“Designing in color has always been a passion of mine,” explains Elaine Williamson of the eponymous Dallas-based design firm that specializes in custom, high-end homes as well as retail, hospitality, and other commercial projects.
Lighting has also become an influential factor in her 20+ years as an interior designer. “You don’t want someone to walk into a room and say, ‘That’s a great lamp!’ You want them to notice the overall effect enhanced by the lighting,” Williamson says. “It’s like telling a woman, ‘That’s a nice eyeshadow’ instead of noticing her overall beauty.”
Williamson fell in love with design at a young age, growing up in Mobile, Ala. and New Orleans. Unable to afford college but undeterred in her quest, Williamson regularly visited college bookstores and purchased the books required for the design curriculum.
Through a combination of studying books and mentorship under several renowned local designers in New Orleans, Williamson got her start in faux painting and finishing. “I befriended a lot of designers and learned from them. I would do anything to be around design,” she recalls. Her surroundings were another influence. “New Orleans has a great juxtaposition of textures and lines,” she remarks.
“I was always inspired by artistic creations and got my first [lessons in] color theory from faux artists. I assisted, studied, and learned their techniques and began incorporating that creativity into my interiors as well,” Williamson adds. After notable success with her first interior design project for a Daytona Beach house, her design business trajectory was launched. Continue Reading
For Williamson, the walls of a room are the foundation. Her love of paint and faux finishing shines through in her work, but she’s also astute in selecting just the right accessories and lighting to make each room’s décor come alive.
“My clients are very adventurous; they are always willing to go there with me. I respect the fact that they [value] my work enough to hand over their trust,” she says. Williamson encourages homeowners to think outside the box, especially when it comes to supplementing their interiors with lighting. “You can’t have a gorgeous home with just builder-grade lighting in it. Builders really don’t take lighting into consideration,” she admits. With builders not paying much attention to the category, homeowners tend not to either. “We find many have chosen their lighting based on price point,” she remarks. Part of Williamson’s job is to select lighting that helps “tell the story of the home” and fits in with the overall feel and style.
“Everyone deserves good design,” she remarks. “Not everyone can buy a designer coffee table, but everyone can take a step up. We are all at different levels of taste, appreciation, and income in our lives,” Williamson comments. “Taste is simply an extension of appreciation, which mainly comes from exposure to what you haven’t experienced before. Just as Oprah says, ‘When you know better, you do better,’ I say, ‘When you see better, you want better!’”
When it comes to interiors, Williamson is adept at showing her clients what “better” looks like. Everyone’s sense of aesthetics continues to evolve over time, influenced by travel or life experiences. For that reason, Williamson recommends refreshing the décor of a room every year and a half. Even though the interiors she designs are created to be unique to each client and timeless in appearance, there are some common denominators.
“My team and I tend to include a vein of elegance in all of our work, whether the space is modern, transitional, traditional, commercial, or residential. However, we include a harlequin pattern of some sort in each and every design. That has become our signature,” she explains. Continue Reading
Not only is harlequin Williamson’s favorite “movement” in a room, she also borrowed the name for her firm’s home fragrance line. Her passion for the pattern stems from childhood. “When I was little, my father came up with this ingenious design technique for my bedroom wall. He used Kelly green yarn (and the mathematics of staggered thumbtacks to hold the yarn) to create a dimensional, green-outlined harlequin pattern on my pink walls. The memory of it still makes me swoon to this day!”
In fact, every room in the home is worth swooning over, according to Williamson, and that includes utility spaces. “I believe the laundry room is one of the most unloved rooms of a home,” the designer declares. “Why should we treat it any other way than other rooms? Dress it up! Wallpaper it! Put a chandelier in it! Personalize it! Oftentimes, we think of our guest powder rooms as the little ‘jewelry box’ of design in a home, however, I think laundry rooms are ripe for adventurous exploration and style. It’s already full of clothes, why not put a little jewelry in there?”
Indeed, Williamson has done just that. In some of laundry rooms she’s designed for clients, she’s utilized French wallpaper and installed a bubble chandelier befitting a space where bubbles are not out of place.
Walk-in closets and dressing areas are also woefully neglected when it comes to décor. “Typically, we only see task lighting specified,” Williamson quips. “While I agree we need to specify recessed lights for tasks, we also need to dress up the dressing room! You don’t need a full crystal chandelier, but just putting in decorative lighting of any sort acknowledges this space as a legitimate room,” she states. “At my design firm, we love to put sconces in closets. You get such a luxurious feel just by adding two sconces.”
Basically, Williamson’s design philosophy is this: “There are many facets of life and style in all of us. It is important to express this in your home’s design and décor.”
The road to achieving award-winning status has had its challenges, but has been ultimately rewarding. “I have a passion for this industry and the people whom I design for on a daily basis. I simply could not imagine pursuing any other career,” she reveals. “I had to work a little harder to get here, but I am so humbled by the many talented members of my team and support staff each and every day.”