We’ve long admired Heidi Caillier’s work and have no doubt that you’ll feel the same if you’ve never seen her work before. To get you familiar with Heidi Caillier, she’s a Seattle-based interior designer that churns out beautiful, timeless work that we swoon over on the regular. Her work stops us in our tracks and we’re addicted to watching her project progress on her pretty IG — and we know you will too. On top of running a biz, she’s a mama to two 3-year old twins, and somehow, she managed to find the time to chat with us about how she started her career, her advice, and some of her biggest challenges to date. So take a few minutes and get to know Heidi, because you’ll fall in love with her just like we have.
Tell us about your journey as a designer. How did you get started and how did you get here?
I actually have a master’s degree in International Public Health from Tulane. I knew pretty much as soon as I finished grad school that it wasn’t really what I wanted to be doing but I had no idea what I actually did want to do. I spent my 20’s traveling, living in New Orleans and waiting tables, just trying to figure it out. I moved to San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina and dabbled in a few fields (acupuncture + nursing) but nothing really stuck. I always had a passion for design but never really considered a career in it. I started a design blog just as an outlet because I was seeing so much design that I loved and wanted a way to share it. That blog actually led to my first job at a design firm in the Bay Area where I basically interned for a few months before realizing I had no idea what I was doing and needed to get some valid experience. I went and worked at a showroom at the SFDC for a year or so before joining another local firm. About a year later I started taking on very small projects on my own. My husband and I moved to WA four years ago when we found out we were pregnant with twins and my firm really began to grow once we moved to the Seattle area. So many ups and downs, and I am still learning so much all the time, but I know this is the path I am meant for.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get started, but doesn’t know where to begin?
You have to just start. I didn’t have intentions of becoming an interior designer when I started my blog. I just wanted to do something I loved and felt passionate about. I didn’t even know what being an interior designer really meant. I truly believe if you just start doing something you love it will fall into place. Go work for a firm or a showroom for awhile if you are interested in the field. I didn’t go to school for this but I definitely learned a lot from working in the industry before going out on my own.
When you were first getting started, what were some of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome?
Designing on tiny budgets and taking clients wants too literally. I got into a rut with this because all of my clients when I first started had small budgets and I felt like I had to deliver exactly the look they wanted. If they pinned rooms with all white walls, a neutral sofa and a vintage rug and they wanted the room done for $5000, that is what I gave them. If they pinned white kitchens, I gave them a white kitchen. The first few years in business you are really just swimming around trying to keep your head above water and do any work that is good enough and complete enough to shoot so you have some sort of portfolio. Even though the design I was doing was resonating with other people it was not resonating with me. Once my business started to grow and budgets and projects started getting bigger I really took a step back to creatively reset and understand who I wanted to be as a designer.
What’s something about the interior design business that shocked you the most, that you wish you knew before you got started?
How little creativity is involved. This job really is 95% organization, follow through, paperwork and client relationships, and 5% creative. You are not sitting around all day looking at fabrics and pretty sofas.
Have you always been Seattle-based? If not, what brought you there?
No, I was raised on the East Coast and then moved to New Orleans for graduate school. I moved to San Francisco after, where I met my husband and was there for about 10 years. We had been talking about making a move to Seattle or Tacoma, where my husband grew up, for a few years. We wanted a change of pace and wanted to be in a market that was not so saturated so we could open our own businesses and feel like we were having an impact. We made the move four years ago and love it.
What inspires you?
Living in the Pacific Northwest is inspiring because you are surrounded by so much natural beauty. I traveled a lot before we had kids so that is always a point of reference for me. I also love design books and magazines and am constantly looking for new sources of inspiration there. I am also incredibly inspired by British design right now. I love how layered, timeless and eclectic it is.
What’s the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
To just put your head down and do the work. You have to get comfortable with working a lot or you will never make it.
How do you manage work-life balance?
I spent the past four years really trying to grow my firm and I finally feel like I am at a point where I can turn off my email for the weekend and give my attention to my family. But honestly, my husband also owns his business and we have 3-year old twins so there isn’t a lot of balance in our lives at this stage. It is what it is and I try to embrace the chaos and enjoy it.
What are five things you can’t live without right now?
My husband + my kids, Le Labo Santal 33 perfume, the Morris + Co wallpaper that just went up in our new dining room, coffee and our cabin on Anderson Island.
What’s next for Heidi Caillier Design?
We are working on some really great projects right now and I am excited to see them come to fruition. Our office is also undergoing a renovation and that will be done in the next two months which feels like a bit of a fresh start.