Interview: is a series that features women who inspire us in their creative and intellectual pursuits. They remind us of who we design for and why we love what we do - creating pieces that are innovative in style and design but still easy and comfortable.
Charlie Hellstern is an interior designer with over 20 years of experience designing interiors for homes, offices and commercial spaces. She curates materials, selects production furniture, and designs custom furniture. We visited her office - an inspiring space that gives a sense of understated elegance.
Q: What inspires you?
A: I feel like inspiration is all around me and I’m very tuned in to my environment and people I work and live with, I therefore strive to find voids from it all to help me sift through what I want to draw from when it comes time for my own creativity.
My family and I hike on the weekends, go to the beach or just go for a walk at night and sometimes that bit of downtime resets me in a way that allows me to clear the cobwebs and see opportunities I haven’t seen until I take that break.
Inspiration can come from seeing a clear path through a lot of obstacles, or just listening to someone talk, while simultaneously painting a picture in my mind of a space, or a palette, or a furniture piece. I also love to travel, especially to older cities throughout Europe such as Milan, which drives so much of the world’s creative force in design. I try to repeatedly visit Paris and New York as much as I can for creative bucket filing. I’m a nut for both vintage and new design books.
Q: What makes “good” interior design?
A: Good Interior Design just feels good. Sometimes it’s a complex mix of new and old objects with an unexpected twist of color or playful object or art piece, but it can also be an empty room with good light. Either way, I expect to gasp out loud.
Q: How do you balance your clients’ needs and your own personal preferences? Is there a signature Charlie Hellstern design style
A: As a Libra, this aspect of designing for people comes easy to me. I am up front with our clients, makers and builders about preferences and expectations and I ask questions when I need clarity from anyone about their expectations. We strive to keep a paper trail on everything so as to not miss a beat.
By the time we’ve finalized a concept for our clients, I have a clear point of view, but because our work is so sharply focused on the individuals or organizations inhabiting the spaces, I don’t have a signature look that I apply to each project.
"Inspiration can come from seeing a clear path through a lot of obstacles, or just listening to someone talk, while simultaneously painting a picture in my mind of a space, or a palette, or a furniture piece."
Q: I understand that textiles is an important part of your design process. What is it about textiles that inspires you and how do you use it when designing a space?
A: Textiles are one of the main mediums in the artform of Interior Design. I feel a rush when researching textiles and I sense something is just right for a furniture piece, a space or a person. I sometimes know exactly where a fabric should go, and equally find textiles that need to exist in a specific home but I’m not sure just where just yet when I find it.
The world of textiles in my profession can also be maddening, as it is a constantly changing landscape. When manufacturers discontinue or stop producing the color I’ve fallen in love with, within the timeframe that I show a client the fabric, re-selection can have a ripple effect in a home’s material palette. I do believe in the end that everything happens for a reason. I’m one of those gold at the end of the rainbow believers.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
A: So many great clients with fun projects! We have a 15,000 square foot addition to an existing home near Seattle that will be both comfortable and elegant. It is mostly soft gray and cool white, where we are exploring icy blue/gray furnishings and blackened rose gold metal finishes.
We also have a remodel of 1940’s home that is a ton of fun referencing deco and international style architecture in the furnishings. The palette is complex and rich balanced by a zen architectural palette.
We are also working with Graham Baba for Alaska Airlines on rolling out their first class lounge designs in airports all along the West Coast, after opening their Flagship we designed earlier this year.
Also, an architect friend of mine is remodeling an Edwardian era home and it has been fun researching just the right way of being respectful of the era, as well as bringing the home into the 21st century.
Q: What is your go-to-outfit?
A: What I love about A Oei pieces is the blend of tried and true silhouette mixed with unique prints, or complex silhouettes mixed with classic textiles. I strive to find pieces like these.
"Feeling good is important to me. What I look like on the way out the door sets the tone for each day. I want to represent what matters to me."
I always support local artists in my work, it’s wonderful to be able to extend that to my wardrobe. Nowadays, it’s so hard to know where our clothes come from.