Laura U strolling through her luxury custom home interior design in Houston

“What inspires you?”

As an interior designer, I hear this question often. It’s one I love to answer because I’m continually absorbing new information to guide my aesthetic. I love to travel, try new foods, and tend to view the world in a romantic way. I approach my projects with the same warmth and enthusiasm.

Though I can find inspiration almost anywhere, the designers and architects I look up to have remained a constant. Their distinctive styles have influenced my design aesthetic over the years. Some of them, since my grad school days!

With On Style: Inspiration and Advice from the New Generation of Interior Design on the horizon, I’ve been reflecting on the design legends that have guided me to where I am today. Not only am I thrilled to be a part of this New Generation, I’m hopeful to see where the industry is headed. No better place to start than to reference the gloriously stylish taste-makers that have gotten us to our present.

Today, I’m sharing the interior designers and architects that have inspired me over the years.

My Inspiring List

 

 

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Kalef Alaton’s Home

I might combine an old piece with something very modern, but I won’t know how it will look until the pieces are placed together. The concept of combining styles is similar to acquiring friends. It’s nice to have young friends and old friends, each unique.”  – Kalef Alaton

When I selected my legends window, Kalef Alaton stood out to me as an undeniable design icon. Although he may not be as well known as Dorothy Draper or Albert Hadley, his distinctive style has had a major impact on today. His designs are worldly and warm, blending different time periods in a very modern way. He is a master of the collected aesthetic. Unexpected pairings like animal prints with crisp white drapery is timeless and chic.

 

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Like Alaton, the interiors we design are client-centered and site-specific. We believe your home is the backdrop to your family’s legacy, a space that tells your unique story and reflects your passion for life. We work with our clients to incorporate heirloom and contemporary pieces, creating a look that I would deem is very much in Alaton’s style.

 

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Bunny Williams

If you love something, it will work.” – Bunny Williams

Bunny is a living legend. Her interior designs balance refined beauty, warm appeal, and an attention to detail that make them one-of-a-kind. I look up to her as a famed designer, but also as a design entrepreneur. She spent 22 years learning from interior design icons Sister Parish and Albert Hadley before going out on her own. When she did, Bunny started her firm with just three people in her NY apartment. Now, she’s one of the most sought after designers and her bold designs always get my design wheels turning.

 

 

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Victoria Hagan

“A happy home is one where you feel good. It’s a home that works. It’s a place where people can gather—it’s about real life.” – Victoria Hagan

Like me, Victoria doesn’t prescribe to one particular design aesthetic. Instead, she looks to the view of the home for her inspiration. She’s one of the industry’s most versatile designers. Intentionally connecting interior spaces with the surroundings and then adding unexpected details, her designs showcase luxury through simplicity. From urban town homes to Aspen chalets, her interiors are elegant and comfortable.

 

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Rose Tarlow

“People who collect out of love are exempt from the dictates that govern traditional design, for there are no rules for lovers.” – Rose Tarlow

Nothing says romantic and beautiful more than Rose Tarlow‘s designs. Her style is classic, but exudes a unique warmth. She embraces the character and craftsmanship of each piece she uses in her designs. Using light, color, fabrics, and furniture, she’s able to design welcoming spaces that bring her clients joy.

 

The Brion Tomb Sanctuary in San Vito d’Altivole
The Brion Tomb Sanctuary in San Vito d’Altivole | Photo courtesy of Architectours

 

Carlo Scarpa – Brion Tomb

“If the architecture is any good, a person who looks and listens will feel its effects without noticing.” – Carlo Scarpa

Carlo Scarpa and the Brion Tomb is my biggest inspiration. It’s quiet, remote, thoughtful, and beautiful. He’s best known for his instinctive approach to materials, which combine time-honored crafts and modern manufacturing processes. Inspired by Venetian culture, landscape, and Japanese design, his work highlights the beauty of the past and introduces new modern designs.

Designed by Alvar Aalto | Photo courtesy of The Modern House
Designed by Alvar Aalto | Photo courtesy of The Modern House

Alvar Aalto

“The ultimate goal of the architect…is to create a paradise. Every house, every product of architecture… should be a fruit of our endeavor to build an earthly paradise for people.”  – Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto was a Finnish architect and furniture designer. If you’ve ever seen his chairs, they’re quite distinct and epitomize mid century modern design. His aim was to create pieces to make life at home more beautiful. Utilizing natural materials and organic forms, his pieces are practical and functional. He even invented a new form of plywood for his collections!

Design by Louis Kahn | Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest
The Salk Institute designed by Louis Kahn | Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest

Louis Kahn

“A room is not a room without natural light.” – Louis Kahn

Louis Kahn is another architect on my list. Architecture plays a huge role in design which is what led me to pursue a Masters in Architecture from the University of Houston. Kahn had a deep belief in the importance of architecture in culture and society. He used basic geometric forms and materials like concrete and brick to create powerful, modern spaces inspired by ancient monuments. He designed buildings for Yale University, the People Art Institute in Ft. Worth, and the SALK Institute. His iconic designs are inspiring!

 

 

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Who is Your Interior Design Icon?

Interior design is an art and a science. In order to be successful, you have to approach it holistically. Yes, I find inspiration in the legends above, and I’m always reading business books to improve my design firm. I frequent my favorite interior design blogs to stay up-to-date on the industry.

Many of my potential clients do the same when they consider a new project. I recommend taking a look at the masters. If you come to a consultation hoping to achieve a look similar to Victoria Hagan’s or Alvar Aalto’s, you will win a designer’s heart! Or at the very least, mine.

These interior design icons mastered that art, blending form and function together in their own unique way. Their iconic designs challenge the viewer to look beyond what they are. They set the bar for interior design and their work inspires me every day.

Author

Laura U

Laura Umansky is a story-teller at heart. Her unique perspective and tailored design process empower her to create singular interiors for clients all over the world.

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