Do As A Designer Does

Say hello to “Do As a Designer Does,” our monthly advice column dedicated to answering readers’ burning interior design questions with some of the best brains in the business. Have a question? Shoot us a message on Instagram, or email us at editorial@semihandmade.com for a chance to be featured!

For this month’s installment of Do as a Designer Does, our expert is Catherine Williamson. Williamson is half of the design duo behind Beginning in the Middle and Mix Design Collective, which she runs alongside her husband Bryan Williamson. Their home’s Semihandmade project has been among our most popular transformations, proving that a new kitchen can fit right in with a historic house.

Question:

Dear Catherine, 

How much does the exterior of a house affect how you design the interior, if at all? 

Thanks! 

Hannah from Atlanta, Georgia

Answer:

Dear Hannah,

Simply put, we definitely take the exterior of a home into consideration when designing the interior—to a certain extent. While ideally the architecture and design of a home will be cohesive inside and out, the truth is that we love a good mix of old and new, especially when it comes to decor. 

For example, we work primarily with old homes, and love adding modern lighting, hardware, and art. Conversely, incorporating vintage pieces into modern homes adds soul and tells a more unique story. When mixing styles, we generally like to limit it to accents like the aforementioned lighting and art. Anything that isn’t part of the “bones” of the home can be changed. 

With that said, it is important to consider when the home was built, its overall architectural style, and its location when determining the interior’s design direction. Is the home located in a historic district? Is it a beach bungalow or a contemporary new build? We answer these questions and evaluate these factors before we even start a renovation. 

While every home is different, some design patterns have emerged. For example, in old homes with existing character, we love leaning into warm paint colors, original hardwood floors, and other classic finishes that patina over time. In more modern homes, we love playing with lighter wood tones and edgy finishes. In urban lofts, exposed brick is fun to incorporate, especially when it’s on the exterior of the building and therefore feels natural on the interior. And we all know that farmhouses and shiplap are a match made in heaven.

full kitchen with island

Quartz countertops and a marble and wood island offset the dark shade of the cabinets, and unify the modern-yet-classic look of the kitchen.

Of course, there are always exceptions and we’ve broken our own rules many times. For example, we have one property that has vinyl siding on the exterior and doesn’t look historic at all, but it was built in 1900. The interior had all been updated in the eighties and it had no original charm left, other than tall windows and ceilings. In this situation, we were fine with breaking our rule of thumb and being more creative on the interior.  

We believe in you, 

Catherine

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