Some designers have a signature style, recognizable like a maker’s mark on each project. But Tammy Connor is different. Her interiors elegantly shape-shift to honor the architecture, homeowner and place — like a great actor inhabits unique characters or a skilled artist captures different genres. In fact, it might be her foundation in studio art and art history that imbues her approach to design with such finesse. She has roots and design studios in both Charleston, SC, and Birmingham, AL, and she has designed projects all over the United States. We are delighted to introduce our latest interior designer crush, Tammy Connor of Tammy Connor Interior Design.
What is your design aesthetic and how do you translate that to a client’s home?
I typically begin my designs with consideration of the location of the home. Every home that I have worked on has a unique story to tell that begins with the location. From there, I focus on the architecture and the lifestyle of the client who will live there. I let these characteristics influence the design aesthetic, but I hope that my interiors all exude a sense of hospitality, lifestyle, comfort and place. We achieve this by focusing on the details, such as comfortable upholstery, custom mixed paints, bespoke detailing on curtains, original furniture designs and quality craftsmanship.
Tell us a bit about your background in studio art and history and how that knowledge informs your design work.
I have a major in studio art and a minor in art history from Wake Forest University. I received a degree in interior design following my B.A. degree. My art education gave me a solid foundation on which to build and often comes in handy as inspiration for interiors, mixing custom colors of paint or helping a client with selections for the art collection.
Are there any trends that you’re loving at the moment and, alternatively, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I tend to stay away from trends. Because I let the architecture, location, clients’ lifestyles and the history of the project dictate the direction in which the interior moves, I don’t intentionally incorporate trends into my design. As for timeless alternatives, if quality craftsmanship, good proportions and fine materials are involved, you can rarely go wrong. I do love it when a piece of furniture or a piece of art has a story behind it and can set the tone of a space. I look for pieces that I find inspirational. It can be the form, material, color or scale that catches my eye. I often find inspiration from pieces that I collect over the years, and then a space will become available in which it fits perfectly, and the room begins to evolve from there.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
Logistics always seem to create the biggest problems on projects! It’s the unanticipated moments that cause the most difficult challenges on a project — a snow storm in the middle of New York City during an installation, a fire in an elevator while installing an apartment on the 21st floor or a furniture truck getting stuck in a client’s field during a rainstorm or a record flood in Charleston during restoration of a historic home on the battery. You have to wear a lot of different hats as an interior designer and being a problem solver often becomes more critical than the actual design itself.
What brings you the most professional joy?
My favorite part of the job is when the client gets to see their finished home for the first time. We install houses over a two-week time frame, and since our clients are not present for the installation, they return to a transformed home. My staff and I love to create a home for a family whom we have grown to love over the design process. And the unveiling is the most rewarding part of the job, a truly magical moment!
How does Birmingham’s design scene differ from the rest of the country?
The Birmingham design community has much more depth and experience than one would expect! There are incredibly talented architects, designers, studios, craftsmen and manufacturers from which to build a team. Birmingham has a manufacturing history which, combined with old-fashioned Southern hospitality, makes for a good combination of grit and grace.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I love history, gardens, lifestyles of different cultures and travel. But lately, life experiences seem to be influencing my design moreso than ever before. The older I get and the more experienced I become in my career, the more risks I am willing to take with interiors. A few years ago and during a phase of life of trying to simplify things, I picked a paint color for my office that was a soft warm apricot with which I felt an unexplainable connection. I later realized that it was the color of my Laura Ashley sheets as a child, and I had gravitated back to the ’80s. I never would have expected that the outdated color of my childhood bedroom would influence a room that I would sit in for the next seven years!
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
Design is such a collegial industry, and there are so many people whose work I admire. I really wish I could go back in time and study under Albert Hadley — maybe Elon Musk is working on a secret time machine?
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
Proportion of objects and the scale of spaces is everything!
What are your predictions for interior design for the next 10 to 15 years?
I have been in the industry long enough to see that history repeats itself. The pendulum will swing from contemporary through transitional to traditional and back again. In the beginning of my career, when design was trending toward more bold, bright and contemporary, I had to make an intentional decision to stay true to a more traditional style that resonated with me, and my more traditional, classical preferences seem to be making their comeback. My hope is that over the next 10 to 15 years, we see more amazing designers embracing the history of the old with their interpretation of the new!
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Inviting, Studied, Vernacular, Edited, Unexpected! Or … There’s no place like home!
Thank you, Tammy, for sharing your insights, inspirations and impressively diverse design portfolio. To learn more about Tammy Connor Interior Design, visit tammyconnorid.com.
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