Your home is a reflection of who you are. It is the place where you live, love and laugh. It is the epicenter of your family; the place where secrets are shared, problems solved and memories made. It is the haven to which you retreat at the end of the day to escape from the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Creating such an intimate and personal environment requires commitment, dedication and lots of patience. Often homeowners lack the time to devote to such a large project or the skills to transform ideas into realities. Interior designers have the time, the resources and the creativity to take a project from inception to completion and turn a few simple sketches into a dream home. The business of interior design encompasses much more than just the decorating aspects of selecting window treatments or choosing paint colors. A designer actually works on a project from the ground up.When a homeowner decides to custom-build or remodel a home, the interior designer works in collaboration with the contractors, builders, architects, electricians and other industry professionals to design a space that best accommodates the homeowner’s wants and needs.
Additionally, an interior designer must be licensed in order to work professionally and must stay abreast of all the latest codes and regulations applicable to the profession through continuing education courses. The following women are the interior designers and creative forces behind some of the most beautiful homes in San Antonio. Let their creativity help you find your own inspiration.
Owner, Kathy Scholl Designs Growing up with a father who was the contractor behind the Houston Galleria, designer Kathy Scholl has the business in her blood. As a precocious fourth-grader, she designed built-ins for the room she shared with her sister, using her father’s laptop drafting board. “I love the construction process,” she says with a smile. It comes as no surprise then that Scholl married high-end custom home builder Mike Scholl, received a degree in interior design from UT Austin, and has been designing some of the city’s most prominent addresses for more than 30 years. Her work has been featured in such prestigious publications as Country Living Magazine, Luxe Magazine and Southern Living, to name a few, and her reputation has provided her with the opportunity to work on projects in Australia, France, Belgium and Mexico.
Even with a housing market that is said to be declining, Scholl shows no signs of slowing down. She currently has 27 projects in various stages, five of which are multimillion-dollar new construction residences. In addition, she has been tapped to design the Returning Heroes Project at Fort Sam Houston, a more than 12,000-square-foot gathering area for soldiers and their families. With so many different projects under way and so many years in the business, you might think that Scholl would grow weary of her profession. On the contrary, this designing woman has so much energy and enthusiasm for her career that it seems to bubble out of her. Inspired by beautiful architecture, Scholl enjoys the variety of working with different architects to create something unique.
Her favorite architectural feature? “For our climate it is lots of porches,” she says. “It should be a necessity for every home built because it provides outdoor living space and protects the windows and doors from the rain and heat.” As for the interior of a home, Scholl is open to almost anything except wall-to-wall carpet. “There is absolutely nothing good about it except acoustically,” she laughs. Although she is hired for her years of expertise, Scholl doesn’t push her own agendas. Instead, she listens to what her clients want and then encourages them to go a step further. “My goal is to push the clients beyond what they could have done by themselves,” she explains. “They are not hiring me to do something they could do on their own.”
Scholl operates under her philosophy that your home is where you refuel, and it is an investment that requires you to strike a balance between your head and your heart. Furthermore, she firmly believes that unless you attend to your master bedroom first, you are doing yourself a mental disservice. “Your master bedroom should be a high priority on your list,” she says seriously, adding that it should be outfitted with the best bed linens and pillows and should feature only soothing colors. “The colors should be the ones that you look most beautiful in without makeup,” she says. Her attention to what soothes the soul and lifts the spirit is part of Scholl’s charm. A mother of two and grandmother of four, Scholl realizes that fami-ly is what makes the house a home, and she designs with that in mind. She takes into account the purpose and function of the rooms and the lifestyle of the family. She was once hired solely on the way she interacted with a 3-year-old child. “The client wanted the kids and pets to be a priority in the design,” she grins. With her casual and relaxed style, when Scholl takes on a new client, she makes a new friend, often working with the client for many years and on many projects. She
recalls one project that took two years to design and another three to build. She equates the entire process to a pregnancy in that when the baby arrives, you quickly forget whether the nine months leading up to the birth were tough or easy. And as much as Scholl enjoys the construction, architecture, space planning and other aspects of her job, for her the “birth” is her favorite element. “The best part for me is moving in the client,” she says with her trademark enthusiasm. “When everything is delivered and installed, it is like a big, giant Christmas present.”
Owner, Bradshaw Designs To look at designer Julie Bradshaw you would never dream that this impeccably dressed and stylish woman enjoys spending her time tromping around construction sites and granite yards, but she confesses that these are two of her favorite parts of her job. “The best part of the day is when I get to go to a construction site,” she laughs. “The construction phase is when you get to watch the design in your head come to life.” One of Bradshaw’s designs come-to-life is the beautiful custom-built Terrell Hills home she shares with her husband and two sons. The home reflects Bradshaw’s innate sense of style with unexpected accents and modern accessories playing off the otherwise traditional décor. It also reflects the inspirations she has found through her extensive travels, including a balcony that Bradshaw had made from a stair railing she discovered in a Paris flea market. “The railing was from a cabaret on the Champs Élysées,” she says with delight. Bradshaw, who describes the process of building her home as a “learning experience,” prefers the drafting and space-planning aspects of her field. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” she explains of space design. “You have to work with it until the pieces fall into place. Sometimes the problem becomes a creative solution, and that’s fun for me.”
