When five people in two months’ time asked me if I knew Natalie Officer, I knew it was time to connect with this multi-talented designer, buyer and general creative girl around town. She’s an original, from her honest and captivating personality, to her beautiful homestead in Anchorage, to her design aesthetic both in clothing and home design.
What do you do for a living?
I own my own design company, Natalie O. Design Co. What started as an interior design studio has expanded to include retail merchandise consulting, as well. I am also the new buyer for Nanz & Kraft Local Market and Merchandising Consultant for the Louisville 21C Museum Hotel. It is a perfect marriage and keeps me anything but bored.
Tell us about working for Marshall Field’s and Sigrid Olsen. How did that experience transition you for what you do now?
I learned the important equation of what makes something “quality,” a true and visible tutorial on classic style, and the bounty of taking risks. When I worked on the buying team for Marshall Field’s and the merchandising team for designers Sigrid Olsen and Dana Buchman, I learned that doing what everyone else is doing will only bore your customer into going somewhere else. I also learned that “nobody wants to see themselves coming and going.” Everyone wants to be an original.
When did you discover that you had a talent for this?
Around age 11 or 12, I started moving my parents’ furniture around the house, sending my dad on the eternal search for his favorite chair. When I was old enough to babysit, I would do the same for my customers. Once the children had gone to bed, I might organize a space, move some furniture, finesse the pictures and art on the wall, and switch pillows around. You can only imagine that the responses were mixed, but for the most part positive. You have to start somewhere right?
What is your design style or aesthetic?
My personal style is one of minimization. Life is too noisy as it is, so you don’t want your home, or even your outfit, to add to that volume. I tend to be a bit of an archaeologist of style. We dig into what each client loves about the home they live in, and what they love in their life. Then we find what really symbolizes that for them. That is our starting point and we build everything else from that. We mix all periods of design into one space, which makes it feel like a home rather than a house. If the client is able to re-discover the beauty of what they already have, paired with new pieces and colors, then my job has been successful.
What is a simple way to refresh your house for the new year?
Paint is always the best way to make things feel fresh, and it is far more simple and affordable than making large furniture investments. Just going a shade darker or lighter than what you currently have can make a big difference. While you are at it, place your furniture back in the room in a different way than it had been before. It creates new energy and you will have a much improved appreciation for an old space.
How do you balance your job and your personal life?
Who told you that I balance those things?
What is the biggest life lesson you have ever learned?
Somewhere between June Cleaver, Hillary Clinton and Carrie Bradshaw we really jumbled our identity. The need to be competitive and do things better than the boys, to achieve educational and financial excellence and be a finger-painting, organic baby-food-making Pinterest champion seems to put us all in a “crazy busy” spin. Unfortunately, I have had to learn this lesson more than once. You can choose. You don’t need to “have” it all or “do” it all. You just have to slow down long enough to know what it is right for you. Be loyal to yourself. (I have this conversation with myself every day. Some things only sink in with constant reminding)
Who is your mentor?
There is not one mentor in my life, but many. It starts with my mother and extends as far as a good friend in France. I have had employers and employees, teachers, friends, grandparents and my own husband and children serve as mentors to me. If you listen each person truly has something important to contribute to your life. Local Her Hero awards would go to: Heather Howell of Rooibee Red Tea, Shane Shaps of 520 East brands Creative Amazers: Stylist Jaclyn Journey and Photographer Whitney Neal, and the late Erin Miller who coached me in her own way every day.
What is best advice you have received in business?
1) Never undervalue yourself, or your customers will too. I gave a successful Irish builder an estimate once, and he handed it back to me. He suggested I go and double it. He had seen my work, and he indicated that he would be talking about my fees and his experience with many other builders. Those builders would expect to pay what he had paid for the same outcome, and to charge what I was worth from the start. 2) Don’t change your stripes. Designer Eileen Fisher decided to stand on her own. She did not go into partnership or sell to a huge label. She told me once that it would interrupt her vision and then “belong” to someone else. Of the designers I had the pleasure to work with, she is the only one still in the game, doing her thing without interruption.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
Creating this company has truly allowed me to live my dream. I get to engage in the most intimate of relationships with my clients as we work through the psychology of the story they want to tell in their home or store. Of course, there is always my back-up plan. Being a tour guide to visitors over 85 at the Tate Modern in London. What a laughter-filled day you would have. The exhibits are interesting and thought provoking, but challenge the traditional concept of art, and the feedback would be priceless.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I broke up with HGTV when they brought Vanilla Ice into the mix.
