“Interior design is the second chapter of my life,” says Katie Baldwin, owner of Katie Baldwin Designs. After studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she worked in the fashion sector for 17 years at places like the Gap and Ann Taylor. “When I left, I was burnt out. I was excited to move home to Lakeville, CT, and take some time off.”
At that time, Katie fully anticipated taking a few months off before moving back to the city and getting another job in the fashion field. Instead, she found work with Robin Bell Design, an interior design business based in Salisbury, CT.
“I immediately realized I found my thing,” Katie says. She spent five years working with Robin, during which she took classes at the New York School of Interior Design; went to Rome, Italy, to get her certification in classical architecture; and completed the designer MBA course at the Tobi Fairley School for Interior Design. She is also a certified Real Estate Stager and a certified True Color Expert.
“I tried to learn whatever I could for every opportunity,” she says. “I would take paint classes and visit fabric vendors. I was just a sponge for everything I could learn, and after five years with Robin and all the classes I had taken, I was finally ready to do it on my own.”
Opening her own business allowed Katie to stay home in Lakeville, CT, which is something that she had been yearning for during her career in New York and California. “I was aching to get home to Lakeville, but I was always a career girl, so being able to forge a career and remain in my hometown was very exciting to me.”
So with a few pillows and chairs, her design business officially began. “I remember spending hours on some pillows,” Katie laughs. “It was so exciting. I still have all the photos from that first job.”
A short year and a half later, Katie officially opened her showroom and office in Lakeville, where she is still located today.
Katie’s personal style
Katie believes that personal design style is something that is ever-changing. Early in her career, Katie’s style was more preppy, meaning very quintessentially American, with warm woods, patterns like plaid and check, and general country club-esque aesthetics. Since opening her own business, however, Katie’s style has become more eclectic.
“I love color, pattern, and textures. I’m getting married, and my fiancé and I have very different styles, but we’re blending this world together and it’s interesting and it’s layered,” she says.
Katie’s most important job is to represent her client’s vision authentically. “I don’t believe it’s right to force design styles on clients. I listen and learn about them, what their vision is, and what their needs are, and then I help guide them with what I know and what I’ve learned,” she says.
Katie continues to explain that some clients want a completely clean slate when they contact her, while others just need some help livening up their space with new items. For her, the joy in designing is layering the new with the old, much like what she’s doing in her own life right now.
“I enjoy slowly piecing things together and making it work so it’s exactly what my client wants.”
A step above
Katie Baldwin Designs offers services including design and color consultations, custom upholstery and fabric selection, furniture selection and sourcing, and project management.
However, the service that sets Katie Baldwin Designs apart from similar businesses is the addition of window treatments and coverings. “There are not a lot of designers that offer them, so I wanted to become a destination for window treatments.”
Katie Baldwin Designs has become a full-service shop, which means it offers custom shades; including cellular, Roman, roller, and pleated; as well as drapery; shutters; and wood blinds.
Additionally, Katie also has a van that houses full sample kits, so she’s able to travel from home to home to show clients samples of fabrics, curtain rods, and shades, among other items. “People call me all the time because they can’t find personalized service elsewhere. We can show them the high-end fabrics that we house in our showroom. We can even bring those things to them, which has been a really nice addition for us and for our clients.”
Local and thorough customer service is one of the things that Katie takes the most pride in. That was one of the driving forces behind her decision to make her business a full service one that handles project management as well. They not only help pick out the pretty design for the drapes or order the furniture, but they also ensure that they are present at the job site, monitoring installation and constantly following up regularly on all sides of the project.
“That also makes us unique. We own all parts of the project and really work with you. We have that local customer service where you’re going to know our names and our faces, and we’ll always have someone at the end of that phone line.”
Katie just finished up a huge project that she and her team worked on for two years in Connecticut. She dubbed it the “Riverside House” and notes that this was the first house that she was able to completely design from head to toe, or perhaps more aptly, roof to floor.
“The house we created is a place where there are many opportunities for the family to be together,” Katie explains.
The client is a lawyer and a photographer who spends a lot of time working in New York City, so Katie worked to make the space an oasis of sorts. All of the bedrooms are little suites that have their own bathrooms, so there’s privacy for those who are visiting. A feeling of calm is further exemplified in the colors, textiles, and artwork in the bedrooms.
“We spent a lot of time on color to ensure that it’s calming and rejuvenating in the bedrooms, but then unusual and quirky in other spots,” Katie says.
Unusual and quirky, indeed. The pantry is brightly colored and the bathroom houses bright, unexpected wallpaper. “It was just so fun and totally out there, and that’s what we loved about it,” Katie continued to explain. “We made sure that every little detail was there.”
The client also has college-aged children, so Katie spent a lot of time designing spaces for them to come home with their friends. “It’s a place where all the kids can crash and watch movies or a place where they can have some peace and quiet to work. It’s very versatile.”
Throughout the project, Katie says that she and the client became very close and are now friends. She also says that her client’s favorite part about the process was Katie’s customer service. Because the client lives full time in the city, Katie and her team were constantly at the house in Connecticut to receive all the deliveries, work with the contractors and subcontractors, and follow up on installation to make sure everything was being done correctly.
“Design is the pretty part, but the project management process is something that is often overlooked,” Katie elaborated.
Constantly changing and growing
Going forward, Katie’s goal is to bring in bigger projects like the Riverside House one to two times per year.
“I love partnering with clients and seeing the complete transformation. Having something big like that to work on allows us to grow these relationships with our clients, so much so that they become family. We do lots of little projects, and those are so great too, but doing the whole head-to-toe home, that’s where I find the joy. That’s what it’s all about.”
She’s also looking to continue to learn more about and grow the window treatment portion of her business to further diversify herself in that aspect. “I love design, and I love what I do,” she says. “I’m grateful to have found a career in the beautiful town that I grew up in. I am thankful that I’ve been able to find my niche, and this is what I want to continue to focus on and grow.” •
To learn more about Katie Baldwin Designs you can visit its showroom at 20B Millerton Rd, Lakeville, CT, or online at katiebaldwindesigns.com. You can email Katie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at (860) 596-4421. Appointments recommended.