Shoptalk - Charla Ray

What aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?

I grew up on a Montana farm and ranch. The home I spent most of my childhood in was a fixer, and we improved it over time. That house was short on usable space, so I do think it shaped a philosophy of maximizing functionality and organization. I’ve always had an innate desire to make things beautiful. Now I know that a great design does not sacrifice function to have beauty, or sacrifice beauty to have function. It’s a balance.

What was the “lightbulb” moment when you realized you wanted to pursue interior design?

I was interested in architecture but playing basketball for Montana State. I was advised against combining the two. After graduating with a business degree, I started selling real estate. We were matching buyers with fabulous rural parcels we had listed, and then facilitating with high end builders we had relationships with. So, I had a lot of exposure to the building process, and very organically clients started asking more and more for my input. I loved the combination of design and helping people, and I was starting to realize that the ability to envision and understand space was intuitive to me, but an enigma to most. I decided to go back to school and get a second bachelor’s degree (in interior design) at The Art Institute of Portland.

How do you describe your design style?

I want people to feel content and at ease in every space I design. My design style is very much client driven. My objective is to create something that speaks to them and relates to the vernacular of the neighborhood, architecture, etc. My personal design style is clean lined, textural, and layered. I think these elements are commonalities in my projects.

How do you stay inspired?

I stay inspired by going to design furnishing markets like High Point and Las Vegas. The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) is amazing, and I try to go every year. I’m also inspired by nature. Right now (Fall) the leaves and landscape are just brilliant.

Favorite design or architectural detail of your childhood home?

The fixer home I referenced above was an A-frame with 30' high wood tongue and groove ceiling, and wall of windows, plus a giant rock fireplace. The house was fraught with space planning issues from the original builder, but I came away with a love of volume, natural light, and natural materials.

Do you have a dream project, or location where would you like

to work?

Working on a home at the Yellowstone Club, which is an amazing exclusive community outside of Bozeman, MT.

In your opinion, what is the most fundamental element of interior design? Where do start on a new project?

I think it is the relationship between the home and the people using the space. A new project starts with a lot of conversation with the clients and understanding them, thinking about how they live and how to design a space to really support them. I’m looking at it from the standpoint, “ok, I know it’s going to be beautiful, but how can we make this a space that really rises up to meet you.” Again, that balance of beauty and function.

Your work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, on Portland’s Tour of Remodeled Homes, and on numerous blogs and social media platforms, are there any recognitions you are most proud of?

Being featured in a beautiful magazine like Portrait Magazine is certainly a great honor. I think the recognition I’m most proud of is that which comes from clients. Not just in the form of repeat and referral business, but more importantly, it’s the lasting friendships.

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