I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about a “finished” home that makes me want to putter around, sprucing it up. My apartment is, for all intents and purposes, done. It’s been designed and arranged with a mix of pieces that I’ve purchased, repurposed myself (really tapping into my inner Joanna Gaines here), or hand-me-down pieces that at least fit in well enough and serve the general purpose I need them to serve. It’s done. But at the same time, I can list at least a handful of things that I’d like to change, fix, or otherwise switch up. I’m also working with very limited space, however, so I need to really make the most of what I’ve got.
Luckily, Kate Lester of Kate Lester Interiors, is on-hand to give me the low-down on the tricks I definitely need to consider, how she got her start and built her business, and the permission to embrace whatever my design style might be.
Lester was working in Corporate America when the realization dawned on her that she spent more time thinking about redesigning her fancy corner office than getting work done. “One day, as I was sitting in my corner office in corporate America I realized that I wanted more. More flexibility, more opportunity, and more money,” she explained.
That led her to interior design and, eventually, to the launch of Kate Lester Interiors, which she founded in 2010. Like any brand-new small business, building it was a challenge, but it was one that Lester met head-on. “It was hard. Like, really hard. Owning your own business is not for the faint of heart,” Lester said. “I joined networking groups, had coffee with every contractor and architect who would answer my email and I treated each and every project like it was my cover of Architectural Digest. I also had clearly set one, two, and five-year plans, and knew exactly who my ideal client would be. I focused on that and never looked back.”
I joined networking groups, had coffee with every contractor and architect who would answer my email and I treated each and every project like it was my cover of Architectural Digest.
Nowadays, nearly a decade in, there are still set project goals. “As of now, we aim for about 10-14 projects a year, so since 2011, I would say we’ve worked on about 75 projects,” Lester said — which means she has a ton of experience upon which to draw when it comes to offering advice to the amateur designers among us.
Nearly everyone is working with some sort of budget when they’re looking to give their space a spruce. The best thing you can do when you’re trying to get the most for your money is to be okay with a mix of more expensive pieces and more affordable pieces. “I always suggest spending on upholstery and a really unique or interesting light fixture,” Lester said.
I always suggest spending on upholstery and a really unique or interesting light fixture.
“Then, add in printable art, accessories from big box stores like Ikea and Target, and spend your weekends hunting for amazing treasures at flea markets and antique shops. This will give your space a curated and collected feel without breaking the bank!”
If you’re hoping to make your space look larger than it is (who isn’t, am I right?), then you should make sure to avoid tiny pieces of furniture. Though you might think that would make your space appear much larger than it actually is, Lester said that that’s the opposite of what happens — and one of the biggest mistakes she sees.
But there are some things that will help.
“Oversized art helps a lot. It makes a dynamic impact, and immediately makes the space feel larger,” Lester said. “Also, we often mount drapery and shades well above the window at the ceiling to give the illusion that the space is taller. Mirrors are also another trick of the trade. They open up a space, as well as infuse light throughout.”
If you’re hoping to make your space look larger than it is, make sure to avoid tiny pieces of furniture. Lester said that it’s one of the biggest mistakes she sees.
Though there are so many variables that come into play when you’re dealing with designing a space you’ll love, Lester does have one rule that won’t steer you wrong if you’re unsure of what to do. “Just paint it white,” she said.
Still, Lester is all about encouraging people to embrace their sense of style. Don’t design your space solely based on what you think other people will like or what’s trendy at the time. Take a bit of time to figure out what it is that you like — and then don’t be afraid to go with your gut.
“The great thing about design is that it’s subjective. Been eying that unicorn wallpaper? Buy it, put it up, and rock it. Don’t make design decisions based on what’s ‘in’ or ‘trendy.’ Designing a space is always much easier when it’s authentic to you, so remember that when you embark on your design process,” Lester said.
Don’t make design decisions based on what’s ‘in’ or ‘trendy.’ Designing a space is always much easier when it’s authentic to you, so remember that when you embark on your design process.
“I would much rather someone leave one of my projects saying something (positive or negative), because that means it had an impact on them! That is always better than the decor being so mediocre that it wasn’t memorable at all. Own your choices and run with it… design is supposed to be fun!”