Karen Ferguson remembers watching her architect father work at the drafting table on late nights at home, and the Atlanta-based designer has a long love of art, but she didn’t pursue a career in interior design until she took a test at the career placement center in college. “It’s funny how life works out,” she shares. A pivotal moment in her unexpected career in interior design happened in 2001 when Karen launched Harrison Design’s interior design practice. Approaching two decades of dedication to the firm, which specializes in residential architecture, interior design and landscape architecture, Karen continues to infuse architecture and interior design into well-orchestrated spaces, which earned her the coveted Southeast Designer of the Year Award for residential design. Celebrated by clients and peers for her ability to interlace contemporary and traditional design elements, Karen creates sought after designs that are fresh, elegant and inviting. Today, we talk with Karen about inspiration, upcoming projects and her favorite design sources.
How would you describe your design style? What are your areas of expertise?
I do not have a set style, but I tend to create fresh, elegant and inviting spaces. Working at Harrison Design, with a large group of creative architects, has trained me to be proficient in understanding what the architecture calls for in each unique home. Once I grasp the client’s lifestyle and taste, building the interiors of the home comes naturally.
What informs your designs?
Most importantly, architecture, environment and the homeowners. Aside from that, I frequently create an entire color scheme for a project based on an amazing textile.
How do you approach the relationship between design and architecture?
The best projects have a strong team, which includes the architect and interior designer, as well as landscape architect. When we work closely together, understanding and respecting each other’s roles, the outcome is always superb.
When you were awarded the Southeast Designer of the Year Award, Bunny Williams celebrated your ability to “handle both a modern sensibility and a more traditional vibe with a clear sense of proportion and scale.” How do you achieve this balance in the spaces you design?
Understanding the visual weight each item brings to the interior of a space is key. Two chandeliers can be the exact same overall size but the materials, shape and airiness determine if the light is appropriate for that specific room.
I enjoy working with different vernaculars; it keeps things exciting. Pleasing such different clients can be a challenge, but nothing is more rewarding than seeing them thrilled with the end result.
What projects are you particularly excited about right now?
I’m working on a historic home with a contemporary interior. Colors include blush, peach, soft green, and metallic blues. The mix of shaggy and sleek textures, raw wood and polished rose gold and titanium metal are unexpected and accentuate the contrast between the traditional exterior and contemporary interiors.
What has been your most challenging project to date, and why?
I just finished a modern-rustic lake house renovation. Reimagining the existing space in front of you takes time — working through all the surprises you find during a renovation, understanding what should be preserved and what should go, and embracing the landscape. And, on top of all that, creating the balance of modern and rustic. It takes more time and attention to detail but working through that renovation was so gratifying.
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If you could design one person’s home, who would it be?
What or who is currently inspiring you?
I know it is cliché, but nature is a constant source of inspiration. Traveling and seeing different natural environments is so eye-opening — the colors, textures, light.
Where are some of your favorite design sources, both brick-and-mortar stores and online?
ADAC is filled with so many amazing showrooms; I always start there. Miami Circle and The Galleries have the best antiques. B.D. Jeffries and Interior Market have wonderful objects for install time. Shopping online can be difficult, but 1stDibs is a great resource.
How do you challenge yourself to grow as a designer?
You must get out and explore what’s new. Attending Paris Deco Off and Maison&Objet over the past couple of years has been mindblowing. The global connections help me to be able to offer truly bespoke items to my clients.
Karen, thank you for leaving us with endless design inspiration and insight into your prolific career as an interior designer!
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