As a homesick Texan, it is always exciting for me to find new-to-me talent in the Lone Star State. So naturally, I was delighted to discover the work of Christian Ladd of Amarillo, Texas, which happens to be my father’s hometown! Christian is passionate about creating classic, timeless interiors, and she loves incorporating family heirlooms within her designs. She also has a passion for art, and she possesses the ability to skillfully infuse modern pieces and abstract art into otherwise traditional rooms, creating a look that is light, fresh, and colorful. Let’s get to know Christian and take a look at some highlights from her portfolio… I am thrilled to welcome Christian Ladd to The Glam Pad today for a Q&A!
Photography by Joanna Robertson and floral design by Parie Donaldson.
Q: How do you define your style?
A: Classic, traditional and timeless. I believe you have to look to the past for inspiration. Pieces that are too trendy will never surpass the test of time. Not to mention, vintage pieces and true antiques were painstakingly made back then. Often, with today’s current pieces, “our need to have it now” mentality forces manufacturers to produce poorly made items very quickly. Always remember, good things come to those who wait…. My style is often based on family heirlooms. Heirloom furniture always has a place in homes I design because those pieces hold special memories for my clients; additionally, these are the pieces that make each space feel unique. For instance, in my personal home, I have a Baker Hepplewhite sideboard that belonged to my paternal grandparents. Every time I walk by that piece of furniture I smile. These are the pieces that make a house a home. A good decorator or designer will know how to incorporate their client’s heirloom pieces seamlessly into their design.
Q: What inspired you to become an interior designer?
A: I realized this was my passion and that I had a knack for design at a very young age. When I was six, we moved into a home that had been decorated by a well-known Houston designer. Even at the age of six, I was aware that the home was well decorated. At that time, I didn’t quite understand that an interior designer was responsible for the cohesive design and décor or the space, I just knew the home was beautiful, happy, and comfortable. Then, at nine the lightbulb went off while visiting an out of town friend from camp. I remember arriving at her home and there was a designer there choosing fabrics for her bedroom. I realized in that moment that this was a real profession – and that was it. I later went on to earn a degree in Interior Design and a minor in Architecture. Following graduation, I had the privilege to work for a Dallas designer named Barry Williams at his firm Barry Williams Inc. Working for Barry inspired me every single day. The vast amount of information I learned from him is still something I carry with me today. He was a master with antiques and historical design. I still remember being enthralled by his eye for details. I could not do what I do today without all the life lessons and years of design advice that I took away from working for him.
Q: One of the first things I noticed in your exquisite portfolio was the fresh way you mix modern art with traditional style and antiques. How do you achieve this expert mix?
A: Carefully. You never want your fabrics and textiles to compete with the art. If a client’s art is taking on the lead role in their home than I want the fabrics and rugs to play a supporting role. The fabrics and rugs need to quieter, but still complementary in tone, and interesting in texture. This allows the art to be the showpiece. The supporting role is equally as important as the lead role. If the supporting textiles don’t compliment the art then your eye will have a difficult time landing on the correct piece and the entire room will lack cohesion.
Q: Please tell me more about your passion for art, and how do you advise your clients to use art in their own homes?
A: My passion for art began as a child; my grandmother Elaine was a talented artist and she unknowing taught me to appreciate art though her love and admiration for it. The first artist I ever truly fell in love with was Grace Hartigan. She was a disciple of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Her work is abstract and loose; the disheveled nature of her work is simply genius. I seem to be drawn more to her figural pieces; they are a bit deconstructed and that helps counterbalance my need for perfection in design. I believe that the items you put into your home should tell a story of who you are. Art is an excellent way for the client to visually express their point of view. I would advise my clients to buy what speaks to them. A piece of art should evoke an emotional reaction when you view it. If the piece does not move you, then it probably isn’t the right piece for you. Often, it is the piece of art that picks you not the other way around.
Q: Where do you find your antiques, and how do you incorporate them within your interiors?
