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!
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.”
It is hard to believe this is the closing weekend of the Southeastern Showhouse & Gardens presented by Atlanta Home and Lifestyles Magazine. Many thanks to all who have come to see the showhouse filled with so much amazing talent. I will be at the house tomorrow from 1-4 for the final day for anyone who wants to pop in to say hello!
I have had many inquiries about items available in our space. Showhouses provide an amazing source to get incredible high end pieces, custom furniture, art and antiques…many of which are priced well below what they would sell for on the showroom floor. So, if you see something that catches your eye, make sure to look at the price list in each room to see what is still available. You might find the perfect Mother’s Day gift!
I think original art is one of the MOST important design elements in an interior. It reveals the personality of the inhabitant, elevates the other surrounding items, and adds a magical dimension to any room. Working on the art for the Southeastern Showhouse was a dream come true. Two of my favorite artists, Brad Thomas and Alexis Walter created works specifically for my spaces and my favorite Charlotte galleries, The New Gallery of Modern Art, Hidell Brooks Gallery, and SOCO Gallery allowed me to curate my own dream installation from the artists they represent, many of whom have become friends. The majority of works are by Southern contemporary artists with a nod to my NYC days represented by Stephanie Hirsch and Scott Duce seen below. By playing with scale, unifying colors, and juxtaposing different mediums, I tried to create harmonious compositions throughout the spaces.
Next month, I am thrilled to be participating in the 2015 Designer Showhouse sponsored by Traditional Home and the Junior League of High Point. The “From High Point to the World” themed showhouse will host a grand opening party the evening of Friday, April 17, 2015, and open to public for tours beginning Saturday, April 18th. Tickets are available by clicking here.
“We’re thrilled to include the Junior League of High Point’s Designer Showhouse as part of the Traditional Home 2015 National Showhouse Tour,” says Ann Maine, editor in chief of Traditional Home. “The High Point Market is the heart of home furnishings industry and the opportunity to bring recognition to both talented designers and leading furniture companies only fuels our enthusiasm. Through the decades, the Terry family has been an integral and influential part of the city’s history. It’s appropriate to pay tribute to them by showcasing their beautiful Tudor Revival home. Collaborating with the Junior League to help raise funds to benefit their community programs is something the Terry family would have appreciated.”
Nancy and Randall B. Terry built the house circa-1912. It is likely one of the earliest homes in High Point’s Roland Park, as well as one of the first examples of the Tudor Revival movement in High Point. Randall B. Terry Jr., publisher of the High Point Enterprise newspaper, was the last of the Terry family to reside in the home. Sitting on a corner double lot with a pool and a sprawling back yard, the house boasts 15 rooms with many period details as well as a separate two-story carriage house.
Businessman, newspaper publisher, and philanthropist Randall B. Terry, Junior cherished the companionship of nine Golden Retreivers he named for figures in Greek Mythology-Achilles, Ajax, Apollo, Athena, Diana, Nike, Rumor, Venus and Zeus. At the time of his death in 2004, Mr. Terry agreed to have a caretaker live in his home with his 6 remaining dogs until the last one passed away. In the summer of 2014, the remaining dog Diana died. For those who did not know Mr. Terry well, he referred to the house as the “million dollar doghouse.”
I fell in love with the history of this house and envisioned it as being the epicenter of High Point shenanigans in its hey day. I was excited to showcase the local talent and work with so many design peers I admire. In many ways, the design community is just like High Point…a gracious small Southern town. Everyone knows everyone and enjoys their company from the sophisticated grand dames to the talented eccentric characters!
My bedroom is located on the front of the house with abundant natural light and elegant 10 1/2 foot ceilings. I envisioned my “imaginary” client as the sophisticated daughter of the Terry clan. She is well-travelled, artistic, and likes a modern, yet glamorous room that still reflects her Southern roots.
This large vintage abstract painting provided the color palette that inspired the design scheme. The room is a blend of unique pieces from High Point based craftsmen along with a curated collection from her travels around the world. A Moroccan inspired headboard, Murano glass lamps, original modern art, bespoke linens, dressmaker detailed drapery, and glamourous materials such as shagreen, agate, brass, and velvet will add to the feminine mystique of the space.
A portrait by one of my favorite artists, Kate Long Stevenson, (from Hidell Brooks Gallery) became my muse for the project. I had her in mind whenever I was making decisions for the space. I begin with the artwork to ignite a spark of inspiration. In the same way a museum exhibition is created to enhance the colors of the paintings, I pull colors out of the art to design the scheme. My interiors tell the story of the character that inhabits the space. Aesthetically, I incorporate something modern along with something antique and include a mix of high and low elements that are reflective, sculptural, textured and natural.
Indian inspired prints and embroidery with cut velvet animal print from Clarence House will cover custom designed pieces in the space.
I am excited to be working with Bernhardt Furniture who is graciously loaning several pieces for the interior.
I indulged myself with an “imaginary” trip around the world for inspiration for the space…from the palaces of Morocco and India to the Murano glass factories and sunsets on the Nayarit Riviera.
For more updates, check out the Showhouse Showdown at Madcap Cottage who is interviewing all of the designers and the inspiration behind their spaces including…
The room is dedicated to our sweet beloved Isabelle (1999-2015) who is now frolicking with the other golden angels…Achilles, Ajax, Apollo, Athena, Diana, Nike, Rumor, Venus and Zeus.
