Featured Designer: Kathryn Long, ASID

Posted on | July 7, 2011 | No Comments

For The Love Of Design

Kathryn Long has always had a passion for design. From the age of 4, she has arranged and rearranged, planned and created. After majoring in interior design at East Carolina, traveling abroad and working in New York, Kathryn returned home to Asheville. She set up shop in a back corner of Sluder Furniture Company – a fixture of downtown Asheville since 1905 – which her parents had bought in 1964. Ray and Sarah Long encouraged their daughter to open her own business, Ambiance Interiors, in 1977.

Kathryn has been helping people nest in their homes for over thirty years. “I love what I do,” she says. “When I help create a space, it’s going to be comfortable and welcoming.” This month, we had the opportunity to interview Kathryn and ask her a few questions about her work:

NCD: You’ve traveled all over the world and seen so many different styles and décor. Do you think that North Carolinians favor a particular style, or design sensibility?

KSL: North Carolina is a big State, home to such a very diverse population, and types of landscape. So many people have moved here from other places—(in fact you rarely meet people here who are from Asheville!) North Carolinians are really hard to group into one style. However, those wonderful homes on the coast naturally have a different look than homes in Raleigh, which tend to be more traditional. Charlotte has its own look – I call it a design star, with a definite refined style. But the mountains are the most diverse. The mountains have beautiful old homes, like the ones in beautiful Biltmore Forest. And then there are some great suburban homes, and then the more rustic. There is a resort area around the mountains too, that I especially like… I love these homes. But every style really depends on the client and I always take into consideration the original style and intent of the house as well as the needs and wants of the customers.

NCD: Could you pick a favorite type of style to work with?

KSL: My favorites usually have the European influence. Since I spent time in Paris and other European countries – I really love to incorporate these looks when it fits.

NCD: The work featured on your latest newsletter includes so many different types of rooms and challenges—and each time the result is amazing! Have you ever had to direct a client away from a style, or furnishing because it just wouldn’t work in the space?

KSL: At least several times a week! As a designer, my job is to keep the clients focused and avoid costly mistakes. At the beginning of a project we start by defining mood & style. That then becomes the focal point, and if a client gets away from that in their exuberance, sometimes have to say: “no, that doesn’t fit the style.” Often clients have ideas that won’t work with what they want because they can’t visualize what that may be like in the space. I can – and that is something I think I was born with, and then honed with experience and education. Clients learn to trust in what I do as we work together—it is a great working relationship!

NCD: Where do you find your best one-of-a-kind accessories and furniture in Asheville? Do you have any favorite shopping spots that you head to first?

KSL: Many major pieces come from Ambiance, but I also love to go to Village Antiques. They have a wonderful selection of European, and French antiques. This is a great place to pick up unique major décor pieces such as an armoire or a dining table. I also frequent Oddfellows. They buy mostly from England at huge antique fairs and come back with the most amazing finds. Stuff Antiques is a wonderful place for all sorts of treasures—especially beautiful chandeliers – and they do lamp rewiring too! Lastly, The Screen Door is my favorite antique mall – definitely worth checking out!

Images appear courtesy of Ambiance Interiors

NCD: Some of your clients have been with you through decades, multiple rooms, even multiple homes! What do you do that creates this unique value and builds these amazing relationships?

KSL: I have really learned that clients love their homes after we’ve worked together. I didn’t understand until I went to a client’s home in another town before we started working together. It was a gorgeous house, but it didn’t work for them. I help make houses homes. We collaborate, and then they live there. It is all about comfort and value. A professionally designed and decorated home should not just look good, but work—and work for a long time, not just until the next “trendy” thing comes along.

NCD: What advice would you give someone considering renovation and professional design for their home?

KSL: Use the Web and magazines for ideas. Know what you like, what you want and the mood you are looking to create. Then, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Importantly, know your budget—so many do not. Once you have chosen the designer you feel comfortable with, trust them. They will know which architects are better at renovations, which contractors are best at additions. Let the designer drive the project and find the right team.

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