In stylish Charleston, it’s possible to go for a stroll and see several commercial projects by interior designer Betsy Berry, which wouldn’t be possible if she only worked on residential spaces. Fortunately for us, her cosmopolitan style pops up all over town: at boutique hotel 86 Cannon, women’s fashion destination Hampden Clothing and artisan Mexican restaurant Pancito & Lefty, just for starters. Is it any wonder this summer she was named one of Charleston’s up-and-coming designers by Domino magazine? We decided to get to know this accomplished designer a little more, and find out a few of her tips.
You started out in the fashion world. Why did you make the transition to interior design?
I was a fashion intern in Florence, Italy, and realized that although I loved the creative aspect, the culture was not for me. It was too cut-throat. When I started to consider interior design, I realized it was really where I belonged. It’s more personal and one-on-one with clientele, as well as giving me the opportunity to create something more concrete and lasting. I wanted to get to know people and how they live, and then create something that they love coming home to.
You also spent a lot of your early adulthood in New York. What brought you to Charleston?
Moving to New York was one of the best decisions of my life. I attended the New York School of Interior Design, then went on to work alongside some of the best designers in the country, including David Easton and Stephen Sills. It was in New York that I honed my skills and learned all I know from the best of the best.
I grew up in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, so moving to Charleston was a homecoming of sorts; I was ready to return to the Lowcountry and start our family. My husband, Robert Berry, is a chef, and we have a 3-year-old daughter, Barker. She was born here in Charleston, and we’re thrilled to announce that baby Berry #2 is due in December!
Some of your best-known projects are hotels. What do you like about designing for a hotel, and what are some of the successful elements you like to include?
Moving into hotels from residential work is always fun because there is a more playful element at hand. There are things that we may not want to live with in our living rooms forever, but these wow-factors can be installed in a hotel because you want people to walk in and gasp with delight. One example is the library at 86 Cannon: We used a textured wall covering in cayenne on the walls and ceilings, and a lacquered tortoise print on the corresponding wall to fully envelop the room in a red tone. The end result is dramatic, unexpected and warm, but probably not something you might do at home.
Who are some of your own design “crushes,” whether in interior design or another creative field?
Some of my favorites within interior design include Stephen Sills, for whom I worked in NYC. He is a true talent who I was so lucky to witness at work. There’s also the masterful Stephen Gambrel; I am drawn to his taste on almost every level.
Here in Charleston, I love working with Suzanne Allen from Suzanne Allen Studio. She specializes in custom finishes for all surfaces — everything from custom embossed stencil work to custom mica plaster and custom painted floors. She’s a true artist.
What would people be surprised to hear is in your own house, design-wise? Do you have any tips for getting a dynamic look at home without spending a lot of money?
In my opinion, the most inviting homes are a collection of memories. I love taking the time to travel, dig and shop in unexpected antiques stores and salvage shops to integrate vintage finds in my home. Otherwise, I often compare dressing your home to dressing yourself: Start with a strong, clean foundation and invest in details like a beautiful light fixture.
What are some of your go-to sources for interior design, either brick-and-mortar stores or online sources?
My go-to is always 1stdibs, the online marketplace for vintage decor. It might seem like an obvious choice, but is so so necessary for my day-to-day business. The best part of the 1stdibs website is their search function. I can always find exactly what I am looking for. And then there’s Farrow & Ball. You can never go wrong with their classic paint colors or handcrafted wall coverings.
What design trend do you wish would go away? Any you’d like to come back?
As for design trends, I am tired of gray and industrial. I want warmth and comfort in my life. There’s also a quote that the greatest form of design is editing. I really believe that. I always try to take it back and keep it clean. I don’t want to come into a space and be slammed in the face with a theme.
What has been your most challenging project?
To be honest, it would have to be working on my husband’s restaurant, Pancito & Lefty. It was tough for the same reason it’s difficult to design your own home; every detail was so personal for both of us. Pancito is a contemporary Mexican cantina — the first of its kind in Charleston — and I really wanted to make his dream come alive. When people come into the restaurant, we wanted them to experience the authentic Mexican ambiance. Like with all my other projects, I worked with local artisans to install custom pieces throughout, from the graphic wall pattern to the custom metal table bases. In the end, I’m so proud that the space reflects both of us. It’s a true collaboration.
If you could do the interior design for any celebrity, who would it be, and why?
Probably Kate Moss. She’s the modern-day Jane Birkin and has immaculate personal style.
See more of Betsy Berry’s beautiful portfolio of work on her website, bberryinteriors.com.
See who else we’re crushing on in our interior design archives. Click here and enjoy a look around!