So much fun that Bradshaw began creating ink and watercolor renderings for clients of different variations on rooms in order to help them visualize the completed puzzle. It is a personal touch that is unique to Bradshaw, and it is just one of the many ways that she nurtures the important client/designer relationship. “One of the things I love most about my job is the people,” she says happily. “The relationship is very personal, and good friendships often result.” Bradshaw prides herself on listening to her clients and hearing the things they don’t say as clearly as the things they verbalize. From that, she is able to accurately discern what it is that the client actually wants. “I love it when people say,’I love this, and I didn’t even know I needed it,'” she says.
Bradshaw encourages her clients to bring in magazines, books and photos of rooms they like in order to get a feel for the styles that appeal to them. She talks with them about things such as traffic flow, conversation areas, lighting and windows. She hunts down tile and granite samples. She discusses the client’s goals and needs and determines the scope of the project. And, of course, she talks with the client about the budget and shows them where they should spend and where they can save. “Everything costs more than you think,” she explains. But perhaps the most important service Bradshaw offers her clients is her support. “People can get overwhelmed by all the decisions,” she says with a smile. “A lot of my job is just hand-holding.”
President, Baxter Design In her youth Debbie Baxter was “scarily obsessed” with fashion, often spending hours poring over Vogue magazine. As she got older, Baxter began to realize that a career in fashion would be too limiting for her, and she took her love of color and style and applied it to the world of interior design — although not without some trial and error. “I once got in trouble for painting my television pink,” she recalls with a laugh. Today, pink televisions are a thing of the past, and in their place are elegantly beautiful residential dwellings both in San Antonio and New York City. After obtaining a degree in interior design from the University of Miami, Baxter and her husband, an international businessman, spent time living abroad, in Venezuela and Spain. It was there that Baxter found her greatest design influences and fell in love with the look of ethnic combinations. “I really love ethnic mixtures, and I am fascinated by the clean and elegant lines of Asian design,” she declares. “I don’t like to use anything in its purest form. I always mix up the materials.”
Through her travels, Baxter has amassed her own impressive collection of unique items that she incorporates into her projects, as well as an impressive comprehension of architecture. “I am very confident in being a historically accurate designer in classical design,” she says. “I am a student of architecture at all times,” she adds. “I read anything and everything that will improve my abilities and allow me to back up my advice.” Baxter, who prefers to work as part of a collaborative effort, has spent the past 25 years growing her business, which today consists of a team of 20 employees, including both designers and support staff. Five years ago she took her talents to New York and opened a design studio that is going strong. “I am so inspired by New York and the Old World as well as the trendy design that is going on there,” she says. Baxter operates from both a creative and a philosophical level when it comes to her craft. She often delves into her client’s emotions, and she is continually amazed by value perception when it comes to homes. “People don’t think through how important their homes are,” she explains. “They will spend $100,000 on a Mercedes that decreases in value the moment they drive it off the lot, but they won’t spend $25,000 on dining room furniture that will become a treasured family heirloom.”
She cites fear as one of the biggest inhibitors for people when it comes to designing a home as well as a lack of trust in their own instincts. Baxter’s goal is to establish a trust and a personal relationship with her clients that allows them to overcome both, but it’s not always easy. “I was working in this market for 15 years before a client ever invited me to their home for a drink and to visit about their project,” she recalls. “It made a huge impression on me, and they became lifelong clients.” Up until that point, all of Baxter’s clients retained her services in a more formal and business-like manner — something that always baffled this talented designer. “Working with a designer is such a personal process,” she marvels. “One project can last four or five years. You have to get a little personal in the interview process,” she says, adding that a personality connection and free-flowing conversation are important to the success of the project. Baxter knows a thing or two about a successful formula. In addition to designing breathtaking homes in some of the most upscale neighborhoods, she is also involved in design for the hospitality industry, and Baxter Designs is the team behind the new luxury high-rise project The Broadway, which recently broke ground.
“I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for those who have let me practice my craft,” she says modestly. “My goal every day is to be grateful for what we can do.”
