New York City-based interior designer Tamara Eaton has built quite the name for herself in the city that never sleeps. Born in Charlottesville, VA, Eaton spent much of her childhood moving around the world and was exposed to a range of cultures, design aesthetics and cityscapes by the time she reached her teen years.
While attending New York University, she interned at architectural firm David Howell Design, eventually becoming the firm’s principal full-time interior designer working on premiere residential, commercial and hospitality spaces. After five years, Eaton decided to launch her own firm, Tamara Eaton Design, LCC. Widely published, and recognized as an up-and-coming design star, Eaton continues to evolve and grow. She has most recently been named Curbed.com’s “Top Young Interior Designer in the U.S.”
We had the opportunity to recently interview Eaton on what makes her stand out in the NYC market, and the challenges/opportunities she faces on a daily basis. Some of our conversation is reflected below:
What type of projects do you typically tackle on a daily basis?
Tamara Eaton: My firm does a lot of residential work on townhouses in Brooklyn and apartments in Manhattan. We really take on projects all over the city, including West Chester and New Hamptons. We also do a bit of development work on model units and have a hand in retail and hospitality spaces. Those are usually smaller projects but an equality important part of our business.
Speaking of New York, it’s a huge city with intense competition in the industry. How do you stand out as a designer?
Eaton: My client’s home is an extension of them, and I try to find out who they really are and engage them throughout the design process. The ability to curate for them is so important. I also try to incorporate unique and interesting design touches like lighting fixtures, textiles, vases, etc. from sites like Etsy. I look forward to including these items in my design instead of mass market alternatives.
What about other challenges and issues to overcome in the design process?
Eaton: Working in the city I run into challenges that might not be present in the suburbs. For example, with vertical living you need to create quiet family spaces that are functional for both adults and kids. The city’s townhomes, many of which were built when a maid or other staff would live in the home, have challenging floorplans (basement kitchens, etc.) which require some creative design work. Priorities have obviously shifted to modern living spaces that offer cooking, dining and living in one area.
When you start a project, what’s important to keep in mind?
Eaton: There’s usually three immediate items that come to mind. Those include: who we are as designers, what the project is and who the client is. Each of them pose very unique tidbits of information that must be considered throughout the process. New York is such an incredible marketplace as an artist, and you can find those one of a kind pieces that can be a focal point in the home. I really try to find new and interesting pieces that aren’t necessary mass marketed. Something more bespoke. Picking materials and using them in different ways that not only reflect me as a designer but bring out the personality of my client.
We always get asked the question of why homeowners should partner with a designer. Can you share a bit about your role?
Eaton: The internet opens up so many doors to seek inspiration and learn about the latest products, but with that said, many still don’t know what they’re doing. Our clients feel like they hold a lot of the power. The nice thing is that we don’t have to talk to them like they know nothing because they know a lot! The difference is that we live and breathe this world. We help design for your life, and identify you and your family’s individual needs and wants. There’s a learning curve and we have already dug our teeth into the process and products. We are artists. We also know the best products and materials that can fill our clients’ needs and think of using them in different ways. It’s funny because I can walk into a home and discover right away if a designer was in involved or not. I pick up on all the little things—the space feels right and makes sense—or, it doesn’t.
To learn more about the role of an interior designer, download our free guide to Design for Life – The Intrinsic Value of Interior Designers and learn:
- The added value that comes from working with designers
- How function affects design
- Ideas for your own home design