege to work with over the years!

CATHY AUSTIN SHARES HOW PROMOTING EMERGING TALENT CAN BENEFIT YOUR PROJECTS, TOO/ TEXT BY KATHERINE OLSON

Austin works with artist Charlie Havanich, pictured here, who is represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery. “I adore Charlie and I just acquired one of his works,” Austin tells AD PRO. “The image in the picture is a commission for one of my clients that bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Jackie.” / Photography: Charle Hanavich

Cathy Austin began her career not in design, but in art, working at Sotheby’s across departments including European Porcelain, American Paintings, and American Furniture. “I assisted the experts cataloguing the works for the auctions, handling archives, client contracts, condition reports, and arranging presale exhibitions. I began as an intern and archivist and also worked as an administrator,” recalls Austin. When she transitioned into interiors, Austin kept connected to the art scene, attending shows like Maison et Objet and TEFAF—but also in a more tangible way, sourcing local Southern talent for her interior-design projects.

Austin complemented her space at a recent Traditional Home show house with a portrait, left, by artist Kate Long Stevenson and a large abstract, right, by David Paul / Photography: Dustin Peck

The designer, who tells AD PRO that she has “always been an art history student at heart,” makes it a priority to educate clients. “Since art is very subjective, I encourage my clients to collect works that they respond to emotionally. Original art elevates every interior and reflects the personalities that inhabit the space. By attending art fairs at home and abroad, I seek out emerging artists to introduce to my clients. Getting to know the artists personally and learning about their process and what inspires them is very important to me to pass along that knowledge.”

An interior by Cathy Austin with artwork by Amanda Talley, above the fireplace/ Photography: Gordon Beall

As principal of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design, of Charlotte, North Carolina, one of those talents Austin has gotten to know on a deeper level is a New Orleans–based SCAD graduate named Amanda Talley, whose work she discovered in a local showroom. “I fell in love with her abstract, gestural works and designed my first living room around one of her paintings that I did not even own…knowing that one day I would add her work to my own personal collection.” The designer-artist duo’s first commission together was for a couple who were newbies to art collecting and just beginning their collection; their second commission was for Austin’s home. For each project, Austin sends Talley “inspiration images” as well as examples of her art that Austin’s clients like. Then, Talley “takes over and works her magic! I have loved watching her style evolve, yet still being able to recognize her brushstrokes knowing it is her work.”

What should designers know about sourcing art, particularly from emerging talents? In addition to the perhaps obvious exposure (“See as much as you can. Go to as many museums, galleries, auctions, and art fairs as you can to train your eye and be exposed to what is available in the marketplace”), Austin also advises having an open mind. “Do not be intimidated by price point. Even established artists can be within reach if you look at their complete body of work, including studies and works on paper. You can research artists through wonderful websites like Artsy which can also lead to discovering new artists and art galleries. It has been thrilling to watch the careers of artists I befriended years ago soar through their values increasing and being acquired by museum collections.”

Painting by Brad Thomas through SoCoGallery / Photography by Emily Followill

Another tip? Keep your eyes peeled; sometimes discoveries unfold on one’s downtime. Austin met a valuable collaborator during a volunteer commitment with the Mint Museum in Charlotte. “I was serving as the head of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and working closely with Brad Thomas, our curator of modern and contemporary art, selecting possible acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection that our organization would underwrite. He was already an established artist, as well as art consultant and artist mentor—but his work was taking a new direction,” she explains, which “combined mixed media, collage, and his distinctive handwriting that became abstract lines when intertwined on the canvas. The words in his works examine the influence writers have had on shaping his worldview.”

The artist’s works are now found in Austin’s collections—and in her clients’. “We recently collaborated on a work for the Atlanta Southeastern Showhouse this spring. I asked him to create a work inspired by a Southern author. He used the Flannery O’Connor quote, ‘To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.’ The abstract work was the perfect finishing touch to my bedroom, that made the space more personal and provided a contemporary juxtaposition to the more traditional elements in the room.”

And for up-and-coming artists? For their part, recommends Austin, “artists can share their portfolios with designers whose work they admire and offer to lend their work for various show houses and charity events,” says Austin. “Attending events at the major design centers and other industry events is a great way to connect with designers. Every city from Atlanta to Los Angeles now seems to have its own design week full of opportunities for networking.”

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THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING: PRIZE WINNING DOCUMENTARY ON HBO NOVEMBER 12

“There are a lot of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” -Oscar Wilde

I happened upon an interview this weekend on National Public Radio with Nathaniel Khan, the director of the acclaimed documentary, “The Price of Everything” that appears November 12th on HBO. Garnering accolades from every film festival imagined, the documentary breaks down the boundaries in the art world between artists, collectors, auction houses, galleries, art critics, and more. As a self professed art addict and Sotheby’s alumnae, I cannot wait to see this look behind the curtain. When I introduce works of art to clients, I always address what makes it special and why it is valuable. I am excited to hear their answers to the same questions on a much grander scale. 

