Thanks to House Beautiful’s delightful article on “Grandmillennial style,” I recently discovered the work of designer Josh Pickering. A fellow Texas native, I was instantly smitten with Josh’s classic aesthetic and dedication to the art of living well. After graduating with a degree in architecture, Josh made the immediate shift into the world of interior design. Following time spent in Texas design firms, and then several years working with legendary designer Bunny Williams in New York, Josh returned to establish his firm, Pickering House, in Dallas in 2016.
Josh enjoys being a perpetual student of design, referring to historical precedent while looking towards what is new and innovative. Throwing oneself into the process by traveling, shopping, studying, drawing and painting, helps to tangibly understand how a room should be put together, he says. I am delighted to welcome this exceptionally talented designer today at The Glam Pad for a Q&A. Welcome, Josh!
Q: When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in interior design?
A: It sort of happened organically, but early on. My parents really nurtured my creativity from the beginning. In adolescence, I commandeered their garden shed as my own personal decorating laboratory, and filled it with whatever odds and ends I could get my hands on. At 16, I started taking architecture classes at school and working part time for a designer. I really can’t remember an age that I didn’t know my path (for which I am grateful).
Q: Congratulations on being named as one of House Beautiful’s “Grandmillennials ”! How did you develop your aesthetic for classic style?
A: I’m so glad that we can officially consider classic style trend-forward again, and even more glad to be considered as part of that movement. Honestly, I am an “old soul” in every sense, so it is only natural that my sense of style tends toward the traditional. I love the sense of history you can get from antiques – I like to imagine the stories they would tell if they could. Every time we travel, I see beautiful things in centuries-old buildings that I want to emulate in my work.
Q: What was it like working with the legendary Bunny Williams, and what are the top lessons you learned from her?
A: It was collectively the most formative experience of my life, and Bunny did more than enrich me with countless lessons of how to design a room. Working for her gave me a confidence and clarity in my own instincts that I didn’t have before. Ultimately, I learned that in order to truly succeed in creating rooms that are eclectic, layered and interesting, the spirit of the items going into the room must harmonize, not necessarily sing in unison. They interact with each other in a way that starts to create a story and give a room its own unique identity.
Q: How does your education and passion for architecture influence your work? I understand your husband, Daniel Heath, worked for renowned Ferguson Shamamian and Peter Pennoyer Architects in NYC prior to branching out on his own in Dallas… What a dynamic duo!
A: Well, Daniel is my biggest critic and my ultimate “quality control” test. He challenges me to do my best work and not compromise a good idea. While we can decorate over bad architecture when we have to, there is no chance of a truly phenomenal interior without a good architectural background. Understanding and speaking the language of architecture is crucial to my process. Although interior design is absolutely the right career path for me, I wouldn’t trade those years of architectural education for anything.
Q: D Magazine described a project you worked on with Daniel as a home Emily Post, the gatekeeper of good taste, would be happy with. How do you create refinement and good taste in today’s casual, fast-paced world?
A: I do not shy away from formality, as I don’t think it is necessarily irrelevant in the world we live in. Formal rooms that are rarely used, however, are. This goes back to architecture. In todays world, the layout of a home needs to make a person engage with the rooms. I don’t like unnecessary hallways and galleries. Rooms shouldn’t be destinations, You should walk through them and experience them everyday. My approach is to make refined spaces that are functional. If a space is practical and inviting, you will use it, regardless of how casual it looks. Use and comfort are what makes a space livable, and rooms should have grace.
Q: What are five things every well appointed home needs?
A: 1. First and foremost, a dog!
2. A drawer full of taper candles in every color imaginable, so that each table setting can have its own personality.
3. Fresh flowers and plants are a MUST.
4. Linens!!! Beautiful linens always make an impression, at the table, in the lavatory, in the bedroom, and always under a cocktail. Hilariously, I remember at one of my first client interviews, the client brought me a can of diet coke and set it down on a pressed, hand-embroidered cocktail napkin, and I thought, “We are definitely going to get along!”
5. Art that has a story is more interesting than any piece that is bought as an “investment” or showpiece. Whether the story is about the artist’s experience, or your experience discovering the piece, it makes the home more personal and will always make for engaging conversations.
Q: Which movie houses have given you the most inspiration?
A: The Sound of Music is most important simply because it affected me at a young age. I remember watching it over and over again as a child, mesmerized by the scenery, the interiors, the architecture, and the way that Maria brought new life into the Von Trapp family home. It was a lesson on living well, in so many ways. Other movie houses that I would add to the list would be from To Catch a Thief, the mid-century house in A Single Man, and who can ignore Chatsworth’s role in Pride and Prejudice?! Additionally, I was completely awe-struck by the house (and Tilda Swinton!) in I Am Love (Io Sono l-Amore).
Q: Who are your favorite interior designers – past and present?
A: I’ve spent a lot of time documenting the work of Borromini, and find that his inventive use of geometry and decorative motifs inspire me (even though this is not Baroque Rome!) Obviously Bunny, but the Parish-Hadley alumni in a broader sense as well. I especially admire and constantly reference the work of David Kleinberg and Brian McCarthy. Others: Bruce Budd, Timothy Whealon and Tom Scheerer, and more recently, I am really drawn to Alyssa Kapito’s work.
Q: Please tell me about your beautiful tablescapes, and do you also offer event planning?
A: I like to share my tablescapes just to emphasize their importance to the next step of interiors and how to live in them. One of my best friends, Rusty Glenn, has been doing floral and event design for decades and I see firsthand just how exhausting it can be. I am what one would call a “recreational tablescaper”. I’ve done a lot for those close to me, but I see the value in hiring others so you can enjoy the moment.
Q: When you aren’t busy designing, how do you enjoy spending your free time?
A: Daniel and I really do live and breath design. When not working, I am busy trying to find inspiration and doing things that fuel my creative energy – Traveling when we can, antiquing on weekends, and long Sunday afternoons poring over the latest design books with endless cups of tea and playing with our dog, Tippi. I love to cook and entertain, so there is always a dinner party on the books.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: I just want to say how grateful I am that you reached out to me. It’s always so much fun to share my musings on design (especially with a fellow Texan!).