With her work gracing the pages of national interior magazines, and several Designer Showhouses under her belt, Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey has made her mark professionally. The interior designer is based in Old Town, but has projects from Nantucket to Georgetown. A designer and a chef, Shazalynn has an advanced degree from the Culinary Institute of America and has studied at Parsons School of Design. She has been a designer for 17 years now, and I had a chance to talk with her last week at her Old Town office of SCW Interiors.
How did you get your start?
SCW: I got my first business license in 1994. I actually made money doing design work at The Second Yard. I could not get a job in a kitchen (required for the Culinary Institute), but I could get a job doing design. I was successful enough to pay for my first year of cooking school. While I was in cooking school, I was always looking into the interior design school (Parsons) in New York.
What are the biggest challenges in Old Town homes? How do you address them?
SCW: (At SCW Designs) we have a philosophy which is 100% utilization. The biggest hiccup I come across in Old Town is that people want to save those front parlor rooms for “look rooms”. I don’t think that’s a good philosophy to live by, because you are basically sacrificing almost 50% of that floor.
When we go into homes we really try to push people to live in the spaces and create environments that they can live in. That’s different for everybody. A family with small children versus a newly married couple — those aesthetics are going to be different. We do space planning and will come up with a full plan for how to live in a home.
One of the best things that we can help guide in the design process is storage. I am a huge advocate for built ins. We can design the built ins, and we have a built in company that we work with. I like to address those needs before we go to the next step, which is the layers and the drapes and all the fun stuff.
Do you recommend someone live in a home first (if possible) before an interior redesign to see how it “lives”?
SCW: I think that is always wise. This process takes time. I don’t think the expectation should be that you move in one day and by day five you have a plan in place on how to design the interiors. A lot of people gain insight by living in their homes for a while. Given that it takes time, it is good to have a three month schedule and plan to have a cohesive plan in three months.
You have a lot of clients with younger children. How do you recommend they achieve a sophisticated, pulled together look that is child friendly? Especially in a place like Old Town where the kids don’t necessarily have a separate space?
SCW: I think we sort of have established a niche in that department. We have a lot of families with young children. I think the biggest mistake that some people make is that they buy temporary furniture. That’s bad for the planet.
A piece of furniture is one of the most expensive purchases in a home. One good sofa should serve you for the rest of your life.
We do not create temporary spaces. We create for longevity. We put a plan in place that can expand over time as the children get older. So the ottoman that you are currently using as a coffee table with a tray can be replaced with that beautiful coffee table that you’ve always coveted with the antique mirror top, and the ottoman gets used as an ottoman again.
There are great family friendly fabrics on the market right now. I can take any fabric and send it out to be Teflon treated. If you are desperate, we can even laminate fabrics, and do it without a sheen. We can use pleather instead of leather.
Sisal and seagrass have also come a long way. They are soft, they weave in wool, and they are cheap. They are great for a anyone who can’t afford oriental rugs.
What is your favorite paint color right now?
SCW: For an organic gray-ish look, I like Moonshine by Benjamin Moore. I also use the classics — Barely Beige, Manchester Tan. I love French Gray by Farrow and Ball in a dining room. I just redid my house and used Elephant’s Breath and Skimming Stone because they have so many different qualities in them.
We also use a lot of wallpaper. We like to use it everywhere, but especially in smaller spaces. We are using it on the ceiling in a dining room — just the ceiling. A marbleized paper, and the walls and trim will be all one color.
I am also doing paper backed fabrics. It has such an amazing quality to it.
What are some of the best places in the area for great home and design finds?
Favorite design blogs?
What would your dream project be?
SCW: A boutique hotel.
How is it being a small business owner in Alexandria?
SCW: The tax situation is tough. (The city) does not make it very tax friendly for small businesses.
What would you tell kids who think they might want to be an interior designer someday?
SCW: Take drafting in high school. Go to as many museums and look at as many design books and magazines as you can. Intern for a day a week or during the summers.
Shazalynn can be contacted though her company’s website, SCWInteriors.com.
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