A: 1st Dibs is a great source for finding antiques. I also have dozens of knowledgeable dealers that I source from all over the globe. I love to mix in modern pieces in a home every so often, but my design style will always weigh heavier on the classic and traditional style rather than the modern or transitional style. I always live by the idea that “A home’s interior should feel collected otherwise the home will end up looking dull and flat.”
Q: Do you have any favorite staples when it comes to paint colors, fabrics, wallpapers etc.?
A: I adore natural wallcoverings. Sisals, grasscloths, and silks are always my first choice if the art in the home is taking a lead role. Natural wallcoverings often create layering effects behind the art, making the piece “pop” even more. They are also a fabulous way to add texture to a room. Bathrooms are where the fun starts! I always love a bold, bright, and dominating print in a bathroom. It gives that small, often utilitarian, room some personality and cheerfulness. I am a big fan of whites. As any designer knows, “a white is not a white.” Whites can actually be incredibly challenging. Some of my go-to whites are Benjamin Moore’s Gray Mist, Cloud White, and Arcadia White. Farrow and Ball also has an incredibly elegant white called Wimborne White, which I love because it’s an off-white that is perfect in traditional houses when you don’t want the white to be too cool or gray.
Q: How do you design homes that are conducive to entertaining?
A: I like to design homes to allow a smooth flow that connects the core living areas together. Typically, this includes the kitchen, living or family room, dining room, and any exterior living space. It’s important for there to be a visual connection between each of these rooms, yet still maintain architectural distinction. In entertaining, the kitchen is usually where guests gravitate, and I like to ensure there are several seating options for guests. However, having inviting alternatives to the kitchen, like a great living area with multiple seating areas, will allow people to better mingle. If a home I am designing does not have a bar, I love to put in a stylish bar cart that will give hosts the option to prepare drinks where their guests are gathering. This allows them to utilize a stylish bar setting while still entertaining their guests face to face!
Q: Which interior designers – past or present – have most influenced your style? And what are your favorite design books?
A: Elsie de Wolfe, the first lady of interior decorating, is without a doubt the designer that has most influenced my style. Her book “The House in Good Taste” is one I reference time and time again. I’ve always been inspired by her emphasis on classic furniture and unique accessories and admired the way she would transform spaces to be light, fresh, and colorful. A few of my favorite Elsie de Wolfe quotes that continuously inspire me are:
- “I believe in optimism and plenty of white paint!”
- “There never was a house so bad that it couldn’t be made into something worthwhile.”
- “I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.”
Q: What are five luxury items you could not live without?
A: I simply adore little luxuries – they are a great, inexpensive way to make you day a little more luxurious. My grandmother would call them “sussies” which means “small gifts”. My five little luxuries are:
- Ironed Sheets.
- Fresh flowers.
- Candles. My two favorites are Christian Tortu’s Vert Frais candle (which means “Fresh Greens) and of course everybody’s staple Nest Fragrances Bamboo candle.
- A really great perfume. My current two faves are Tom Ford’s Café Rose and Maison Francis Kurkdjian Aqua Celestia.
- Terry’s Baume de Rose Lip Balm
Q: When you aren’t busy designing, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: When I am not designing I am typically busy with my two children, Thomas and Catherine, who are my entire world. When I do have a moment to myself I love to travel. Last year I traveled all though the country of Morocco, which is a county that should be on everyone’s bucket list! In September, I am heading to Italy for two weeks and then to San Miguel for Día de los Muertos in November. I believe we never stop learning in the industry of design and the best way to continue learning is to witness, in person, the architecture and culture globally.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: Advice I give my clients.…
- Bigger is not always better.
- Quality over quantity.
- Always buy the best piece you can afford.
- Curate your furniture pieces as you would an art collection. You wouldn’t go out and purchase a full art collection in one day, would you? Then why would you do that with your furniture pieces?
And lastly, a piece of advice from Elsie De Wolfe that I personally like to adhere to: “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you.”
Thank you, Christian, for joining us today. I always love meeting a fellow Texan, especially one who is so very talented! To learn more, please visit Christian Ladd Interior Design. You can also follow @christianladdinteriors on Instagram for ongoing updates.