Shoptalk - Tamar Kestenbaum

You completed your studies in Interior Design and Art History and have worked at a premiere New York art gallery and at NBC Universal; how has your background influenced your viewpoint on design?

My background equipped me with a strong foundation in understanding the history of art and design, and enabled me to confidently form my own perspective on aesthetics. I’m a process-oriented thinker, and being in a field which requires creative thought and innovation constantly pushes me to think outside of the box and remember that following rules is not always a good thing. My educational background gives me the gumption to do that; in the moments when I’m uncomfortable with challenging standards and presenting new ideas, I remember that great art and design has come from risk-taking and a willingness to embrace moments of vulnerability.

When working with older homes how do you balance the aesthetic and functional goals of your clients?

Working primarily in Seattle, I’m often tasked with planning remodels of older homes. This is my favorite kind of work. The functional needs and aesthetic interests of my clients are my top priority. And still, older homes have strong opinions and needs. I believe that some of the best design work is born out of a call to produce strong work within a given list of guidelines and constraints. Usually in these situations, homeowners are asking me to find a way to accommodate their own needs and also adhere to the very real constraints of their home. This is my favorite type of work because I’m given a starting place, and from there I’m able to exercise all of my creative energy to turn these homes into treasures that will really work for my clients.

How do you approach working with homeowners who are getting involved in construction for the first time?

I myself have been a homeowner getting into construction for the first time, so I have real clarity about how daunting that is. The world of construction and remodeling is overwhelming and frankly, somewhat obscured. One of my goals in this business is to demystify construction for my clients. Early in the process of obtaining business, long before agreements are signed, I discuss the details of construction with prospective clients; I aim to provide a linear understanding of what the process may look like, what challenges clients will need to consider planning for, what sort of team they may want to consider hiring, and most importantly from my perspective, what role they can expect a Designer (myself) to play in the process. I do this early on because I want to be sure that people who are considering entering into construction are equipped with some real, usable information before they get too far down the road. Remodeling, and making a house into a home, can be one of the most privileged experiences that life offers; it can also be quite trying! My goal is to involve myself in projects where I can mitigate the challenges and maximize the triumphs.

Describe your design aesthetic.

My design aesthetic evolves over time. I’m constantly seeing new things in the design world, and opening my mind to new possibilities. That said, I am drawn to all things that are layered. I enjoy layers of color, texture, pattern, and materials in a variety of settings; traditional, classic, transitional, contemporary, eclectic… and, I especially love design that for a moment transports us to another time, and makes us feel like we are in a space that has been lived in and loved by many before us.

Outside of interior design, what are you currently interested in and how is it influencing your design thinking?

My two kids have become, for now, the main attraction for me. They have been the most impactful for me in influencing my design thinking. Outside of being motivated as a business owner out of a desire to show myself as a strong female role model for them, I am constantly made increasingly aware of the realities of what it looks like to share a space as a family. As my children grow, they teach me new lessons about making a home function really well for a changing family, and for a variety of individuals.

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