We’re thrilled to feature Erin Anderson as our November “Interior Designer Crush” because, let us tell you, she is a superwoman! From teaching, to parenthood, to interior design and everything in between, Erin has an incredible work ethic, drive and entrepreneurial skills that have made Erin Anderson Design such a success. When we reached out to Erin to do this piece, she was in the middle of making her daughters’ Halloween costumes, making it clear that she isn’t just one of those designers who just has an eye for design, but also the talent to make it happen. Join us in getting to know Erin Anderson better!
Your background is very unique. You were once a history teacher and then took on the No. 1 job as mom for several years. How did you then get into the interior design industry?
I always loved design, even as a child. I was constantly rearranging furniture and building dream houses out of Legos! I studied history and secondary education at Wake Forest University and married my husband shortly after graduation. I spent eight years teaching across the state of North Carolina, while he finished his medical school and residency in orthopedic surgery. Even though my days were filled with U.S. history and government, I always had the best looking classroom and really got to stretch my creative juices with my lesson plans. After our girls were born, Anna Grace, 10, and a few years later twins Lilly and Claire, 7, I left teaching and became a full-time stay-at-home mom. When the girls were little I rediscovered the art of sewing that my grandmother had taught me growing up. I spent lots of hours creating colorful and classic clothing for my girls and even sold custom boutique clothing online. This hobby really allowed me to play with mixing patterns and colors that I think still influence my interior designs today.
During those years, we had several moves and new houses, and each was its own remodel project in some way. I loved every step of the process — the imagining and planning in the beginning, to putting the final accessories in place at the end. We love to entertain our family and friends at home, and eventually they began to take notice of my “hidden” talent and started asking for help — and Erin Anderson Design was born.
Describe your very first project. How many projects have you done since then, and how has your work, style and design evolved, if at all?
My husband and I bought our first house together in 2002. We stripped every bit of wallpaper and painted every wall in that house all by ourselves. I learned how to tile floor and change light fixtures! We were so proud of that little space and scraped and saved to buy the very best pieces that we could afford at that time in our life. We were blessed with some wonderful hand-me-down antiques from our families, and it was then that I began to develop a love of mixing old and new pieces. While our budget and tastes have changed over the years, I actually think the basic ideas of buying quality items, buying what you love and designing a space that makes you happy have stayed the same.
How do you keep up with current and new trends in design?
I really sort of live it all the time. I am always soaking up new places and my mind is always spinning with ideas. I adore Instagram! It is such a wonderful way to follow other talented designers, furniture and textile companies and artists. I savor the little minutes I get to steal away with Instagram throughout the day! It has introduced me to a whole new world outside of my small town in North Carolina! But, I also love an old school design magazine just as much — there is something special about settling in with a new issue and a glass of wine! Now that our girls are older we are traveling more, and that is such a wonderful way to get inspiration. This past summer we spent time at Round Hill in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and I got to tour some of the most beautifully decorated and curated villas I have ever seen. We loved some of the local art pieces we saw and sought them out while we were there and brought them home to add to our collection.
Do you have a favorite room to work on, and if so, why? If not, what room do you work the most on?
I like all rooms! Kitchens are especially fun — a remodeled kitchen has so much impact to the overall feeling of the house. You get to work with so many different materials — stone, tile, hardware, lighting! I think I like family living spaces the most, because they are rooms that really get used and are the heart of home, where people celebrate holidays and big events and even just cuddle in and watch movies with their kids. I love to mix bold fabrics, and there are so many options in a family room — upholstery, pillows and window treatments. It is always a pleasure to create a family space that is just as functional as it is pretty!
How do you help clients discover their personal style when they don’t know what that is?
Pinterest is a great resource to help figure out styles and looks that they gravitate towards. I always ask clients to send me Pinterest boards that speak to them and go from there. I use a style questionnaire when first meeting with potential clients, and I have found that in many cases people have never really thought about what their “style” is and just taking the time to write answers really helps develop that and leads me in the right direction. I also think just walking through a client’s home you can always find a glimpse of something that really speaks to their style. While they may not have it all figured out yet, there is usually a piece of art, an accessory or a fabric that can give direction.
