Katie Vance, partner and interior design director at Powell Architecture + Building Studio, creates and beautifies spaces from one end of Nashville to the other. Her restaurant-heavy project roster, which includes Butchertown Hall, Redheaded Stranger, and Sean Brock’s newest endeavor, Audrey, is impressive. But it’s her noteworthy “side gig,” Porter Flea, that gives our local business community cause for celebration. As we near the holiday season, the upcoming Porter in Place Virtual Holiday Market spotlights some of our favorite local (and national) makers and gives us an excuse to shop until we drop … from our very own living rooms. Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, renowned interior designer and co-founder of Porter Flea, Katie Vance.
Can you tell us about your career trajectory?
I started in Nashville in interior design. I worked for a large firm right out of school and then decided moving to a smaller firm was where I saw myself. I found myself at Powell in 2013. It’s a design-build studio, so we’re architects, interior designers, and contractors. It has been fascinating to work on all facets [of a project] — especially on the construction side. It’s really helped my design career to know how everything runs all the way through construction.
I’m currently working on Audrey, Sean Brock’s latest restaurant across the street from Redheaded Stranger. That’s slated to open in February, and we’re super excited for everyone to see that. I’m also thrilled about Note House Nashville opening up. It’s such a creative and interesting concept, and it was such a fun project to work on from the interior design standpoint of creating a design that has multiple photographic locations within it and different textures to shoot on. We’ve got Greenery Co. opening up in Hillsboro Village — a really different concept on healthy fast-casual. I love working on restaurants.
What inspired Porter flea, and how did it take off?
I’ve always held an affinity for makers, and it kind of shocked me that when I started my career, there were a lot of the typical big furniture companies, but no one was really using local makers and designers for anything. I actually had my own tiny maker jewelry business, and I had been in other markets in different cities. Because I was a maker, I saw the other side. I saw what people in Nashville were doing, and I knew it could be incorporated. It was a passion of mine to mix those two worlds; that’s why I started Porter Flea in 2011. I found the right team members and decided to go for it. We had 35 vendors at our first show. From there, it snowballed. At our last holiday show (our last in-person show), we had close to 270 vendors. We take applications, and it’s a juried and curated event. That was also very important to me — to create an event where everyone is of the right caliber and has their branding and products in place. I wanted to make what I like to call a vendor-centric event, so we treat our vendors very well. We don’t really have a lot of other things happening at the event but shopping, and that’s intentional. We want people to come with shopping in mind.
Can you tell us about the Porter in Place Virtual Holiday Market and adjusting for COVID?
In the summer, we pivoted to the virtual market and had really great success with it. Especially with COVID cases spiking, we decided it was the best thing to do for the holidays. At 10 a.m. on December 5, all 150 makers will launch three limited edition, brand new products for everyone to shop. We highly encouraged them to choose gift sets, limited colors … so we can really get a little bit of that in-person market effect. That will run until 5 p.m. on December 6.
We’ll post everything on our website and link to the vendors’ websites from ours, so there won’t be any purchasing from the Porter Flea website. We’re going to have a couple of local pickup options — we understand shipping will be difficult this holiday season, so we’ve worked with Apple and Oak and The Getalong to do local pickups for vendors if they’d like to have that option. And then, of course, one of the biggest, coolest things for us is anyone can shop it from anywhere.
What are some other ways we can help support small local businesses during this time?
While you’re thinking of the gifting season, it’s especially important to ask, “Can I get that locally?” I think we’ve got to support small retailers and makers, even if it takes a little more effort on our end. They’re really working to make things safe, whether they’re doing local delivery or having something shipped. It may take a day or two longer, but you’re supporting small. I think it’s about being intentional with where you’re putting your dollars.
Do you have any favorites we should be checking out?
I have to give a plug for my husband, who runs Holler Design, a local furniture design-build company. He does awesome work. I think Cash Color does amazing prints, and that’s such an easy, shippable item for the holidays. Another great one is January Moon — she’s got a whole line of teething necklaces for moms, which are really cool. She launched a limited edition color for the summer market, so I’m excited to see what she’s going to do for the holiday market. And then, Love and Lion is another great one who has 2020 dumpster fire ornaments. Everyone can use one of those on their tree this year!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice I’ve ever been given was from my mom. Her mantra was, “Never let anyone steal your joy.” I live my life by that … I really try to keep the joy in my life, no matter what is going on around me. I don’t let others steal it from me.
Outside of faith, family and friends, what three things can’t you live without?
I would definitely say my pets. I have a rescue cat named RJ and a rescue dog named Dottie. I would also say traveling. I can’t wait to travel again — it’s so important to me to be able to get inspiration for all of my projects. That’s a huge driver of my creativity, so I’m counting down the days until it’s safe to travel again. My next big trip will be to Tokyo, so I’m really excited and looking forward to that. The other thing is my plants. I have a very large houseplant collection, and it provides such a calming presence. It has been really beneficial to bring nature inside and see things flourish and continue on during this time.
Thank you for the interview, Katie, and thank you to Andrea Behrends for the photography.
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