Walker Design Group
2 Boyce’s WharfCharleston, SC, 29401
Heidi Walker knew at age 13 that she wanted to be an interior designer, and the Michigan native realized that dream by earning her interior design degree from Michigan State University in 1981. With a head for business, Heidi spent 10 years in commercial design with Steelcase, but she always had her eye on residential design. So 12 years ago, transplanted in Charleston, Heidi founded Walker Design Group.
Though her clients run the gamut from banks to high-profile homeowners, there’s no aesthetic she can’t tackle. “I pride myself on being able to craft any look a client wants and make it look like it’s evolved over time,” she says. Even with such a wide design range, Heidi has found a niche with buyers investing in second homes, whether a downtown pied-a-terre or, more often, a beach house in Charleston’s resort and island areas. “There’s a lot of demand for that easy-breezy beach style that’s sophisticated and not kitschy.”
Heidi’s commercial training has certainly come in handy as she works with many of her clients long distance, often working with architects and contractors for absent homeowners. Designing from a business standpoint also drives her highly organized and efficient approach, which produces timely results. “I’m very cautious about spending other people’s money, so I like to devise innovative design solutions and creative compromise.”
“This is the perfect career for me. Every job is a new adventure and a new challenge,” says Heidi. But it’s ultimately the people that make her job so gratifying. Her business is built on the referrals of happy customers with whom she’s forged lasting friendships—and that’s her greatest satisfaction.
Q and A Section
Q: Do you see a new direction emerging for interior design in the Lowcountry?
A: There will always be the traditional, enduring style that Charleston is known for, but I do see a trend towards a French industrial aesthetic—like the look you see in Restoration Hardware—and a tendency to create more comfortable and informal living spaces. I like to achieve it by hunting interesting architectural and furnishing finds that have a history and don’t give spaces a “decorated” look.
Q: How do you interpret “smart interior design?”
A: Repurposing and reusing existing furnishings—whether they get painted or reupholstered or are just used for a different function in a room. Also, using elements that are environmentally responsible, from low-VOC paints to fair-trade textiles made in traditional ways without toxic dyes and treatments. I’m also a big believer in elements that give you longevity like slipcovers—I’ve raised two teenage boys and things that can be washed without worrying about wear and tear are important.
Q: What is the first step to choosing an interior designer?
A: First and foremost, look for a well-seasoned, degreed professional—there are a lot of “decorators” out there. Interview them and talk about their approach to design and budget as well as their philosophy on décor, and make sure your personalities mesh well.
Q: Undertaking an interior design project can be daunting. What’s your advice to anyone who’s considering embarking on one?
A: I find that a lot of people are overwhelmed by the prospect with so many details to consider, so it’s important to seek out a professional to help you determine what will produce the biggest impact on your investment. Then they can help you prioritize and build a plan that works with your budget and won’t cause you to backtrack. The first step could be as simple as a fresh coat of paint and some new carpet.
Q: What are the most common mistakes you see homeowners making during a redesign and how can they be avoided?
A: First, there’s paint color. You can’t choose from paint chips—a professional eye can see a color and know what it will look like on a wall and whether it’s right for the room. You can save yourself the time, expense, and frustration of bringing home a zillion samples that end up being all wrong. Also, ordering furniture online can be a pitfall. You can’t know if the scale or comfort of furnishings are right for your home if you’ve only seen them in a catalog or on a website.
Q: What basic principles would you recommend for any interior design project?
A: Buy good, quality pieces of furniture that are well constructed and will last forever, even if you have to purchase them one piece at a time. Beware of “deals” on things like sofas and chairs, which often aren’t well made—these are things that should keep their shape and comfort for years and you can reupholster or slipcover them to change their look over time. Also, beautiful floors speak volumes (look for reclaimed heart-pine wood), as do solid doors, quality windows, and hardware. Invest in the best you can and they can change everything about a home.