Reading the Room: How Kelly Taylor Brings Her Interior Designs to Life

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Photo courtesy of Nat Rea / Kelly Taylor Interior Design

A perfectly designed room can elicit any number of positive feelings: calm, delight, relaxation, creativity. And an underdeveloped space can have the opposite effect—it can be a challenge to fully unwind in poorly planned surroundings. Whether you have beloved furnishings you’re not sure how to bring together or opposing opinions making decisions difficult, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to get stuck in décor limbo. Many people simply don’t know where to begin in order to bring their true design aspirations to life.

This is something award-winning interior designer Kelly Taylor, founder of KTID in Providence, Rhode Island, encounters frequently in her work. “The weaving together of design elements is by far the most common challenge many of our clients come to us with,” she explains.

Taylor was first drawn to design as a career after her undergraduate studies. “I grew up around historic architecture, arts, and culture in Charleston, South Carolina—so I was surrounded by design from an early age. But I didn’t realize how passionate I was about it until I graduated from college with a BA in English and moved to New York City. I just wasn’t satisfied, and luckily, I was in a design-centric city, so I went to Parson’s and pivoted into the world of interior design.”

So how does Taylor envision and execute such attractive, harmonious spaces? How does she use colour and texture, furnishings and fixtures, to unify the disparate elements in her clients’ homes? Here are three pieces of advice that enable her to navigate the design process.

1. Look Inwards

Photo courtesy of Nat Rea / Kelly Taylor Interior Design

It’s easy enough to leaf through a high-end editorial or walk into a showroom and imagine being content in any beautifully appointed space. But the best interior design resonates on a personal level, making your home uniquely yours. What holds meaning for you as an individual, and what makes you happy? Identifying these elements is the beginning of bringing your home together—and where Taylor always opens her work with clients.

“We start every project with an in-depth discovery process,” she says. “This is when we spend time getting to know who the client is, how they live, what they are trying to achieve, and ultimately how we can find solutions to whatever issues are at hand. There is no more important part of our design process, because it informs every decision we make from start to finish.”

It’s fitting that interior design demands a high degree of interior reflection. Uncover what inspires you, and think about how you can incorporate that into different rooms. “A solid 50% of my job is psychology—that’s something I would have never known coming out of design school. Luckily, I’m good at it,” jokes Taylor.

“In all seriousness, though, much of what I do is so personal and that takes us into very real conversations about life, arguments between spouses, and countless important decisions. This is a part of my job that I never expected but really love; it adds to the rewards of creating spaces that help people live their best lives.”

2. Create a Conversation

Photo courtesy of Nat Rea / Kelly Taylor Interior Design

So how does a room come together out of diverse elements? For Taylor, part of the solution is pure instinct, though there are practical tips she likes to impart as well.

“Make sure the elements speak to each other in some way, without repeating each other too much,” she advises. “In neutral palettes, we can do this by using a variety of textures, for instance. Or for colorful palettes, we can make sure we combine geometrical patterns with more organic ones in the same color tones. The key is to find elements that are compatible, but not so similar that the design feels monotonous.”

When in doubt, reach for Taylor’s fail-safes. “There are two things that no room in my own home is without: books and original art,” she says. “I often quote Cicero—‘A room without books is like a body without a soul’—though I often add the word ‘art’ as well. These two elements bring culture, richness, and humanity to any space.”

3. Lay a Foundation on Function

Photo courtesy of Nat Rea / Kelly Taylor Interior Design

The visual appeal of your rooms should be supported by the more practical elements of design. What are you aiming to use the room for? How can you best create flow and boost a room’s usefulness?

A stumbling block Taylor often sees with clients is a lack of awareness regarding size and scale. In this context, size can be defined as the physical dimensions of your home’s spaces and pieces, while scale refers to the relative proportions of the room compared with the objects in it.

“Size and scale are my two top offenders,” she says. “The issues go hand in hand. It’s important to never forget the size of a space, and furnishings need to fit the scale of the space. In other words, if you have a small room, don’t buy a gigantic sofa.”

Ultimately, your design elements should have some utility—even if that utility is simply the pure enjoyment of an inspiring piece of art. And invisible details should be taken into account as well, such as the brightness or dimness of your space, the sounds and smells, and even its impact on the surrounding environment.

“Beauty is a critical part of a well-designed space,” says Taylor. “But I would argue that it takes a back seat to function, lighting, acoustics, and sustainability. All of these things have high impact on human life—on personal harmony, health, and happiness.”

Simply put, you need to align three crucial pieces in creating your ideal space. First, identify what objects and details feel most authentic to you. Second, create a look that unites colors, patterns, and objects to create balance and harmony. And third, study the functionality of your space and see whether there are layout challenges you can improve upon. Consider these three factors, and you’re thinking like an interior designer.

Looking for more insights on intuitive décor? See how one Sotheby’s International Realty agent designed a garden that welcomes the entire neighborhood.

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