Ten years ago, Natalie Hager launched her own interior design business — about ten years before she planned! A graduate of Vanderbilt and Parsons School of Design, this mother of three worked for commercial design firms and freelanced for years until she found herself in a full-time role at her own firm. Her captivating style merges modern touches with classic Southern design, and you can see the way she allows her clients and homes to speak for themselves through her work. It’s no wonder why each of her clients and their referrals have led to a business of her own. Today, she shares with us her best design tip, go-to wall color, local design resources and more inside scoop. Welcome Natalie Hager as our newest interior designer crush!
(All images: Nick McGinn)
How did you end up here? Was there a specific moment when you realized design was for you?
Although a testament to trusting your gut, there wasn’t an immense amount of strategy that led me to where I am today. I had a steady, well-paying job at a commercial design firm, and in hopes of ditching the stress of that position, I happened to leave right when the recession hit Nashville (great timing, I know). My design outlet was on-the-side freelance work that I paired with two part-time retail jobs. This rocky start eventually turned into full-time freelance projects, which led to referrals that became clients as well. Suddenly, there I was, launched into the start of my own design business just about ten years earlier than I had planned! It’s funny how plans change. God has a good sense of humor.
What is your design aesthetic?
I love fusing together old and new in a bold way that keeps the integrity of my clients’ stories. I would describe my style as a modern twist on traditional Southern design.
Where do you find design inspiration?
The short answer is in everyday life. Namely: shopping at my favorite stores, eating at new restaurants, scrolling through design content on Instagram and traveling. I am grateful to live in such a creative city like Nashville because I also find so much inspiration collaborating with local artists, furniture makers, architects and contractors. Another outlet is my design community. I’m thankful to have a network of other interior designers with whom I share resources. They have my back and cheer me on from the sidelines. I couldn’t keep up with the fast-changing Nashville design scene without them.
Do you have a favorite room to design? A favorite in your own home?
I love designing kitchens, and this is typically the first room that I design when starting a project. When you grow up half Italian, a kitchen is the most important room in the house. I like my kitchens to not only be beautiful but functional and set the tone of the space.
Are there any design trends you are loving now?
Definitely white linen. I’m not sure that it’s a current trend, because I don’t think it ever actually left. It is timeless, light, chic, effortless and goes with everything!
What was your most challenging project to date?
The answer to this also goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite projects. I am so proud of how it all came together despite every day on the job feeling like a slight threat to my safety. This specific client had a very interesting pet: a BOBCAT! Although a beautiful creature, it’s not exactly the cuddly kitty that its house-trained cousins tend to be. There was a definite spike in blood pressure walking into that project!
Within the industry, do you have any specific role models or mentors?
Yes, where do I begin? The short answers are some of my very first bosses, Kiku Obata out of St. Louis and Nashville’s own Robin Rains. They not only believed in me when they first hired me, but they continue to encourage my work today.
Give us your best design tip.
Focus on allowing the space to tell the story of those who occupy it. I have found that meeting the old with the new is when their story gets to speak. I believe this turns a house into someone’s home.
What’s the most common design mistake you see?
Quickfire … What’s your go-to wall color? Favorite coffee table book? Candle?
- Favorite wall color: Sherwin Williams Pure White
- Favorite coffee table book: Domino’s The Book of Decorating
- Favorite candle: Capri Blue Aloha Orchid (the smell never gets old), and you can reuse the pretty jar for something later.
Do you have any new (on the scene or to you) artists who you love now?
What are your favorite local design resources?
All the shops in the new Design District on Sidco. Be it Designer’s Gallery, Peacock Alley, Myers Carpet, The Iron Gate, Alfred Williams, Kenny & Company or Redo Home + Design (just to name a few), I can plan back-to-back appointments and knock out an entire house in an afternoon (well, that is, after grabbing a coffee or two from Stay Golden or District Coffee).
Describe your style in five words.
Modern twist on Southern style
Thank you, Natalie, for sharing your fabulous design insight with us! All photos were taken by Nick McGinn.
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