Because interior designer Caitlin Scanlon had a thriving career as a film producer (she is probably best known for the teen classic “Bring It On”), it’s not a surprise that both the residential and commercial projects she’s designed have a cinematic quality to them. The founder and principal designer of Caitlin Scanlon Design has a modern yet timeless aesthetic that simply wows, invoking feelings of exhilaration and sophistication.
While Scanlon is great at finding new furniture and decor or vintage pieces that are new to a space, she also excels at working with what clients already have, whether it’s a table they love or a childhood collectible.
I recently spoke with Scanlon to learn about her road to becoming an interior designer, her love for vintage shopping and why designing a home isn’t too different from producing a movie.
When did you realize you wanted to become an interior designer?
When I was in sixth grade and realized I was the happiest spending weekends rearranging the furniture in my bedroom and repainting my walls.
I took a 20-year detour working in the movie business before I circled back in 2012 and started my design firm.
How are the movie business and interior design industries similar?
They are so similar―in that designing a house is just like producing a movie, except the talent are not movie stars, but your clients, as well as the artisans making furniture, art, textiles, etc.
In both industries, you tell a story. In film, it’s narrative, and in design, it’s color and atmosphere. As the designer, you’re setting the stage for how your clients want to live. Both businesses can be aspirational in that way. They are both highly collaborative and take literally hundreds of different trades to pull something off successfully. One must have a strong point of view, but also know how to work well with others to succeed in both fields.
How did you get your start as an interior designer?
I was fortunate enough to be hired to assist Sasha Emerson of Sasha Emerson Design, who opened my eyes to using color and showed me how to professionalize my passion.
How would you describe your style?
English major with a twist of California Modernism—meaning that I love nothing more than a comfy wing chair with a powder-coated metal tea table.
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What’s your secret design sauce?
Structure! A firm foundation allows you the freedom to go wild with color and texture as well as mix items from different eras.
What’s the first thing you do when you start working with a new client?
We work through their home to find out how they use it now, how they’d like to use it and, in particular, how they want to feel in the space.
What types of aesthetics are your favorites?
I love spaces that look like they’ve evolved over time, with evidence of history, travel and a life well lived.
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What trends or looks are your least favorite?
I dislike anything trendy or mass-produced.
What have been your biggest design challenges in recent years?
Supply chain issues have been a real challenge but, mercifully, they have improved greatly since early in the pandemic.
I find design challenges like irregularly shaped rooms more like a fun puzzle to solve but trying to explain to clients who are used to having everything exactly when and how they want it that the range they “simply must have” is going to arrive six months after their kitchen renovation is done is the hardest part of my job.
What’s a project you’ve worked on that you’re incredibly proud of?
The production company office I did for Media Res Studios, a television and film company in Hollywood. It involved building out the space and reflecting their brand in the furnishings and architecture. They’ve expanded massively, and I’m proud of our contribution.
What’s a room that many people overlook in terms of design?
It sounds crazy, but often clients leave their own bedrooms for last, and they get short shrift as a result—they want the public spaces to dazzle, which they totally get, but it’s as important for your bedroom to be a sanctuary.
What are some of your favorite places to source furniture and decor?
I could scroll through 1stDibs and eBay France all day long! But I’m most inspired when poking around brick-and-mortar vintage and antique stores. I was recently on vacation in The Berkshires, and I think we pulled over at every antique mall in the region. I shipped a bunch of my scores back home to Los Angeles but still managed to stash a super-unusual Art Deco tea set in my luggage.
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