We sat down to talk with Kellie Clements about her personal design style, how she works with her clients and what it was like to be on HGTV’s Design Star.
When you engage a new client, how do you determine their design aesthetic?
I love this question because knowing how to communicate and ask the right questions is the most important part of being a great designer. Before we even schedule a consultation, we email a few questions related to their project and style preferences. The way they answer these questions gives us great insight as to their desired aesthetic. The majority of people seeing a designer can identify what appeals to them when they see it, but what may be surprising is how many people come to us unable to verbalize what it is they like. My first task as a designer is to coach them on being able to identify what appeals to them. When someone explains that they like or dislike something, there is always a follow up question (or maybe 3) that help us pinpoint what they want. What someone says and what they actually mean is not always the same thing. We have found that asking clear, qualifying questions helps us start their design experience in the right direction. If someone tells me that they don’t like modern and prefer a more traditional style, my follow up questions will be “Tell me what you don’t like about modern,” and “How would you describe traditional?”
What is your personal design aesthetic?
The short answer would be eclectic with modern undertones. Having said that, “modern” sounds cold and the word “eclectic” can mean so many things. I am personally drawn to a fresh look with unexpected combinations of clean lines and collected pieces. I love color, but have a less is more approach to how it’s used. “Too much color?” Yes, that is absolutely a thing.
How do you combine your design aesthetic with your client’s personal style?
I actually work really hard to NOT inject my personal design aesthetic in to my client’s projects unless that is what is asked of me. What I DO consistently incorporate are the methods in which I layer old and new with a wide range of pattern, texture and color. No matter what the desired aesthetic is, these elements (when done correctly) are what give a room depth, warmth and interest.
Currently, what types of projects are keeping you busy?
We have a lot of plates spinning through the end of the year. In addition to serving our regular (although there is nothing “regular” about them) client base, we are kicking off the second annual Oklahoma Designer Show House. The tour runs September 9th through 18th, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We have also been preparing for months to install two full houses for the Central Oklahoma Parade of Homes, which will start the weekend after the Show House closes. And one other project that has kept me pretty busy…..I have been hired by a production company to pull together every room in 10 houses for a show on HGTV. I am working closely with the host of the show so I have been traveling a ton. I am grateful to have such an awesome team in Oklahoma to keep things moving when I have to head to Indianapolis.
What aspect of design is your specialty?
I think my clients would say that my strongest skill is helping them to achieve the look they want while keeping function and practicality at the core. Most of my clients have young families and I am able to forecast how their rooms might be used and head off any potential issues. I also have an obsessive attention to detail. It’s awesome for the client but my quest for perfection can sometimes feel like a curse. My team often catches me mumbling, “Why do I care THIS much, WHY?”
If you were an accessory what would you be?
I don’t know if you would classify art as an accessory, but in my world it’s part of the accessory family. Both my parents are artists and my dad owned an art gallery when I was a kid. An appreciation for art is just part of me, it’s in my genes. I believe whole-heartedly that no room is complete without the perfect piece of art. Quality art is definitely an investment, and selecting art can be really challenging for a lot of people. Art has the ability to captivate and evoke a wide range of feelings and wonder. I love the personal element that the right artwork can bring to a room. I want to be more than just a pretty vase (ba-dump-tish).
What style or types of fabrics are your current favorites?
I am fabric OBSESSED. ALWAYS! I wish I could tell you that I love a certain type like linen, velvet, etc., but I love ALL fabric ALL the time. I will say, that because of my love for life and color, I am particularly drawn to fabrics that are released in spring and summer largely due to the color palettes that are available that time of year. I really love all the watercolor inspired patterns (shocker, I know). This look has even gotten me to play with some florals. Historically, I have been opposed to specifying florals and ANY animal print (yes…that is the truth), but the watercolor look of many of the new floral patterns has courted me in to using them on a few recent projects. Having said that, there is no technique or color palette that could ever persuade me to love animal print again.
Any favorite colors or color combos?
I love ALL colors and I particularly love unexpected combinations of colors, especially navy and lavender, cobalt and coral or emerald and turquoise. My team could tell you that there are a few color combos that give me stank face. I am not a fan of lime green, and there’s no how, no way can I use pink and lime green together. EVER!
If you could pick one decade of interior design as your favorite, which one would you pick?
I wish I could say that I was completely unique in this area but I am with 95% of everyone else who is smitten with anything midcentury. I suppose the only difference is that I have loved it since before it was “trending.”
How do you incorporate trim and gimp into your projects?
We use a ton of trim. I love trim. It’s so versatile and can make something inexpensive look high end and totally custom. We like the clean lines of tape trims. They come in so many widths, colors and patterns these days. We are adding them to skirts on furniture, drapery panels, pillows and bedding. A lot of times when we have a client that is working on a fixed budget we will suggest adding tape trim to existing or ready-made panels. This gives them a custom look and helps them repurpose, which in turn offers the ability to do more with their budget or come in under budget.
Do you find inspiration through your travels?
I would say that I do but it’s not any more intense or memorable than the inspiration I get from just where ever I am standing when an idea hits me. If anything, I would say that color trends and textures vary heavily from region to region. I have two young boys so I am not at a phase in life that I would run off to Morocco or Switzerland to see what’s not under my nose in Oklahoma. I don’t discount the impact that travel has on a designer, but with what we have access to today through technology, I can see anything in any country at any time of the day. I want to travel to and fro but the clients that I most appreciate working with aren’t the type of people that anticipate me coming back from a trip abroad with the inspiration I need to work with them. That will never be me. I will travel, I will see things but I will never lean heavily on that to help me grow as a professional. If the inspiration doesn’t slap me in the face I know where to look for it.
Where else do you find inspiration?
The majority of my inspiration comes directly from my clients. I listen closely to the stories they share about their families and what they need to get out of a newly designed space. There are a lot of little things that just need to be noticed, and other times things are mentioned in passing. I hold on to all of that and it drives me when I am compiling ideas. I have a client with a son who has autism. She needed artwork for her house and mentioned that she was going to a fundraiser where there would be art for auction all painted by children with autism. She didn’t find anything that worked for where she needed, but I was able to reach out to her husband and arrange to work with her son and paint something for her as a gift. Listening to our clients share what’s important to them is so crucial because it offers opportunities to impact them beyond just the design of their home.
What is your favorite tip or trick to share with a client?
I have about five (but we can reserve those for another time). What I try to get people to adhere to is planning all of their room (color scheme and decisions on key pieces, space plan, etc.) before buying anything. Lots of people just start purchasing things without an overall plan. They need a new couch, and have the money to buy one with a little bit left over. So, they run out and buy a couch without considering the entire layout of the room, or what other fabrics will be incorporated in the space. Great spaces do not come together by accident. Changing one detail often causes a chain reaction, and adjustments need to be made in other areas. When people just start buying individually they miss the opportunity to be intentional about the end result of the space, and often end up with buyer’s remorse. If you have a clear plan of attack, and a budget to work within, the design process is actually fun instead of stressful.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your time working with HGTV?
Believe it or not, designing for TV can be radically different from designing a space for a client. Since I have experienced both, I can say that some skills I have developed while working with HGTV have definitely been an asset in my day-to-day client work. I’m often forced to be resourceful when faced with limitations that are out of my control. The ability to adapt quickly when things don’t go as planned and just keep things moving has been a valuable skill to have. There are many moments of just having to figure things out on the fly, but your end result can’t look like a backup plan. Everything has to look intentional whether it was your first, second or fifth plan of attack. There are certain patterns and colors that can’t be used on television. Colors can read entirely different than intended, or finite details that make the room feel warm and inviting.