The A-Ha moment is one of clarity. It is a defining moment when you gain real wisdom that can be used to change your life. This moment can be inspiring, surprising, original, deeply personal and worth sharing. It often arises when there is an obstacle that needs to be turned into an opportunity.
Last week at Blogfest 2012, the editors from House Beautiful encouraged us to share an A-Ha moment from our design work. Up and coming designers Michael Herold, Jill Goldberg, and John Call shared their A-Ha moments with the group and challenged us to do the same.
My A-Ha moment came while working on the Pink House, a unique respite for breast cancer survivors and the Carolina Breast Friends organization. The Pink House serves breast cancer survivors in numerous ways: Wellness Education, Library and Computer Research Center, Fitness and Nutrition Centers, Self-Image Services, Arts & Crafts Workshops, and Counseling Services.
When I first saw the house, it was a beautiful historic home that had recently been renovated, but there were no funds to furnish the interior. What seemed like an insurmountable obstacle at the time turned into the most wonderful and fulfilling opportunity.
|The Living Room
Upholstery from Charles Stewart
|The Living Room
Accessories donated by Circa Interiors and Antiques
The organization wanted us to create a sophisticated, calming and feminine atmosphere. This was a haven where women would come together for fellowship, support and inspiration.
|The Living Room
Re-upholstery donated by Design Services, Inc.
Albert Hadley said, “Decorating is not about making stage sets,…it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.” We wanted the survivors that entered this space to feel like their spirits had been lifted and their souls nourished.
|Painting donated by Kate Long Stevenson
in honor of her friend Neil Maddux Miller
We found several pieces at local flea markets and tag sales. With some refinishing, new paint and re- upholstery, we were able to turn others people’s cast off furnishings into beautiful pieces for the Pink House.
Window Treatments donated by
Custom Window Treatments
|The Sun Room
Carpet donated by Stark
When we first began this project, I honestly did not know if we would be able to pull it together. We had several different rooms that needed to flow together along with random assortment of found items and upholstery that needed some unifying element. I finally understood the expression “making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!” Fortunately, we ended up with our A-Ha moment and we were all thrilled with the final product.
Renovations donated by J.E. Dunn Construction
|Yours truly with Newell Turner, Editor in Chief of House Beautiful
and Beth Greene, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Branding
for Kravet, Lee Jofa and Brusnchwig & Fils
|Renovations donated by J.E. Dunn Construction|
Last September, a dear friend invited me to visit the Pink House, a unique respite for breast cancer survivors and the Carolina Breast Friends organization. Inspired by CBF founder Kristy Adams-Ebel, this vision became the passion of more than 200 Charlotte women who are breast cancer survivors and members. The Pink House serves breast cancer survivors in numerous ways by providing Wellness Education, a Library and Computer Research Center, Fitness Center, Nutrition Center, Self-Image Services, Arts & Crafts Workshops, and Counseling Services. When I saw the Pink House for the first time, they were in the midst of the renovation that had been donated by J.E. Dunn Construction. They had done a magnificent job renovating this beautiful historic home, but had no funds to furnish the interior. We held a ladies only “Pink Party” in November to raise money for the interior. The generosity of the Charlotte community was incredible. In one evening, we raised enough to furnish the first floor of the house. From there, we approached several vendors and workrooms to see if they would donate their time and talent to help with the cause. Thanks to the donations of the design community, we were able to complete the entire house which opened its doors in May of the this year. We held another “Pink Party” this spring to celebrate the opening and raise funds to help CBF hire an executive director. We were completely humbled by everyone’s kindness and generosity. Not a single person we asked declined to help.
|Painting donated by Kate Long Stevenson|
We approached Kate Long Stevenson to see if she would be willing to do a painting in memory of a friend she had lost to breast cancer. Kate created the most beautiful abstract work and dedicated it to “memory of my extraordinary friend, Neil Maddux Miller. May her vibrancy, grace, and incredible resilience continue to inspire us all. “ The painting resides above the mantel that is now the focal point of the living room where Carolina Breast Friends will hold their monthly meetings. Neil’s law firm donated her office furniture for use in the Executive Office which was designed by local designer Lee Cooney. To see more of Kate’s work go to www.studiokate.net.
|Upholstery donated by Design Services, Inc.
Discounted fabrics provided by Cowtan and Tout, Schumacher, Lee Jofa, Kravet and Karen Saks.
Mike and Sabrina Polly of Design Services of Charlotte agreed to donate all of the labor for re-upholstery. We found several pieces at local flea markets and tag sales (such as the Mint to be Yours Tag Sale last fall). I had worked with Mike for years, but did not know that his wife was also a breast cancer survivor. It was incredible to see how his workshop turned other people’s cast off furniture into beautiful pieces for the Pink House.
|Drapery donated by Custom Window Treatments
New upholstery from Charles Stewart through Darnell and Company
Sharon Coppede of Custom Window Treatments is a breast cancer survivor herself. She agreed to donate all of the labor, lining, and inner lining for all of the window treatments in the house. The ladies that work in her design studio all donated their time to make the beautiful drapery in the above image. Sharon has joined Carolina Breast Friends and has started mentoring ladies who have recently been diagnosed.
|Lampshades donated by Lux Lampshades
Accessories donated by Circa Interiors and Antiques
|Needlepoint Rug donated by Stark Carpet
Blinds through Fine Designs, Inc.
|Orchids donated by Pamela Lovett|
For more information on the Pink House and Carolina Breast Friends, please go to www.carolinabreastfriends.org.