Designers don’t appear overnight. An inherent adoration for interiors is often crafted from childhood, and then grows into a lifelong appreciation for scale, special objects, and creating memory-making spaces.
That’s why we asked five interior designers to recall their earliest design memory. For some it was a pattern, and for others an heirloom, yet all emphasized a feeling a space evoked. All these aspects informed these industry pros’ love of design from an impressionable age—and continues to inform their aesthetics today.
Read on for the designers’ stories in their own words.
Learning Patterns and Proportion
“Growing up, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' home while my parents worked. So many of my earliest design memories are from their home with its picture-perfect traditional (yet always a touch trendy) interiors. I claimed my own bedroom there, and it's in this space that I received my first introduction to the use of allover pattern—specifically floral chintz. The bedding, the drapery, and even the walls were all of the same red, green, and white floral motif.
"My grandmother has never been one to halfway do anything, and I grew up thinking everyone should have such perfectly coordinated spaces—chintz included. My grandmother also has a true gift for floral arranging, so her home was always filled with the most beautiful, handcrafted arrangements. Without realizing it, her floral creations taught me a lot about playing with scale, proportions, color balance, and never allowing anything to look too perfect. Their home was—and still is—a comforting and welcoming place for gathering, eating, and spending time together.” - Lauren Sullivan of Well x Design
Making Memories in a Space of Any Size
“Growing up in South Texas, I spent every holiday at my grandfather’s ranch house—a 100-year-old family heirloom with a white stucco exterior and a screened-in porch. Despite being one room, my grandfather’s house contained a dining table that sat 20, a sitting area, a game table, and a lovely kitchen with tile countertops and wood cabinetry. Cool Saltillo tile lined what were once dirt floors, and four twin beds stationed on a far wall served as couches in the daytime.
"The house was host to cousins, aunts, uncles, and family friends, all represented in photographs that covered the walls. It was this house that made me realize the size of a home is not important, it is the home’s inhabitants and their creativity that really matters.” - Annie Downing
Appreciating the Details
“I grew up in New Orleans, and for years, I lived in an apartment located above the Kinko’s that my mom managed. It wasn’t any run-of-the-mill apartment; it was a hidden jewel box. The building had been an antique store at some point in its history, and the shop owner lived upstairs, and turned that apartment into her treasure trove.
"Our living room had a 12-foot wall of floor-to-ceiling leaded glass French doors. The walls were drenched in a deep navy with the most incredible crown and trim work. In the center of the room hung a chandelier made of ram antlers, perfectly paired with the most feminine, ornate ceiling medallion.
"While my mom worked I studied every detail of that apartment. I re-styled our furniture bought on super sale from Kirkland’s and I dreamed about what it might look like if I could reupholster the sofa and fill the bookshelves with sculptures and artifacts. I didn’t know it then, but that’s when I began my interior design journey. When other kids were rewarded with a Nintendo, I opted for a new Laura Ashley comforter set.
"What I wouldn’t give to design in that apartment again, and give my little safe haven a second shot at showcasing her extraordinary beauty.” - Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors
Having a Space of Your Own
“We moved around a lot when I was growing up, and they were international moves—so big changes!—and we weren't always bringing a lot of furniture with us to the next place. I remember how different all of those houses and bedrooms were, and what I liked and what I didn't.
"I was always a kid who spent tons of time in my bedroom, working on projects. I could keep myself entertained forever. I'm still like that! I think everyone deserves a real sanctuary and space of their own that brings them a lot of comfort. Those are the spaces I try to create for my clients.” - Colleen Simonds
Juxtaposing Old With New
“I was fortunate to grow up in a family that really valued creativity and the arts. My childhood home in suburban Philadelphia was filled with antiques mixed in with the newly-purchased traditional decor.
"There is an absolutely stunning Italian white marble bust of a milkmaid that is on an ornately-carved marble pedestal that has always been in the living corner. She has an innocence and beauty that I always admired. The way she layered into the formal living room, used mostly for holiday occasions and parties, was an interesting juxtaposition to the traditional furniture silhouettes upholstered in more contemporary fabrics.
"I credit my love of antiques and reupholstering heirlooms in modern fabric to growing up in my childhood home.” - Sarah Storms of Styled by Storms