Honest. Forthright. Inspired. Creative. Intentional. Those are the words that come to mind when describing interior designer Natalie Officer of Natalie O Design. We’ve been taken with her simple, fresh and sentimental aesthetic for some time. This Hoosier native started her career in buying and visual design in the fashion industry. Now, this mother of three lives in a beautiful restored farmhouse in Anchorage, Kentucky, and has a boutique interior design studio in Germantown, where she consistently produces beautiful work. Every client gets a personalized process, guiding them through new construction, renovation or interior design. Natalie incorporates her clients’ personal stories into her design work for them, and you will notice that her spaces have intentional placement and meaning for all objects and design. She says that her passion is “interpreting life into space through texture and form.” Don’t miss her insider secrets either — they are invaluable tips to consider when decorating your own space. Welcome our newest Interior Designer Crush!
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that into spaces?
We listen closely to our clients, and our job is to hear their needs and know them on a relatively intimate level, giving them back the best version of their ideal surroundings. Of course we have some strong opinions, but we try to lean into what feels right for the client, as well as have an outcome we are proud to put our name on.
Over the years our vibe has evolved, but at the core, we try to be very straightforward with our look — rarely fussy or particularly complicated, using shapes that people recognize, but giving them a new twist. Clean lines, no angles, no red, no cheetah prints, and we stay away from anything faux.
Is there one design element that you use over and over again? If so, why?
We will never stray away from a strong mix of textures — all of the elements that surround us outdoors, appeal so strongly to the senses and are simply breathtaking. Pulling that feel indoors in homes or commercial spaces makes things more interesting. Plants never hurt, but using textiles to really explore and layer will always help.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment, and alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
Design that focuses on the client is always timeless … focusing on personal pieces. Those pieces that come back in the suitcase or moments captured on film — life never loses interest for us and will always serve as inspiration. We are always honored to return to a client’s home and update work we have done in years past. However, those updates are always minimal and a result of “life patina” in a space rather than the client feeling that something is post-trend.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
I will spare your readers a long “humble beginnings require resourcefulness” story, though it is completely at the core of who we are and how we design. Rather, I would say that magazines were my window to the world from a very early age. Each year, I would ask for a subscription for Christmas and anxiously awaited the arrival. I was pouring over the pages as soon as I could get to the mailbox. Even now, I start my process there. Life has allowed for travel and exposure to beautiful influences from rural Honduras to the poshest parts of London. But, in the true moments of the creative process, you will find me in a pile of magazines mentally working and reworking concepts into original designs.
We recently collaborated with Brooke Vaughn, the creative force behind Please & Thank You on the design of their newest outpost at the corner Floyd and Market Street, which was such a joy because Brooke and her husband Jason are such risk-takers. The design inspiration was cultivated over many years of knowing their brand. Being in the space that they had created on their own and absorbing the sites and smells of the environment, logging hours of coffee-sipping and loud music enjoyment, resulted in our knowing exactly who the audience would be on Floyd Street. We knew what they wore, who they engaged with and the music genres they enjoyed. The hand-selected vintage tile was paired with fresh new tile pieces in a very specific color palette. It was then mixed together in an intricate design with thousands of cuts by a true tile artist. It is as intricate and beautiful to us as the variety and dimension of the Please & Thank You customer.
This can be done in your own home by pairing special tiles from your travels, art fairs or collected from renovations with new pieces. Even mixing some of the stunning tile from high-end brands with less-expensive selections can turn into a work of art on your backsplash, shower floor or even an outdoor table top.
What brings you the most professional joy?
Fine craftsmanship in design implementation brings me the most professional joy. When ideas are executed with precision, it is a dream. Never underestimate the power of a quality wallpaper professional, woodsmith, tile installer or trim carpenter. They are the glue that binds the details. I can think up all kinds of design adventures, but without those hands and skilled people, I am left with a pile of materials.
Are people starting to embrace color again, or is the movement still strong with a canvas of white?
We never fully subscribed to it, as it is so difficult to enjoy with those you love. We design homes and spaces that can look magazine-ready when you are alone sipping your coffee … in that rare moment when everything is clean at the same time. But at the ready for living on Saturday mornings with guests, children, grandchildren or beloved pets, we design for life.
What’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of interior design (for those outside the industry)?
Time. To artfully put together a space with precision and care, like a well-written story, takes time. Time well spent that allows for the shift from design to implementation. But, it is the hardest part for people to embrace. It is the difference between an overpriced drive-thru latte in a bad paper cup and a skillful barista creating a latte with perfect foam in a weighty, hand-thrown pottery mug.
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When you are working on your own home, either with a designer or on your own projects, try to embrace the process and how it can truly evolve beyond your original thoughts, given patience for the process.
Would you share one designer secret with SB readers?
The word secret makes me giggle, because there are so few that are really ever kept anyway … it isn’t human nature. Thank goodness. OK, three secrets:
- White is not white. Do not ever let anyone tell you differently. Benjamin Moore Calm and White Dove are not at all the same. Check for yourself.
- Embrace your collections. Those could be playbills or matchboxes, maybe even ashtrays from decades past. Frame a t-shirt from your childhood trip to Hawaii or those trips your parents went on and brought you back. It’s fun to see all your different affinities looking back at you on a daily basis.
- Don’t be too “on the nose” with your design. Overly matched or “perfected” spaces are not nearly as welcoming as those with something a little off-kilter. It takes the pressure off your guests, so your home can be enjoyed.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models (your own personal Interior Designer Crushes!) and why?
With your readership being rooted in women, I feel safe saying 40 was my tipping point. I have stopped gauging my work, my parenting, my volume of laughter or tears or any other form of expression by others’ barometer of acceptance. It is freeing, most visibly in my work. I try to let my own thoughts be the compass instead of other interior designers or branded influencers. So short of sounding like one of the beauties of Steel Magnolias, I would say I crush less on others these days and focus those energies on improving my own work or striving toward originality.
If you are out there on Instagram or Pinterest, you will find us. It is so much fun to play in those spaces. If you are still fetching for that lifestyle brand to watch, go see Hannah Crowell or Trot Home, both of Nashville. Our styles are not the same, but the story is often real and honest. It is always about the story anyway. We are all romantics at heart.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
Navigating today’s political climate, raising children, caring for aging parents, understanding the behavior of others — these are the challenges. That is the hard stuff. Our design work though, I love it. I’m not saving lives — I’m making people happy. When they see themselves reflected so beautifully, that is the good stuff.
What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
Refined elegance will continue, with a lean towards minimalism. There is so much clutter in the world with the news, advertising and social media, that your home is your sacred space where you can mentally and physically rest from it all. It’s a space where you have a little bit of control. So keeping it simple with clean lines and minimal fuss will continue to feel comforting to people. To really understand the next 10 or 15 years of design, you would have to have a telescope into the economy and world events. Design is driven by those things. But, I don’t think it is too far-reaching to predict that people will want to keep it beautifully simple in their spaces. The same holds true for commercial design, too. Spaces that feel mentally transporting will continue to attract attention. The less commercial a commercial space feels, the better.
Thank you to Natalie for sharing her impressive portfolio of work and thoughtful insights, and for continuing to inspire us daily. To contact Natalie O Design, visit natalieodesign.com.
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