What was the most unique project you have ever worked on?
Last year my husband and I gutted and remodeled a little 1970s cottage on Lake Norman. We had purchased it as a weekend property for our family a few years prior and finally decided to take the plunge and do it big! It had great bones — especially a huge river rock fireplace that divides the kitchen and living areas and even better lake views, but needed a space reconfiguration and style update to better work with our family. We made the kitchen and the baths bigger, and I finally talked my husband into using the most beautiful marble slabs throughout the house. I also used lots of brass finishes, which I just love! We changed every window and door and every exterior finish — it was a labor of love but the results are worth every penny! My favorite part is the bunk room we created for our girls. We took a poor functioning screen porch and enclosed it into a room with four built-in bunks for our girls and room for a friend! This freed up the other bedrooms for more friends and family to visit.
Do you have an interior designer who inspires and influences your work?
Dorothy Draper is my icon — she was such a trailblazer not only in design, but business and society as well! Her use of color, pattern and attention to detail were so modern and are just as timeless today as they were 50 years ago. There are so very many wonderful designers out there, especially in the South! I especially love to follow the works of Parker Kennedy and Julianne Taylor of Taylor Burke Home and locally I always love the work of Holly Hollingsworth Phillips of The English Room and Charlotte Lucas.
What are your career goals in five years, 10 years and beyond?
I would love to see my business grow and expand. I would like to have a business that makes my daughters proud — one of the reasons I decided to take the leap and start this business on my own was to be a good role model for my girls. I thought it was important that they see me not just as the person who takes cares of the needs around the house, but also as an entrepreneur and someone who follows her dreams. It would be a dream come true to someday build a business and a brand that they could come work with me together in one day! Also, I adore bold, quality textiles and would love to someday collaborate on a line of fabrics and wallpaper.
How do you prioritize projects when working within a budget?
It is so important to be aware of your budget upfront! I think one should always buy the highest quality pieces that the budget allows and not just “fill up” a room with things you don’t really love or that will not last. I personally like to start with a good rug to lay the foundation, old Oushaks with interesting colors are my favorite — I always say my girls will be fighting over our rugs long after we are gone! Then move up to the light fixtures. So many houses today come with such simple construction grade fixtures that adding a glamorous light to the ceiling can change the whole ambiance! Also adding in lots of quality pillows in a mix of patterns will instantly add a feeling of luxury. I have found that Etsy is a great resource for reasonably priced custom pillows.
Do you have certain tools or software that you swear by to make your job easier?
I still like good old fashioned draft paper and a t-square for drawing floor plans for my own use, but there are several online programs for floor plans that I am always playing around with. I have not found one that I think is perfect quite yet. Roomstyler.com and olioboard.com are great resources for creating mood boards and visualizing the “look” of a space. And of course Pinterest! It has totally revolutionized the interior design world and given everyone such accessibility to great design and room inspiration.
What tips would you give someone who just wants to make a small change that has a big impact?
I think wallpaper and fabric are the best ways to make small changes that have the biggest impact! If a whole room of wallpaper makes you nervous, pick just one statement wall and go for it! Having custom window treatments made also packs a big punch … it really finishes a room and ties it all together. But my favorite is using art! Find things you love — not everything has to be an original. Buy prints, maps, artifacts, pictures of your kids — and fill up your walls! I try to steer people away from generic mass-produced art and find things that are personal that will make them smile every time they walk by it. Buy things when you travel, things that catch your eye, find great new up-and-coming artists on Etsy and Instagram, frame your kids’ art, or dig out photos that you love! I think big wall spaces also scare lots of people but they are a great canvas for creating a funky gallery wall.
Keep up with the very best of Charlotte. Follow us on Instagram — @StyleBlueprintCharlotte.
And, be sure you are signed up for StyleBlueprint Charlotte emails for exclusive offers, exclusive content and the best “me moment” of your day! Sign up HERE.