Charissa Seipp Interiors Charissa Seipp is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. After graduating from Mt. St. Mary’s with a degree in psychology, Seipp decided (much to her physician father’s chagrin) to pursue a career in interior design. Her father was so upset that he refused to pay for his daughter’s education. “He wanted me to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor,” Seipp recalls. Undaunted, she enrolled herself in the graduate program at Maryland Institute of Art, and in her first semester she received an award for a project her father dubbed “The Tacky Violin.” “My dad paid after that,” she laughs. He also became one of her biggest supporters, even helping her with her second obstacle, her senior thesis project. Seipp’s project was a gazebo built out of PVC pipe and based on Wright’s theory of no right angles. Her model was destroyed twice in freak accidents (including a windstorm) before it was actually completed, with help from dear old dad. Seipp tells the stories of her past with great affection, but recently, when her Artisan’s Alley showroom was destroyed in a fire, it became harder to laugh. But in true Seipp style, she picked herself up, dusted off the ashes and continues to work her design magic in both San Antonio and Houston, where she is currently building her own dream home. “I love what I do,” she says about why she perseveres. Based on the number of high-end residences she has designed over the years, her clients seem to love it too. “My clients are my inspiration,” she explains. “My job is to take their direction and make it better. I am always thinking of how I can push the envelope.” Seipp specializes in mixing the old and the new, and she describes her style as “eclectic.” She continues, “People travel so much and collect different things that they love. Bringing all of those things together is what I do best.”
Creating a home that is comforting and welcoming rather than simply a showplace is a skill that Seipp has honed to perfection, and she prides herself on making a small budget look like a million bucks. It is her philosophy that designers must tap into the auditory, visual and kinesthetic needs of the client in order to create a pleasing environment. “A room can look right but feel off,” she explains. Seipp describes her professional self as an “interior architect,” and adds that she is often hired along with the architects in order for the exterior and interior to flow smoothly. When the architects present their drawings, Seipp is consulted and is often found redlining different aspects of the plans to accommodate the interior design elements. That is why she, like the other women featured here, puts a high priority on the client relationship. “The client must trust you,” she says. “You must have a good rapport and work well together.” Seipp works hard to build her clients’ trust by engaging them throughout the entire process. “My clients know they have all my attention when I am with them and even when I am not,” she says. She presents clients with drawings and sketches of different perspectives that enable them to visualize the space and the furnishings, and she provides a complete scope of services so that the client knows the estimate of the time and the cost. “There are no surprises at the end,” she assures. What she does provide at the end is the creation and fulfillment of her clients’ dreams, and that for Seipp is what makes it all worthwhile.
“I love my clients,” she exclaims. “I love seeing their happy faces.”
Finishing Touches When designer Kelly Scully sits down to discuss her career, her enthusiasm is contagious. “If I’m going to work this hard, I’m going to have fun doing it,” she says with spunk. “My clients tell me that they can tell that I enjoy what I do.” For Scully it isn’t really a choice — she can’t help herself. As a child she was continually rearranging her furniture, and today you might find her on the floor of a restaurant inspecting some tiles she finds fascinating. As a fashion merchandising major at Southwest Texas, Scully roomed with an interior design major and ended up completing all of her friend’s projects. “She got really good grades,” laughs Scully. With a motto of “I don’t do ugly,” Scully encourages her clients to use their own ideas and their own furniture and accessories when they are designing their space. Otherwise, she says, the home becomes a reflection of her taste, not theirs. So why do clients need her services? Because Scully offers awealth of experience and guidance when it comes to bringing those ideas to life and placing furniture and accessories in the room to create a living space that is conducive to the client’s lifestyle. She takes into account who lives in the home, the functions of each room and the overall feeling of the residence in order to determine the best possible space plan. No job is too large or too small. “I don’t turn down one mini-blind job because it can lead to more,” she says. Scully says she has noticed that as a result of the current housing market, more people are updating their existing residences as opposed to moving to a new home. These projects allow Scully to enjoy the decorating aspect of her job, and she will often go into a home and rearrange a few existing items or incorporate something from her own showroom to create a completely different feeling. She and her team of professionals will install everything from the window treatments to the artwork and have a room completed (along with an itemized list of furnishings and accessories for insurance purposes) by the time a client gets home from work. They recently completed the installation process in two model homes in only two days. “My team has an amazing work ethic,” she says with pride.
Scully enjoys working with all different styles and eras, and her only rule of thumb is that “too much of anything is bad.” She believes in mixing it up with unexpected touches, such as a splash of animal print in a traditional room. “A room needs to look like you put some thought into it,” she explains. “Every room should have a little zip.” A mother of four, Scully puts her family first, but she applies her nurturing instincts to her client relationships too, treating everyone with loyalty and respect. That, combined with her easy-going and fun personality, has resulted in a wealth of repeat business for this talented designer. “I love my clients, and I get involved in their lives,” she says with a smile. “Making them happy is so rewarding.”
Author: Bonny Osterhage
Photographer: Robert French