Plus, hints to pull your home together in a pinch!
Paulette Bilgart, who hails from Copenhagen, got her start in design making clothes for rock legends like the Rolling Stones and Crosby, Stills & Nash. She then moved on to designing an American-themed truck stop restaurant, which attracted the interest of Levi Strauss. Bilgart was then commissioned to design a booth for the denim brand at the Copenhagen Fashion Expo.
What was your path to becoming an interior designer?
After I came to the US from Denmark, I was head of the tile division of a small boutique masonry company for many years. I was lucky to live in an area that had many fine homes, so I was always tapping into my sense of design. Beginning to work in interior design was a natural progression for me.
Tell us more about your experience with your clothing brand, designing your restaurant, and working with Levi Strauss! How did those experiences influence your current work?
During those years, the world experienced a renaissance where music, fashion and the arts bloomed in a new and very different direction. Young people invented their own original ways of living, dressing and decorating their homes, and they were often inspired by travels to far away exotic places. I was part of that movement and it taught me to think outside the box, to use materials in new ways and to bend the traditional rules.
Now, you mostly specialize in kitchens and baths. What are your favorite materials for cupboards, counters, floor, etc? What are some key trends in kitchen design today?
I am a big fan of real materials, real wood, and real stone etc. Thankfully the manufacturers of cabinets now include this in their design choices, so any finish imaginable is available off the shelf. White kitchens are very popular, with dark “concrete” looking countertops or classic Carrera marble; greys are a close runner up. Often choosing a different finish for the island cabinets and or countertop. Natural or distressed wood is also popular. I like European frameless construction for the cabinets, either in shaker or modern slab profile. Designated storage areas are ever important for garbage and recycling, spices etc. Pull out pantries and blind corner hardware are specced on all of my jobs.
Composite countertops have come a long way visually, and many clients prefer them because they require very little upkeep.
How do you pick a back splash/tile size?
Often the client has seen something they like and we let that inspire us. I like using a local, west Marin, handmade ceramic tile for its beauty. It pairs very well with the monochromatic slabs I prefer to use for my countertops. Stacked 3″x12″ glass tile can be very attractive as well. Sometimes I use tiles with a profile (raised pattern), but it depends on the client’s existing home and personal taste.
What has been your most challenging or creatively rewarding project to date? Why?
An elegant bathroom I did in Marin Hills, I had a stairwell protrude into the room from below, which I used to my advantage, by creating a countertop that flowed right into the shower and created a very elegant bathroom.
What is the most common design problem you encounter? Is there a simple fix you can suggest for this problem?
The blind corners in small kitchens are often a challenge. I sometimes access it from the other side of the cabinet (dining room side).
What is one element that can draw a room together when it feels like nothing goes together?
What has your experience been with decorating your own space? How is decorating for yourself different from decorating for other people?
Because I am always growing, learning and changing, I try to have the bigger items (sofas, for example) be classic and neutral so that I can easily update with new pillows etc.
How do you make a space feel personal when you are designing for another person’s home?
I encourage them to keep and collect items from trips, heirlooms, family photos, whatever is part of their lives.
What, in your opinion, makes a space feel homey?
How would you describe your style? How does it translate to your work?
Contemporary, eclectic. I strive to interpret my client’s taste and help them find something they will love and that will work for their lifestyle.
What’s the best way to tackle the task of decorating a new space with furniture you already own?
Think about who is going to use the room, and how. Consider traffic pattern and light (the two most important things to consider when designing a space) and place your furniture accordingly.
I just moved into a new place and it’s a mess, but I’m having people over for a housewarming party. How can I make my space look put together in just a few hours?
Clean it up, arrange some pillows, get a tablecloth and some matching napkins at a party store, candles, flowers or plant arrangements. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination here, but keep it simple! This, good food & a cool cocktail with a sprig of mint or lemon verbena will do the trick .