Q&A With Betsy Ryan
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Betsy Ryan: I started designing at an early age; I was constantly rearranging the furniture in my parents' home or my own bedroom. I loved seeing the change, then creating the next look in my head at night. My mother always painted and wallpapered when my father was away on business and I remember thinking how resourceful she was as I helped her decide colors. I love the before and after and the shock on my clients' faces when they walk into a reveal; it's very similar to my father’s reaction when he got back from a trip!
The beauty of my job is that I meet so many different people. Some of my clients have zero budget and others just make sure they use their money for very good pieces while allowing me to shop around for great deals that look as perfect as their more expensive counterparts. Then there are the people that are hesitant to even reach out for fear they don’t have enough money to even talk to me. To be honest, I love the challenge of small budgets. The ability to source great antiques on the cheap and even repurposing clients personal collections mean more to me! I love the look of, “Wow, I can have my house look like a million dollar home with that cost!” It warms my heart!
C: How would you describe your style?
BR: I am married to a man whose family believed in quality rugs and furniture pieces. We have inherited quite a bit of beautiful heirlooms and I love to work with the old by bringing in some new with a touch of whimsy. I love fine lines, no clutter, and anything navy, and I love a piece of art that tells a story alongside heirlooms that bring up stories of years gone by.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
BR: I am always looking for inspiration, whether it is in publications, online or in print. I tend to tear out things that catch my eye and I tack them up on my dream board. This board has proven beneficial when I am trying to figure out last minute ideas for a space; I simply refer to my board of dreams and it is usually right there.
C: Favorite room in the house?
BR: My favorite room in the house is the kitchen, the hub of the home and the place where it all goes down. I am a mom of five, and that is the place we can most often be found. White and inviting with a large island makes for a very happy space.
C: Design rule you don't subscribe to?
BR: I don't subscribe to the idea that everything has to match in order for the room to come together. In fact, I can often be overheard saying, “We don’t need to stay in the same family - a close neighbor works, too!” There is much truth to that statement, in that I like to marry different textures and colors to create a warm and inviting space.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
BR: I just finished a beach property that was very yellow in color, and I wanted to make it warm and beach-like without the overuse of sand dollars and surfboards. Navy was the main color vibe, and from there I added wallpaper and accents to really catch the eye.
Something I love doing for clients is a “While you're working, so am I” service on a space of the owners choice! This service is usually a case by case variation but the concept is the same. The owner heads to work and I use whatever is in the home to create an entire new look by the time they walk thru the door at day's end. Maybe a rug that is huge in a small room is carried downstairs to a larger room that has a cold feeling. I call this my “Shop The Home" service; this approach is instant gratification without the cost of new pieces. Grandma's old landscape painting from her youth gets popped out of a dated frame and finds a new home enveloped by a more current brass frame, and all of the sudden everyone gravitates to the art like the paint is still wet when it’s been around forever. My years of real estate staging led me to this concept and I have perfected the process. Happy clients make me very happy indeed!
C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
BR: I love linen and believe every room should have at least one spot where linen is used. Many times I will have linen pillows or drapes in soft hues, and it just makes the space so soothing. Wide wale corduroy like your father's pants is another underused favorite of mine. There is nothing like a large club chair and ottoman with a navy corduroy fabric... Wows them every time!
C: What is "good design" to you?
BR: Good design to me is when I have listened to the client and have truly included their ideas with my own. A combined effort not only takes on great collaborations but once I have left the job, they feel like it's home. Many times, I will meet with a potential client that calls me in to “fix” another professional's work because they feel it doesn’t feel like home.
C: Pack your bag! You're moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
BR: I would probably choose Ralph Lauren’s home. I just love his use of navy and plaids on both furniture and walls.
C: What's your rule when entertaining?
BR: I entertain often and it is one of my favorite things to do. I love outdoor get-togethers with friends and family, and I obsess over a set table. Candles lit with music playing in the background while conversations and libations flow is my kind of evening! I make it a rule to clean up after everyone leaves because I don’t want to miss the fun! Cloth napkins always… No paper!
C: Best advice for DIYers?
BR: I am personally not a DIYer but have the best ideas for it, just fail on the execution. I have had my share of clients who will tell me, “I saw it on T.V. so I can totally do it!” when I tell them the price of a job. The television shows make it seem so easy and believe me, there are many able-bodied DIYers out there, as many as there are non-DIYers… Tread lightly is my advice.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
BR: When hiring someone to do work in your home, I always suggest that the homeowner get references or a confirmation that a friend has used him or her is happy with the work. Prices can usually be all over the place when you are getting your estimates and I always tell my clients to get more than two and see who makes them feel comfortable.
C: What is one design trend you're most excited about this season?
BR: I am so excited to see the use of color on custom cabinetry. I especially am drawn to built-ins and bars with a bold color for a change and bulking up fireplaces above the mantel to add height to the space. I also love using fun wallpaper behind the shelving in said cabinetry; it is such a conversation piece.
C: How do you take your coffee?
BR: I take my coffee black. Remember, I like simplicity and fine lines!