Making a space feel welcoming is no small feat. Luckily, Casey Keasler, founder of Casework, a Portland-based interior design firm, knows a thing or two about crafting interiors. As a designer, creative director, and visual storyteller, Casey draws on over 15 years of experience to create beautiful spaces with unexpected details that delight. From an alpine noir ski chalet to the Pioneer Motel in Joshua Tree, Casey’s the kind of friend you can ask to design your space and feel confident about the outcome without ever stepping foot in it.
And most recently, Casey and her team have been hard at work designing their new studio, a 1950s garage that is now a stellar example of adaptive reuse. As fans of any project that Casework touches, we knew we had to visit. Lucky for us, Casey also happens to be a long-time friend of Schoolhouse. We caught up with her to talk about her creative process, the story behind the “party box,” and the inspiration behind their new Northeast space.
You’ve been working in design for over 15 years. How did you get into the industry?
"It's hard to say exactly when. But for as long as I can remember, I've been interested in design and architecture. I was the 10-year-old reading my mom's Architectural Digest. I took technical drafting classes in high school, got a B.S. in Interior Design, worked for commercial architecture firms for nearly 10 years, and freelanced for a few more. From there, I started Casework in 2015."
What pushed you to start your own firm? And what have some of the highlights and challenges of that journey been?
"My parents were small business owners, and that was the nature of our family. We did things ourselves, and it seemed natural to start my own firm. The challenge is in having very little business experience. I have to trust my instincts a lot and be ok with saying, 'I need help.' I do that a lot."
Your new studio is beautiful. How did you find the space?
"Thank you so much! It was the first studio I toured last November when I started my search. My current landlord was increasing rent by 30%. And to be honest, resigning that lease wasn't the partnership I wanted to build for the next few years. I met Kevin, my current landlord, and founder of Guerrilla Development, and he gave me a tour of Lavada Jones. There were no windows or drywall at the time, but I could see the potential. If you've ever met Kevin, you know he and his team are gold. How often do people say that about landlords?"
What makes a quality environment for you personally? Tell us more about the inspiration and design intention behind the space.
"I'm more of a minimalist and I also get distracted easily. So, I like everything to have a place to help with that distraction. I love organization! When things are organized, that frees up my mind to create instead of seeing the mountain of things that need to be finished."
Favorite color palettes and materials to work with?
"My favorite colors evolve over time, but typically, they're warm neutrals. Olive greens and blush tones are a current favorite. As for materials, we use so many, it's hard to name top picks, but I do like when a material is true to its identity. For example, I'd never source quartz that is meant to look like marble or tile that is trying to be metal or wood. I can see the faux version a mile away, and it always looks like a cheap knock off."
Are there any specific items or features in an office that you think everyone should invest in?
"We designed and fabricated desks that hide the power. It's nice to eliminate the clutter of power cords and avoid having to climb under my desk to plug in my laptop each day. Each desk has a trough with an easily removable lid that is connected to one power source. I also invested in ergonomic desk chairs from Knoll, and that's been a game-changer. Great lighting is also key, including natural light, which is vital for selecting materials, colors, and fabrics."
Couldn’t help but notice the box labeled “party goods” – we’re intrigued. Can you tell us more about this box?
"It has all the sparkly things for when we host events!"
Finally, what’s your favorite part of the final design?
"I love our onyx countertops. I saw them in a slab yard about a year ago when looking for a client and took a photo because they were so unusual. When we were looking for slabs, I knew I wanted something unique, and they turned up again. We got them for a steal because they had been sitting in the slab yard for 16 years, and the owner wanted to unload them. I love them so much that I also had two large cheese boards and two small tabletops cut from the remnants."