You are a “girl about town,” in the know and knowing everyone. Why did you move here, and what is your impression of Louisville and Louisvillians?
“Girl about town” has me laughing a little. We moved here almost five years ago from Chicago, for a life and work transition. I have done three things in the past five years: I became a mother to Jewel (6) and Jesse (4) who will both be in “real school” this coming fall. I’ve built a small business collaborating with other entrepreneurs and creatives, and I’ve volunteered time to support the fight against breast cancer. Each effort has introduced me to a tremendous group of women and men in this town. While I do not fit the mold of the traditional Louisvillian, involvement with Greater Louisville Organization of Women, Hope Scarves, The Dixie Design Collective, Komen Louisville, Original Maker’s Club and just being genuinely interested in people has really helped to make Louisville home. Of course my efforts to limit the use of cardinal red as a interior paint color have not always been popular, but people are warming up to me.
What is your favorite place to go eat?
If it is not my kitchen island, North End Café and Please & Thank You. Both are very casual places that allow for children and do not expect perfection from our active “littles.” For date nights, I love the unexpected combinations at Hillbilly Tea. White glove service isn’t my jam. At least not in this season of my life.
Where do you like to shop?
For clothes I am a vintage and consignment sniper. Nothing is better than an under-appreciated Marc Jacobs, Burberry or Prada piece just waiting for me on the rack. The Macy’s buy-outs ruined me for department stores, but, J. Crew and I still dance often. For gifts and treasures Gifthorse, Scout, and the Local Market at Nanz & Kraft.
What is a treat or a luxury you do for yourself?
Old fashioned pinning. Each week I buy a fresh design magazine and I pour over it. I don’t like the predictability of a subscription, so I pick the one that speaks to me the most, and then I pull out the most inspiring article and images and pin them to my 8’ x 4’ board in my studio. Not always in one sitting, or without interruption, but it is my “me time” pleasure. Add some Cellar Door chocolates and I am over the moon.
What is your weakness?
The last time I answered this question I was wearing a black Ann Taylor suit, and being asked to carry a Blackberry so that I would be available on both East and West Coast time. My weakness was taking the job.
What is your favorite thing to do in Louisville?
We bought and renovated the completely gutted Maplecrest, a 120 year old homestead so that we could host cultural experiences for our children and others. We stand on the front porch of our house and see the yard filled with a beautiful mix of people. Nadus Films, Hope Scarves, Komen Louisville, and Original Maker’s Club have all hosted events at Maplecrest. We have had break dance battles in our driveway, hosted dinners for 40 plus local artisans, welcomed Nappy Roots and A Lion Named Roar to perform. Having moved here from Chicago, and called London home briefly, we knew we wanted to be able to share that kind of diversity with children.
Name three things you cannot live without (besides God, family and friends).
A tape measure, my Benjamin Moore paint deck (Brownsboro Hardware is a life saver!), and Bobbi Brown caffeinated lip balm.
What are you reading right now?
The Junie B. Jones series each night with Jewel. Nothing is better than the giggling sounds from my otherwise serious daughter just before bed. Wipes away all memories of anything stressful that could have happened in my day. These books embrace what is charming and special about being a child. Not to mention, she thinks she is extremely grown up reading chapter books.
What are three of your “favorite” things right now.
Thank you Natalie for a wonderful visit to your beautiful home. We were so inspired by you and your home when we left. For more information about Natalie O. Design, click here: www.natalieodesign.com
Adele Reding, our FACES photographer, knows how to capture people at their best, most essential self. That is talent and she is truly the Best of the Best. Visit Adele’s page here to see some of her latest work: www.facebook.com