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Designer Spotlight: Amy Carnahan

Category: All Category: Spotlight

Portland native and self-described "multi-tasking wizard" with a borderline unhealthy obsession with wallpaper, interior designer Amy Carnahan is a stellar companion to have in your style corner. Influenced by the mod side of Pacific Northwest living with a healthy dose of Arizona-inspired desert chic, Carnahan creates sophisticated spaces for busy lives. A fan of finding calm amongst the chaos, she often turns to Schoolhouse Electric for statement heirloom-quality furniture and minimalist home accessories. See her top Schoolhouse picks below along with tips for creating unexpected pops of cool throughout a home and easy design tricks of the trade. 


Tell us your aesthetic when it comes to decorating. What styles are you drawn to?

"My aesthetic is always evolving based on my client's personal likes and dislikes. I appreciate so many different styles but certain things are especially inspiring. At heart, I am a true minimalist (clutter makes me anxious) and I am most naturally drawn to Mid-Century California Cool design. The simple lines and material choices from this design standpoint are classic and stunning. Gold fixtures, carrara or calacutta marble, walnut finishes, white walls and wood paneling seriously make for my dream house."

Where do you find most of your inspiration and who are your influences?

"The day-to-day grind! I am constantly taking in my surroundings and I find a great deal of inspiration in my daily comings and goings. From running errands, to grabbing a bite, to simply flipping through magazines, I can find inspiration pretty much anywhere and everywhere. I lived in Arizona for 4 years while I was in college and the modern vibes of the desert often influence my design."

"Ruthie Sommers inspires me to play with color and patterns and Pencil and Paper Co. is a brilliant design company based in Nashville. They take risks and I swear every project is better than their last. I’m also inspired in every project Pure Salt Interiors creates."

Where do you find most of your go-to basics when it comes to decorating a space?

"My go-to basics vary from project-to-project based on budget and style. I try to shop locally whenever I can. That said, a large mirror, statement artwork, and greenery are some pretty reliable go-tos you would find in nearly all of my projects. It’s also no secret that I frequently visit Schoolhouse.


Tell us a little about your process when it comes to designing a space for clients.

"First thing’s first - I always start with the people. I have my clients fill out a design questionnaire before we meet and it is always so helpful to chat through their initial input. After meeting with them and looking over pinterest boards, magazine tearouts and often my past projects, our design process begins. I take notes during these meetings and I am often thinking of possible selections and diving into my creative process. I send collages and schemes and the editing goes from there. We start with the largest pieces and work our way down to the smaller items as the project goes on. Styling and accessories are the very last piece, which add layers and detail to my overall design. I think that’s one of the most important aspects in a well designed home."

Favorite projects you've done?

"Okay, that’s a trick question for me! I love them all. People put a lot trust in me and I don’t take that lightly. Most of my clients become friends, which is pretty incredible and also very flattering. I recently had the opportunity to remodel a kitchen where we started from scratch. I had a ton of creative freedom and my clients trusted my more bold ideas. The final result exceeded my expectations. It was a total blast."


Favorite design trends or timeless looks you love?

"I am crazy for brass and black matte finishes right now. Faucets, doorknobs, handles, cabinet pulls, you name it. Matte Black is sleek and can add a pop of contrast, while brass is warm and a little more glamorous. Personally, I think this look is here to stay. It feels so modern, plus sleek and goes with anything you add to the space. I love white walls and the juxtaposition of painting the doors a dark color. Have you ever seen a white hallway with flat black paint on the doors? It’s so unexpected and cool. My absolute favorite timeless look is marble. It has definitely stood the test of time."

Least favorite design trends?

"I literally pay no attention to what I don’t like. I channel all of my energy toward what I like and am drawn to."

Most-loved color palette or materials to work with?

"I tend to favor whites, grays, blacks mixed with rich blues and greens. When selecting materials, I especially love natural light woods, dark walnut finishes, white or black marbles, and industrial metals. These materials show age and use over time, which keeps my work authentic and adds character to a house."


What's your top design trick?

"Mixing high and low. It’s a no-fail approach. There are the investment pieces that carry the space, but many other parts of the room can be selected carefully and with a more budget-friendly approach. I find this to be both challenging and interesting, but I like the challenge to be creative with layering the space."

What's your dream design project?

"Getting to remodel a true mid century ranch would be an absolute dream! Getting to pick all the materials, colors, fixtures, hardware and furnishings would be incredible. The combination of these materials and era inspired vaulted ceilings evokes the laid back feelings I strive for."

Finally, what makes a house a home to you?

"The people inside! Oh - and some great big plants never hurt! Greenery is a huge part of what makes a home feel alive. A personal favorite in my home is my 7 foot cactus! Total conversation piece and so amazing to look at."

Photography by Olivia Ashton for Amy Carnahan Design



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