“Growing up, I lived in a house that my dad built, and my mom sewed many of our soft furnishings. They were true ‘DIYers,’ and they inspired my love of design,” says Nancy Charbonneau of Charbonneau Interiors in The Woodlands in Texas. Her passion for design drove her as she learned the ropes in Georgia and Florida, and stepped out as an entrepreneur — not once, but twice — first, launching her own firm in Atlanta, then opening her drapery workroom and retail interior fabric store in The Woodlands. She has a stunning eye and a true gift for tuning in to the personal style of each client to make their spaces sing. We are delighted to introduce our latest interior designer crush, Nancy Charbonneau. We asked her to describe her design aesthetic, let us in on some tricks of the trade and give us a glimpse of her stunning portfolio. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that to a client’s home?
I would describe my design aesthetic as eloquent design — it’s a look that’s all about the grace and ease of living. Although our interiors are always highly personalized to each client and are never cookie-cutter, there are certain design elements that are important to us. For instance, you’ll see that our interiors always have paint colors that are soothing, light that’s streaming in from the sun, lighting that’s illuminating all the beautiful details of the space, textiles that tell their story through patterns and textures, and personal objects that tell their own story. And in some way, in any home we design, nature will always be present. Overall, we want to create a feeling for our clients that is as if their home is wrapping its arms around them — almost like it’s saying: “Rest here, relax here, rejuvenate here.” We want them to feel like they never want to leave.
Tell us a bit about your background and experience in design.
I studied interior design at Georgia Southern University, then entered the field immediately after graduation and have been in it ever since. I learned a lot about seeing a whole-house project through from start to finish during an internship with a model home merchandising company in Atlanta. I learned the ins and outs of designing second homes for an international clientele when I worked for an independent interior designer in Vero Beach, Florida.
Then I got to a point where I felt I had the experience and confidence I needed, and so I knew it was time for me to start my own design company. Originally, my design business ran in conjunction with our drapery workroom and retail interior fabric store in The Woodlands, Texas. Today, we’re a full-service residential interior business with 15 employees, specializing in new home construction and renovation, along with the many aspects of full-service residential interior design. Plus, we continue to operate our in-house drapery business.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I don’t actually love designing to trends because they come and go. One of the words I love more than just about any other is “timeless,” and that’s pretty much the opposite of “trend.” But I do follow trends and I love to bring timeless qualities into a home in a way that’s updated, fresh and new for my clients.
I’m working with a client who loves the look of brick accents in a home. We are using brick as a timeless element in her interiors, then putting a whitewash on it, not only to soften it but to make it feel like it’s been there for a while. It also makes it feel fresh and updated.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why? How did it help you grow as a designer?
I was asked to help renovate a master bathroom that needed to be wheelchair accessible. This project was done to accommodate my client’s husband who had a terminal illness, and they knew he’d soon be using a wheelchair full time. We made the bathroom beautiful, functional and accessible for him to maneuver perfectly in his wheelchair. Sadly, he passed away just as we finished. It was a heartbreaking time and it reminded me how precious the time is that we have with our loved ones. It also helped me see that accessible design can really impact lives.
What brings you the most professional joy?
The most joy I get from work comes from making an impact in people’s lives through design. To me, our lives are elevated when we’re able to live in surroundings that restore and rejuvenate us, calm and comfort us, and bring us feelings of harmony and peace — all because of the way they reflect who we are so completely. I think that’s why I believe the essence of our work is really captured in a phrase that I say to my clients all the time: We’re all about connecting who you are to how you live.
Do you have a favorite space in the home to design?
I love to design an entry or foyer, as it sets the tone of the whole home. It makes you want to see more.
What is your favorite room in your home and why?
My favorite room in my home is the master bathroom because whenever I’m in there I have a feeling of peace and tranquility, which is exactly what I was aiming for when we renovated it. Two years later, I still think it was the best money we have spent in our home. Starting and ending the day in a beautiful master bathroom has truly improved my life.
Where do you get your inspiration?
What’s always inspiring is understanding who my client is and then connecting that to how they live — or may want to live. Bridging that gap inspires me. There is so much “noise” in all of the idea sites floating around out there, which can be helpful. But to really boil down what the client is ultimately trying to achieve — to improve their life — is what inspires me the most.
Where do you take chances in design?
I really believe that every room should have some element of fun in it. For me, it often comes from two places: art and textiles. Art can surprise, delight or bring out a strong emotional response in us. And textiles, with great pattern and color, can also bring fun as well as interest and excitement.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models, and how have they inspired you?
I have a business coach, Gail Doby, who has inspired me so much. I really believe Gail’s helped me become the designer that I feel I am meant to be. She helps me to grow daily.
As far as icons in the interior design world, I am a big admirer of Dorothy Draper. She was a pioneer in this field. and was not afraid to take chances with pattern and color.
If you could choose one designer to redo your home right now, who would it be?
I would choose Martyn Lawrence Bullard, because he seems so fun and that’s critical for me for a large, personal project. His interiors always have unexpected details and are stunning and unforgettable. I would want someone who is detail-oriented, a smart business person, not too serious and has fun along the way. (And yes, champagne would be poured!)
Share one designer secret with us regular folk.
Analysis paralysis is stressful, but is not necessary. Trust the professional you have hired. Let them make your project be all that it can be. Take time to breathe, relax, and trust and enjoy the process!
What three home decor items can you not live without?
Unique textiles, live plants and flowers, and beautiful lighting
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Timeless, textural, connective, eloquent and personal
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