With an impeccable eye for antiques and a sophisticated color sense, New York based interior designer Liliane Hart designs livable spaces in a tailored classic style, where comfort and ease are paramount. Whether it is a Martha's Vineyard family getaway, or a cosmopolitan city aerie, Hart strikes the rite note with a subtle hand. Her interiors are soothing, never loud. I sat down with the designer recently and she shared her design background and some truths about what it is like to run the show and have your own decorating firm.
Who did you work for and where did you study to learn the trade?
I received my BFA from University of Denver, with a focus on printmaking. Upon graduating, I renovated a little Victorian house, and the process piqued my interest in renovation and decoration. I moved back to New York City and enrolled at the New York School of Interior Design. While working toward my degree, I also worked full-time for Robert Gaul, a NYC-based architectural designer. After graduation, I worked with the supremely talented Jeffrey Bilhuber. Under Jeffery's mentorship, I managed large-scale projects across the country, with discerning clients and tight deadlines.
When did you know this was your calling in life?
Much of my undergraduate work involved solitary time spent in the studio, and I craved a more collaborative experience. I convinced my parents to purchase a “fixer-upper”, the renovation of which I led. Through that, I became interested in design. I enjoy problem-solving and constantly changing days, and was drawn to the fast pace of renovation, the material specifications and the collaboration between clients, contractors and the workrooms.
How did you know you were ready to strike out on your own, and when did you?
I started Liliane Hart Interiors over 8 years ago. I found that I was spending all my free time working with friends and family members, and decided that I was ready to strike out on my own. It was fun to work with my own clients: to present my own designs and apply the practical knowledge learned working with such great designers.
Do you have a signature look and how would you define it?
Our signature style is timeless and tailored classics blended with modern and youthful elements. I like to place antiques and one-of-a-kind pieces with something unexpected -- perhaps layered prints or patterns -- creating a unique, inspiring relationship . Our process is always a collaboration with our clients to create beautiful comfortable spaces that express the personalities of their occupants.
What advice do you have for others wanting to do the same?
It was really helpful to have some clients already established who knew and liked my style. It gave me confidence, and with revenue coming in the door, it was an easier transition.
Do you have formal training, or on the job training?
Both! While it was a juggling act to work full-time and study at NYSID, the practical, hands-on experience was priceless after graduating. I was immediately hired at Jeffrey Bilhuber’s busy office thanks to my rich experience and understanding of the interior design process.
What was the biggest surprise or challenge in starting your own firm?
While the interior design process is collaborative, at the end of the day, it's not just about design. As the owner of my own business, I am responsible for the business side of keeping the company going, what I call the 'behind the scenes' bits -- there are always a lot of balls in the air. When I first started, I made myself constantly available to every 'design emergency'. Eventually, it became unsustainable and I learned to balance my personal time with work.
Do you have a design mentor?
Without question, Jeffrey Bilhuber!
What did they teach you that you can't learn in design school?
Jeffrey is the master of the 'unexpected.' His sense of color, pattern and interesting antique pairings are unusual, yet effortless and fresh. The addition of just a couple of off-beat notes in a room creates a much more interesting composition.
What is the most practical knowledge you learned from working for a master designer?
Clients often want to include cherished pieces of furniture or art into projects. Jeffrey was very open to working with whatever the client brought into the relationship. He would either use the pieces as is, paint or reupholster them, but whatever he did with them, they miraculously became new again. It taught me to see the possibility in almost anything! I also learned how to mix high and low furniture and create a wonderful balance in both the room and the budget!
What is the biggest challenge of being your own boss? Has that evolved from when you began?
It can be daunting to know that everyone is relying upon you. Whether you're awaiting final approval, bringing clients in, creating the schedule, or balancing PR and marketing, it can be an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Now that I have staff -- and a family -- I'd say that the stakes are definitely higher now than they were before.
Whose work of the past do you hold in high regard?
I absolutely love Albert Hadley’s work. I'm inspired by his sense of style, use of color and creative furniture plans, not to mention his incredible illustrations. I think his use of color and ability to mix modern elements, such as art or color, with a traditional style is masterful. The whimsical and fresh patterns of his wallpaper collection appeal to many of my clients.
What books do you own old and new that you constantly refer to?
Where are you going for inspiration?
New York City offers so much inspiration -- I love to walk around the city soaking it in. The street style, antique stores, design buildings and restaurants always keep me energized. Instagram has also been a new obsession for sourcing new websites and ideas. And, I have an extensive collection of World of Interiors magazines that I look at for design inspiration and color stories.
What do you think is next regarding trends in color, material, style, influence, historical period and locale?
We were involved with the Hampton Designer Showhouse this year and saw an emphasis on subtle color, texture, and natural materials. I believe that interiors will swing back to a more subtle color palette with accents of rich color.
How do your clients find you?
Our business is predominantly generated via word of mouth and we are also very fortunate to have repeat clientele.
What material do you love?
I love to use wallpaper because it can transform a room in a textural, colorful or bold geometric way. With wallpaper, a room can take on a very distinct personality and provide a strong backdrop to the furniture and fabrics in the room.
What design material or movement will never go out of style?
Grasscloth and woven materials seem to be immortal, Hall of Fame worthy!
Where do you shop to get inspired?
I go to the Design and Decoration Building for fabric. I am obsessed with Decorative Collective site and like to see what is new on Dering Hall for furniture inspiration.
Tell us some secret gems--
The antique shops on coastal Route 1 in Southern Maine and the New York Botanical Garden Antiques Show never fail to deliver!
What are your favorite useful apps and instagram feeds you are following?
Pinterest, Convert, for converting centimeters to inches or GBP to American dollars. My favorite Instagram feeds are @tastelikeagoldfish, @francespalmer @stylebeatblog @moore.christopher @therugcompany @onekingslane @chairishco