We fell in looooooove with Christine Ridgway of Empire Designs long before we ever met her. We are hopeless romantics in that way. At least when we ship out orders of beaded lovelies, only to see them transformed into a Roaring Twenties theme event like this one.
We had the good fortune to be able to interview Christine recently, and we are delighted to share her insights here. Along with some photographs. Because her work is GORGEOUS. (She’s based in Ohio but travels the US and the world making things more stylish and functional. And did we mention gorgeous? Paper lanterns and bead strands? Don’t mind if we do…)
How did you get your start in interior and event design?
I have always had a love of interior design. As an only child, I would always be working on designing my Barbie’s room, not with the fun expensive “store bought” furniture, but rather I would create my own pieces. I would use pinking scissors to cut my mother’s remnant fabrics to make a fabulous bedspread over a shoe box, and to take my design over the top, I would fabric wrap the shoebox lid to create a decadent upholstered headboard. I was truly a trendsetter in the Barbie world.
Setting my sights on Interior Design as a profession, I enrolled in Kent State’s Interior Architecture program and studied alongside architects for five years. Design is much more than making things pretty ~ an understanding of the structure build, codes and install is very important as well.
While working as a wedding cake designer full time to pay my tuition, I also worked as a display designer for Macy’s to get a grasp on display design.
Event Design came into play when I was asked by a client to design a large gala for a local hospital for 450 guests. The design principles for an event are the same as designing a home or office: create energy and intrigue, delegate feature impact areas, determine how each space will be used (function vs. non function), ambient lighting, task lighting, scale/proportion of the seating and props. Seems that my Macy’s background in display design came into play pretty well, too.
What advice do you have for aspiring designers who are starting out, or who are considering a career in the design?
Specialize, specialize, specialize!!! I know that many design students have visions of designing wonderful homes, but there are sooo many facets of “high end” design. A design student should consider looking into specialized design like: private jets, yachts, hotel/hospitality, touring busses, movie sets, churches, casino/gaming, spas and restaurants.
How has the field of design changed since you began?
Design is more accessible to everyone with catalogs arriving every day in the mail. The thing that sets professionals apart is our ability to create completely custom designs that tell our clients’ stories. I love the process of getting to know my clients and then choosing pieces that are just “them.” And I love knowing that I provide a great value by giving my clients access to furniture, art, and decor that isn’t available in catalogs. And then being able to do a “reveal” of their new spaces with all of the details taken care of is so rewarding ~ I just love what I do and am grateful to be able to make a living doing it.
How would you describe your design style?
Very “Hollywood Regency” with a funky twist! I tend to use highly tactile (textured) pieces in a room. Texture can be as exciting as color in a room. I want my clients and their guests to walk into a room and be excited to touch everything from upholstery to accessories, and even lighting.
Where do you go for inspiration and to keep your ideas fresh?
Honestly… topical/relevant TV and movies. I’m always looking at the set design of popular media. I might miss the gist of a show because I’m always looking at the overall vibe of the space. There have been many many times that I have seen a piece of furniture, upholstery, accessories, art, or lighting in a movie and told my husband, “I sold that same light to my client.”
Describe your dream project (or a favorite project you’ve worked on).
My dream project is to be a location coordinator/set designer for TV or movies. I would love to use my strong “history of interiors” background!!! I especially loved the set design for “The Great Gatsby” ~ I love a richly layered look that gives depth and interest, both in movies and in homes and events.
What is the most important place to splurge when planning a wedding?
Splurge on impact areas/focal points, and decide what you or your guests will tell friends about… memorable and timeless in photography.
What advice would you give to someone who is on a tight budget in planning a room redo?
Decide where the impact lies, and do not buy thousands of small things to tell your story. Go big and impact-full ~ a bunch of little tchotchkes looks indecisive and chaotic.
What is the best “splurge” value in home decor? In wedding decor?
LIGHTING! Good lighting ALWAYS sets a tone, followed by ambient music.
What is the biggest misconception about working with an interior designer?
That an Interior Designer or Event Designer is expensive.
As an Interior Designer, my job is to find the perfect and a very specific design for my clients that matches their design goal. I attend markets that offer unique pieces that are not available through “bulk mailing” magazines, often at better prices.
I’m a big believer that value lies in getting a great return on your investment, and I take that very seriously with my clients. I have a lot of pride in giving each client I work with a totally custom look that will wow their guests, show off their personalities, stand the test of time, and do all of that within their design budget.
What is the biggest misconception about working with an event designer?
Again, the biggest misconception is that working with a pro is too expensive. I strive to offer events that are completely fresh and unexpected, rather than the latest Pinterest craze that your guests have seen at other weddings already.
Within the event industry, I have opportunities to meet with artisans, lighting, music and theatrical performers, so I can deliver the “wow” factor for any fundraiser or private party. A professional event planner has the perfect pieces in stock and will use them to create fabulous centerpieces ~ and then take them down while you’re already starting your honeymoon ~ so that you, your mom, and your bridesmaids aren’t bothering with feather dust on your wedding day. Less stressful and less expensive than DIY ~ unless you just really want to own hundreds of ostrich feathers, water pearls, beads, and chandeliers.
Source: Empire Designs
What are your favorite Shop Wild Things pieces? How do you use them?
I love the “lighting and door beads” category at Shop Wild Things because they are so versatile. Many times I have made a chandelier into a tabletop centerpiece, or door beads into a fabulous lighting fixture.
What question do you wish that clients (or bloggers) asked, and how would you answer it?
Hmmm… I guess how to decide where an ” impact area” should be, and my answer is where ever the best lighting is!
We hope that you’ve enjoyed hearing Christine’s insight into interior and event design as much as we have. We love her interiors and events and look forward to seeing her future work. If you’re looking for inspiration ~ or for a designer ~ we recommend that you take some time to look thoroughly at the Empire Designs website. The galleries are brimming with great ideas, creative applications of core decor pieces, and just all around great design.