Rachel Kate may be an in-demand interior designer but she got her start in motorcycles. The Minneapolis-based designer grew up in a family of custom motorcycle designers and builders.
Her family’s design and build heritage sparked her own designing passion. Kate doesn’t just rearrange furniture for a living.
“I’m not a huge shopper. I like to make headboards and ottomans and reupholster things,” Kate said.
Though Kate has been designing professionally since 2002 she rose to fame on HGTV’s “Design Star” in 2012. Though she didn’t claim the title, she did win the first three challenges which gave her career an immense boost. “It was well worth the nightmare,” she said.
Kate is a recurring guest on the network’s “Rehab Addict” and sells a line of children’s bedding at target.com and bedbathandbeyond.com. She will be appearing at the Tacoma Home and Garden Show on Friday and Saturday to talk about home decor trends, updating your home and creating DIY rustic accents.
Kate likes to keep her projects cohesive and uncrowded. She calls her style, “light, bright and clean.” Though every client and job are different, most of them want a light and bright look.
“You’re going into all the remodels and the new builds and everybody wants painted millwork, painted light cabinetry whether it’s gray, off-white or white. Everything is very light and clean,” she said.
Even with older homes she’s seeing the trend. Owners are painting over dated oak trim with white paint. Some replace it altogether with a thicker, beefier trim. “It makes it look a little more refined.”
When it comes to flooring and millwork, Kate prefers a more traditional look. “It’s pretty timeless. You can take it a long ways. Invest in quality trim work around your windows and baseboards. Do it right the first time.”
With new construction Kate says higher ceilings and larger windows are other methods to achieve a lighter look beyond using just paint.
If it’s in the budget to replace windows and doors, Kate encourages her clients to discard squares with arched versions.
“If you have a rectangular opening I think you can make it interesting with a (different) shape,” Kate said. “You can focus less on what’s going on inside your house if you have nice architectural features. You don’t need all the filler.”
Combined with the light look, Kate also is seeing rustic accents, such as wood ceiling beams. “People love that. Even if everything else is light and traditional and bright they’re still willing to put in those rustic accents.”
Though it might be a trendy thing to do now, the stained or unpainted beams are not the macramé plant hangers of 2015. “They’re timeless. They’ve been around for centuries,” Kate said.
If you’re not willing to hoist some beams into your ceiling, you can still add rustic accents with accessories.
“Anything natural, anything handmade. I like beadwork, traditional cultural art pieces,” Kate said.
When designing a project, Kate starts from the bottom up. “With just about any house, it begins with the floor,” she said.
First on the list is usually a rug. As The Dude said in “The Big Lebowski,” it really ties the room together. But it can also be one of the most expensive purchases in a home décor upgrade, Kate said.
If clients are upgrading the flooring itself Kate said one of the biggest trends in 2015 is ceramic faux wood tiles.
“People love it because it still gives them that warm, rustic look but you can actually have it on the bathroom floor or even in the shower,” she said.
But are today’s faux wood tiles tomorrow’s dated look? “Totally,” Kate affirms. “That’s the way I look at it. Everything’s a trend. But, it’s a safe trend. In 10 to 15 years most people are looking to change something anyway. You’re safe doing this one right now.”
When it comes to trends, Kate said homeowners can take more chances on the smaller, less expensive and less permanent parts of their homes. “You can have some fun with pillows and art work. Even drapery panels and rugs.”
Home design often spins around comfort versus style. Kate solves that conundrum by looking at usage. Foyers, hallways, office guest chairs and other low-use areas can get by with striking but not settle-in-all-day furniture. The opposite is true in high-use areas.
“You need comfort in your family room, for sure. That’s number one,” Kate said.
It’s those types of rooms — family rooms and living rooms — that present the greatest design challenges. Other rooms in a home — kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, pantries — all have a mission. But hangout spaces can be many things to many people.
“That living room is becoming essentially the family room. But in older homes where you’re trying to keep the integrity of the living room it’s still thought of as a more formal area,” Kate said.
What’s making it tough, design-wise, are open floor plans that combine kitchens with living spaces. That’s a style that’s here to stay despite the sometimes awkward layouts.
“I think it’s because of television and technology. The whole family is around the area where the technology is. They want to see the screen from the kitchen and the sofa,” Kate said.
Many families gather in a common location, but each member is focused on their own technology: TVs, smartphones, computers, video games. “They want to be around each other but they don’t want to sit in this one little room and just watch TV anymore.”
Kate doesn’t have a problem with any of that.
“It’s all how you want to live. I’ll help you get there.”