HIGH POINT MARKET INSTAGRAM TAKEOVER: FOLLOW THE FUN

‘Tis the season when the design industry descends on High Point for Fall Market. There is an exceptional cast of characters that will be taking over the official Instagram feed over the next few days. Please follow along at the handle @hpmkt to discover the unique perspective of each of these designers to see what catches everyone’s eyes. I will be posting on Wednesday, October 17th and invite all design lovers to follow along!

DESIGN BOARD: CATHERINE M. AUSTIN INTERIOR DESIGN IN CHARLOTTE HOME DESIGN & DECOR

It is always a treat to see one’s own work in print. We were thrilled to see the latest issue of Charlotte Home Design & Decor featuring us in one of my favorite columns where they showcase a different designer each month. Read below for our favorite finds s scouted from around the world…

GLOBAL GLAMOUR BY CATHERINE M. AUSTIN INTERIOR DESIGN IN ATLANTA HOME & LIFESTYLES

The September issue of Atlanta Home & Lifestyles magazine is out featuring all of the glorious professional images of the Southeastern Showhouse & Gardens taken by dear friend and photographer extraordinaire Emily Followill. Click HERE to read the article and to see all of the hard work by the talented designers that participated in this year’s showhouse.

THE COLOR FACTORY OPENING NEXT WEEK IN NYC

“Mere color can speak to the soul a thousand different ways.” -Oscar Wilde

I am counting down the days until my next visit to NYC to see the much anticipated opening of The Color Factory.  This collaborative interactive exhibit debuted in San Francisco in August 2017. Originally just a one month long exhibit, the hype surrounding the celebration of color and creativity lasted for another eight sold-out months.

Opening August 20th, the new exhibition with a palette inspired by New York City is coming to ShoHo’s Hudson Square neighborhood. Covering 20,000 square feet, The Color Factory will feature brand-new participatory installations of colors collected around the city— hues that invite curiosity, discovery and play. 

HOUSE TOUR: STEP INSIDE THE COLORFUL HOME OF MARGHERITA MISSIONI VIA ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST

Lately I have been dreaming of “La Dolce Vita” and all things Italian as we plan our 20th anniversary trip to the Amalfi Coast next month. I have been a huge fan of Missioni as long as I can remember. Their energetic colorful patterns are instantly recognizable on everything from their fabulous fashions to their stunning line of textiles and carpets. I loved getting a glimpse of third generation Margherita Missioni’s home via Architectural Digest in the bucolic town of Varese. It is a sophisticated, yet playful mix of so many design elements I love….color, pattern, murals, original art, modern furnishings mixed with vintage finds, a sense of humor, and most importantly deeply personal aesthetic reflecting the family that inhabits the space.

OFF DUTY: CATHERINE M. AUSTIN INTERIOR DESIGN IN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

We were delighted to see the latest edition of Off Duty in The Wall Street Journal this weekend leading the article with one of our favorite vignettes. We had been asked to contribute our best and worst personal design purchases to the column, “Not Every Acquisition is Exquisite.”  The online tagline read “Design professionals reveal the smartest décor purchases they’ve ever made (midcentury finds on Craigslist), and the most regrettable (a stinky ottoman). What you can learn from their admissions.” The best purchases are always fond to remember but the bad ones are impossible to forget . Even interior designers can make mistakes that haunt us daily which makes for hilarious weekend reading! My full answers are below…

BEST PURCHASE

I discovered a large scale multi-colored abstract painting by an unknown artist at a local showroom that I bought for the Traditional Home High Point Showhouse for several thousand dollars. It was love at first sight and knew I would never sell it. When I brought it home, I realized it was on its original stretcher and found a label on the back with the artist and NYC gallery that had a reputation for showing cutting edge contemporary art in the 70s and 80s. It now hangs in my master bedroom and greets me every morning.

WORST PURCHASE

In my twenties, I made a desperate attempt to acquire more closet space in my NYC apartment. The 12 inch closet did not suffice! I purchased a huge pine armoire from the depths of ABC carpet and home’s clearance basement for a few hundred dollars. The crudely carved behemoth with a nasty orangey-toned stain was the opposite of the priceless antiques I was cataloguing during my day job at Sotheby’s. To make matters worse, the interior ended up being so narrow that a hangar could not even hang straight so all my clothes were crammed in on the diagonal (and constantly wrinkled). It now resides in a corner of a spare bedroom holding cast off clothing. I have spent a fortune moving it from home to home. I still cannot bear to part with it because it reminds me of living paycheck to paycheck as a young New Yorker beginning my creative career.

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