Throughout the year, we’ll be highlighting notable women in our community. We want to spotlight those who are shaping where we live and giving back to our neighborhood. Do you know someone you think we should feature? Let us know in the comments!
Your home can say a lot about you—it’s a representation of your personal style and experiences. It takes a talented interior designer and decorator to take those styles and experiences and translate that into a design that works for you and your family.
For this month’s 28205 Notable Woman, we spoke with Amanda Patton Swaringen, the founder of Carolina Design Associates. Her firm specializes in new construction and remodels, but also offers decorating services. We sat down to chat starting a business, the process of design, and staples and trends for interiors.
Tell us a bit about your background in interior design and decorating, and how you came to launch Carolina Design Associates.
Seventeen years ago, I started as an assistant designer here in Charlotte, transitioning shortly thereafter into a designer. During that transition, I met my now husband, Chad. He saw the passion I had for interior design and encouraged me to start my own company. I started to think about what that company would look like. I had no desire to create a company focused solely on my designs, but one that would grow and foster a team of designers for the Carolinas that would offer our clientele a varied palette of designs reflective of each designer’s unique vision. From that idea, Carolina Design Associates was born in 2007. Absent Chad’s urging, I know I wouldn’t have made the move to start my own firm as early as I did. Through the whole process and still today, he has been my biggest fan and supporter.
What services do you offer through Carolina Design Associates?
CDA can play an active role from the beginning of a client’s vision of their home, before it’s even put down on paper by an architect. For those jobs, CDA is involved from inception to the popping of celebratory champagne at the housewarming. In addition to new construction (which is the majority of our jobs), CDA can take an existing home and make selections for renovation to incorporate the homeowner’s desire for an updated look for the whole house. Another avenue is simply from the decorating angle. If a person has a house the structure of which they love, but need assistance in selecting furnishings and finishes to make it feel like their home, CDA can provide all levels of assistance with that—right down to the selection of wastebaskets. This service can be for an entire home, or just a few rooms. In short, CDA can do as much, or as little as its clients need, in whatever style or genre they want. While the majority of CDA’s work is within the Charlotte area, it is well within CDA’s ability to assist clients with projects in other locations. In the past, CDA has successfully completed several projects throughout the entirety of Carolinas including along the coast and in the mountains. The CDA’s team of very talented designers all share a passion for design and creating amazing spaces that welcome our clients home each day.
For you, what is the difference between interior decorating and interior design?
Design and decorating are both integral elements of putting a home together, but they are very different. The design aspect involves knowledge of architecture and construction details, including being able to read blueprints and understand scale and proportion. Decorating is a finishing touch that begins once the home is complete. An interior designer has each of these skillsets, which is important, because they are assisting in the creation of the bones of the home through the design process, which in turn gives them the unique ability to dress the house—so to speak—in a complementary way through decorating. In assisting with the selection of cabinetry and plumbing fixtures, the designer can begin early on to think about what rugs, furniture, window treatments, and even accessories will best highlight those selections. To a designer, the end product is a reflection of how the design and decorating concept were thought through and planned out from the start. When we photograph a room, we can tell you the finish on floors, the cabinet colors and hardware, fireplace details, but also the band trim on draperies, or the fabric on the pillows. It’s extremely fun for us on install days to see it all come together!
When a client comes to you with the new construction or an extensive renovation, what does that process look like?
Undertaking new construction or extensive home renovations are complicated processes for everyone involved, so it is paramount that the client understands the process that CDA uses to design a home. During the first meeting, CDA walks the client through this process thoroughly to paint a picture of all the details CDA would be involved in selecting. When plans are finalized, CDA would then start on the outside with exterior selections (think brick style, windows, or shingle color) and then move inside (plumbing fixtures, cabinetry and the like). There can be no set formula, because each job, like each client’s taste, is different. New builds can take 10 months or 20 months, depending on the scope of the project. CDA meets with our clients on a regular basis to stay ahead of selections and to not hold up construction. CDA is very fortunate in that its clients trust its design opinions to be carried throughout their homes.
For interior design, what are some classic elements that won’t go out of style?
- Patterns and texture in fabrics and rugs
- Black and white combinations
- Neutral palettes, tone on tone
- Oak hardwood flooring
- Moldings and Trimwork
On the opposite side, what are some current trends in interior design and interior decorating?
- Color has really become more popular than the tone-on-tone palettes
- Animal prints in textiles
- High sheen paint and lacquer finishes
- Metal accents
- Reclaimed wood beams and flooring
- Brass finishes such as unlacquered brass or satin brass in plumbing, hardware, and lighting
- Wallpaper has come full circle with ample options from prints, patterns, and textures
Where do you find inspiration for projects?
Inspiration truly comes from all over, but CDA’s main source is from its clients. Each person has a strong idea of what they want for their ideal home. That’s what we try to create for them, so the most important inspiration for that is from the person themselves. In this highly electronic age, a design idea or inspiration can be just a tweet, post, or click away sometimes. Top designers also share their ideas and visions through print media, as well.
Is there any advice you would give to entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Always under-promise and over-perform, but be honest with your clients no matter the situation. Organization is key in any small business, because that helps minimize what I’d call avoidable stress. Owning a business comes with an inherent set of stresses that cannot be avoided, that’s a given. But by staying organized and on top of things, you can avoid that last-minute panic about so many things. That’s the avoidable stress.