Jacqui Wheeler doesn’t have to travel far to get to some of her best clients’ homes. The 48-year-old Charlotte-based interior designer lives in the heart of historic Dilworth, one of the Queen City’s most popular neighborhoods, and she’s helping re-do more than half a dozen homes there. Married to the son of legendary NASCAR showman Humpy Wheeler, Jacqui knows her way around fine things but says she likes to mix expensive with affordable and always loves a splash of color and using art to bring a room to life. And while she can walk to many of her current clients’ homes, there is one client for whom she doesn’t mind making a road trip to reach — they own a charming beach escape on Sullivan’s Island. Get to know this Charlotte designer better and find out why she’s our latest Interior Designer Crush!
What is your process like when you’re working with customers?
I try to get a sense of their style. I often start by having them pin 20 different rooms, things they like. It’s an exercise to help see Do you know your style? Most people really do not, and doing that helps determine the direction we’re going to go. From there we make a concept board, and once they approve the overall feel of the room, I like to shop without my clients because it takes a lot longer if you take them along. If it’s something big, like a sofa, that we’re buying, I have them sit on it, and we pick the style and the fabric together. I do that for any big piece of furniture because it’s such a big purchase. I do love taking them to the fabric store because it’s just a lot of fun.
Do they ever get worried because you’re doing the shopping without them?
It’s kind of amazing. We have really trusting people. I guess they’ve seen enough of our work, but most of the time people are cool with letting us just run with it. We also tell them they have a week to live with it, and if you don’t love it we’ll return it … but that almost never happens! Once they see the room as a whole, they tend to love it.
Where do you usually start?
We usually have a palette throughout the house so it feels cohesive, and we pick a palette and run with it. We can also start with a rug or pillow — anything that we call a connector piece. My advice is always to go with timelessness. I love color and funky and modern, but I will always steer a client to the most timeless thing. Unless it’s a pillow, I steer away from the trends. Would I love a navy velvet sofa? Yeah that’s fun, but if you’re going to invest $5,000 in a sofa, it’s not a good idea to get something that you may not like in four years.
You do a lot of work in your own neighborhood — one of Charlotte’s most popular neighborhoods, because it’s full of historic homes. How does that change your approach?
I can walk to work. I walk around the block to get to my clients’ homes — we’re doing seven within a one-block radius of my house. We’ve been doing a lot of new renovations in Dilworth where we pick out tile and flooring and everything. On my street alone, I’m doing the three houses that surround me. We’re doing all the finishes, exterior and interior colors for all those houses.
How do you incorporate art into your work?
I believe people should live with art they love, and it doesn’t matter if it matches anything or not. I tell them even if they have a piece that is your grandmother’s — if you love it, I’ll make it work.
Do you have a mantra?
Edit, edit, edit! Get rid of crap you don’t love or need.
What is your design aesthetic?
I love happy spaces. I like them to feel good. I like color. I want to evoke that feeling that when you come home, you’re excited. You feel like this is my house. It can cost a lot, but it doesn’t have to.
What’s one of your favorite projects right now?
I’m working on an original 1920’s beach bungalow on Sullivan’s Island right now that two sisters own. It’s not big, but it had a bunk house attached to it, so it’s more space. The whole thing is not more than 2,400 square feet though. It has painted white floors, ceilings and walls. It’s all very bohemian bright colors, and it’s so cool. It has a big, beautiful outdoor porch and a pool, and the main house is connected to the bunkhouse by the porch. We’re literally doing the whole house — every fork, everything. And that’s fun!
What are three household items you can’t live without?
My Nutribullet, my soda stream and my bathtub
Describe your design philosophy in five words.
Happy, colorful, eclectic, timeless, soulful
Thank you to Jacqui for sharing a bit about her experience and expertise. Find out why she’s a five-star-rated designer on Houzz, and see more of her work here.
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