10 Questions with Interior Designer Kristine Mullaney

Mullaney tells us how to get a glamorous look on a budget and why design is so close to her heart.

A peek at one of Mullaney's living room designs (photo by Michael J. Lee).

A peek at one of Mullaney’s living room designs (photo by Michael J. Lee).

Kristine Mullaney knows the value of an aesthetic space. Her style is elegant, chic, and evokes a sense of glamour and luxury. Here, Mullaney brings us up to speed with her current projects and lets us in on her secrets to achieving a grand, stylish space.

1. You studied communications at Northeastern University. Did you have a design career in mind at the time?

No, I moved out to San Francisco in 2000, which was a very different time—the economy was booming. I was doing PR for a high-tech industry when I moved out there, and made a career change after the “dot com bust.” And I was still really young when I moved out there. I went there straight after college. I went there on vacation and decided to stay in San Francisco because I loved it so much. But when I was at Northeastern, I didn’t necessarily have in mind that I would be in design. I definitely wanted something to do with fashion or something artistic, but I didn’t know that before I got out there.

2. You worked with a lot of talent such as Darin Giese and Michael Taylor Designs before starting your own business. How has your past work experience cultivated you as a designer?

I was brought into the business being exposed to the finest, most high-end textiles and furnishings. So, I was educated by people who had been in the industry for a really long time. Then, I made the transition into being the manager for Michael Taylor’s flagship showroom. I learned from people who were seasoned veterans. I had a lot of experience with people who had dealt with design on a very high level. I would say that it really groomed me to be able to cater to that kind of clientele.

3. What do you like best about designing in Boston as opposed to other cities you’ve designed in?

This is where I started my own business. I really love the relationships I’ve built with clients and seeing their lives progress. For instance, there is one client who initially hired me when she was getting her house ready for her wedding—then, the next phase, I was getting the house ready for their first baby. Now, I’m actually working on an additional renovation and a second nursery. That’s just one example, but the different relationships that I cultivate with each family and seeing their lives change and their homes evolve according to what’s happening in their lives. It’s fun, and it’s rewarding.

4. What clientele do your designs appeal to most?

People who, even if they don’t understand the design process, are really interested in knowing the value that an interior designer can bring to their life and their lifestyle. My best clients are the clients who understand the value and really are excited about the process and have a way to articulate what they like and what they don’t like. They are part of the collaborative process, but they also have hired you for your vision to jump off of what they like.

5. Your spaces seem very open and grand and elegant. How do you achieve that feeling?

I try to make things tailored and streamlined even if it’s traditional. One way that that’s achieved is I really try to take advantage of height. I try to go as high as I possibly can with everything. So, I really try to create the illusion of height, whether that’s the way that I do drapery or the way I do a lighting fixture. Sometimes I’ll elongate a shade over a chandelier to give the illusion of height. I make use of the height, which also gives the illusion that the space is bigger than it really is. If there’s a space with already high ceilings, I’ll push the limits as to how big the art should be or how big the scale should go and really try to use up the space. And that creates the illusion of it being grand.

6. How can someone achieve a glamorous, elegant look on their own while on a budget?

You can always find a lightly used chandelier at a vintage shop or second-hand shop, which would be less expensive than buying it new. Or shopping for a statement mirror. Venetian mirrors add lots of glamour to a space. Just vintage shopping; you can find a lot of glamorous things at vintage shops. There are always really adorable side tables at vintage shops that you can paint yourself and make them glamorous. They are really well made, and all you have to do is paint it specifically for what’s happening in your room. You can switch out the hardware and repurpose it so it will have a completely different feel.

7. What do you look forward to most when starting a new project?

I think what I like most is setting the direction. In the initial style meeting, I have an idea of what the client’s style is based on previous discussions or maybe something they’ve showed me in a magazine or their house or Pinterest. After the first client meeting, which is typically very long and involves a lot of choices, the client will set a direction by choosing one design, and that sort of piggy backs the rest of the décor. So, what I look forward to most after the initial client meeting is seeing the direction the client wants to go, then really building off of that. Then, it starts to take form instead of it being just a concept. It starts to really become a room. That’s what I really get excited about: the project starting to take form.

8. What do you find most satisfying about finishing a project?

Definitely how happy the client is. Their reaction to the space and how happy they are with everything. In my mind, it’s all about the client and their happiness. It’s very rewarding thinking of them in that space, the little stories they tell about how they use the room or how special this piece is to them. The relationship you have with that client and how you’ve enhanced their life and quality of life.

9. What are your current projects?

I have a couple of very exciting projects! Actually, this past fall I collaborated with an amazing designer who’s so fantastic. We worked on the Seminar Room at the Design Center. Jamestown, which is the real estate company that just bought the Design Center. … They hired me to do the design of the Seminar Room. I collaborated with this Bahamas designer Amanda Lindroth, and we had the best time redoing this room. It’s really glamorous and classic and fun. It was a really fun project, and I loved working with Amanda! So, that was finished this fall. Then, I have two more in Nantucket that I’m finishing up right now, and a home in Belmont Hill, Wellesley, and Arlington Heights.

10. How do you figure out what a client is looking for and mesh it with your own style?

I try to keep myself out of it. I really try to figure out what their style is, and shop for them as if they had they time and the resources to do it themselves and cultivate a bespoke look in their home and what they would choose. The way that I mesh it with my style is I try to pick out something that they are not going to tire of in 10 years. I try to pick things that they are going to love and they will say, “I can’t live without that.” I try to bring on what they would choose. They already know what my style is from my website and photos I show them, so I pick things that are going to be enduring for a long time and are a reflection of their lifestyle.

Check out more of Mullaney’s work below:

Bedroom

Foyer

Dining Room

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