10 Questions with Interior Designer Kristin Paton
Paton chats about her world travel, her store, and finding time to fit it all in.
Kristin Paton has an eye for European charm. Her store, Kristin Paton Home, displays her luxe taste and offers customers the chance to bring a well-traveled look and feel to their home—without having to go farther than Cambridge (Massachusetts, that is). We caught up with the interior designer about globetrotting, how to achieve a European look, and why having “down time” is a laughable idea.
1. When did you first know you wanted to be a designer?
I was always artistic as a child. I knew I was going to go to some sort of an art school for college. Somewhere in my teenage years, I knew what I wanted to do. I applied early decision to college and just sort of went for it. I was always artistic and creative—that was just who I was. … At one point I thought I wanted to be a renderer for an architecture firm. Back then, everything was drawn by hand. In college I had a little side business where I would earn money from the architectural department and do drawings. So I was always artistic, and in my teens, I wanted to focus on design, but I also wanted to be an architect. So, it was really between the two.
2. You studied interior design at Syracuse then studied abroad in Italy. What inspired your travel?
I deliberately went to Syracuse because it is one of the top schools for interior design. My parents were concerned that at 18 years old I was so focused on art. They wanted me to go to a liberal arts school. After Syracuse, I did the Piazza Savonarola program in Italy for architecture. I thought I would immediately go back and do my graduate work in architecture. So, I did that, but then I came back to the States. And I lucked out and got great jobs.
3. You also spent many years in London. After studying architecture at the Piazza Savonarola, what led you to London?
I spent 11 years in London. I was in New York, and then my husband and I were transferred to London for his work. But I was working at Parish Hadley at the time, so I went over later. But I started working there, and because of my connections to New York and Parish Hadley, I was able to break out and get clients in London. A lot of them were expats that were from New York that were living abroad. I did a lot of work there. I loved London. It was wonderful.
4. Do you still work in Europe?
A ton! I have four godchildren in Europe, so that’s one part of it. I have very close friends and relationships from living abroad that long. That’s part of why I did the store. I still had clients over in London, and traveling over there and seeing the antique market and so many great resources, I thought why not bring this back to the States? New York has so much, and L.A. has so much, and I felt, in Boston, there could be more. And there is just so much in Europe, and I felt there was still a need here for more. So, I go to Europe a lot. There are so many cool things out there, why not share them?
5. How much has travel influenced your design style?
A lot! Living in Europe and just being able to go to national trust houses. I’ve worked for Parish Hadley and McMillen and Mr. Hodgins—I’ve worked for the cream of the crop. And you get exposed to the real-deal projects and your budgets are crazy. So, I got exposed to that, and it was just incredible—being from local Boston, I had a lot to learn. And with all the travel and the places I’ve worked, I’ve been so fortunate to have this mind expansion, and I’m constantly learning.
6. What design tips do you have for someone going for a very European look in their home?
Our interiors are very layered and very traveled. I don’t go for the of-the-minute wallpaper or of-the-minute fabrics. For clients starting out, I would say you need to have an overall plan. Decorating is very expensive, regardless of what your budget is. You just need to go slow and have a plan and understand how you are going to use each space. Also, people will buy things without realizing what the dimensions are or what the scale is, and they end up with a closet full of stuff that doesn’t work or doesn’t fit. I think it’s really important to have a start and really understand what you are trying to achieve. That way, you’re not staying up late on websites buying all this stuff because it’s cheap. If you’re doing it on your own, have a sense of scale and size and dimensions. Have a plan, and stick with it. Have a scrapbook of things you like and things you don’t like, so you stay to your script.
7. What do you like most about working on someone’s home?
I always love it when we start from scratch. When we are involved with the architects and builders, so we are creating the feeling right away. Those are my favorite projects, when we are creating the space. We are envisioning how this client is going to live and we’re developing an ambience for them. We have projects where we will go in and decorate, but I really like it when we are creating the whole entire experience for the client. That’s my favorite part of it.
8. So, you travel, design, and you’re also very philanthropic. Do you ever have any down time?
[Laughs] No. I have three children, so no, there is no down time. That will happen later in life. What’s that saying, “doing everything and nothing right”? But you get one life. You go for it. Life is so short, and I love what I do, and I wanted to be a mother, and I have a great husband. We just use many extensive Excel spreadsheets and many, many lists to keep it all going. I started doing Bikram yoga at 6 in the morning just to release some stress. But when you do something you love, it doesn’t necessarily feel like work. My down time is shopping for the store. And I’m lucky; I have a husband who appreciates art and design, so we can share that. We are not very good at hanging on the beach. We have a house in Nantucket that we go to for two weeks in August and that’s family time. That’s our down time.
9. You’ve been so many places across the globe. Do you have a favorite?
Paris sounds like a silly answer because everyone loves Paris. But I do love Paris—every time I go there, I learn something new. It’s one of my all-time favorites. We did wine country last year. We went to Sonoma, and that was one of my new favorite places in the States. I’m very lucky; I’ve gotten to see a lot of the world. Every time I go somewhere, I love it.
10. What makes you cringe as a designer?
I hate things that look too new. If it’s the hot, new thing, I cringe. To me, it’s just so unimaginative. I hate when it all looks brand new. I’m just not an “it girl.” I’m an “it girl,” but not that way.
Check out more from Kristin Paton below: