A Sensory Experience

Jaclyn Ehrlich
Jaclyn Ehrlich

Charlotte designer, Jaclyn Ehrlich, sat down with us to talk about her simple yet sophisticated designs, French inspirations, holiday decor tips, and so much more. We’’d like to thank Jaclyn for sharing her tips and tricks and we hope you enjoy. Now, meet Charlotte’’s own Jaclyn Ehrlich and see what she has to say about simple yet sophisticated design, her French and Italian inspirations, making neutral colors stand out, how to achieve a sophisticated holiday design aesthetic, and so much more.

Where are you originally from?
I grew up in rural southeastern Idaho. We lived in Rupert until I was 11 and then moved into “town”, Heyburn, Idaho, a few miles up the road.  From a young age, I had dreams of traveling, seeing the world and meeting new people. When I was in high school, I asked my French teacher if she could help me arrange an exchange trip to France. With her contacts and help (and my parents open-mindedness); I flew in an airplane (only the 2nd time in my life on a plane) to Paris, France. I was by myself and just 16 years old. I lived in France for a year in high school. I travelled around Europe, seeing and experiencing so many amazing things. This year of my life planted seeds and nurtured dreams and talents that are still deeply rooted within me to this day. After returning, I realized that I needed to live in a big city and moved to New York City to work, shortly thereafter.

How did you get involved with design?
Design and entrepreneurship have been a passion and journey for me that started when I was very young.  I have been drawn to color, beauty, and creating since I was a little girl. When I lived and worked in NYC, I had several amazing work opportunities that exposed me to different fields that were art related, such as helping out at Bergdorf Goodman in the buying office, working for a couple of non-profit organizations on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in their Art departments and working in the art department of a small but very successful health advertising firm in the Flatiron District, also in NYC. These experiences ultimately lead me to the interior design field.

Did you go to school for design or does this come naturally to you?
I am a true example of the American Dream. After returning from Europe to my very small town for my senior year of high school, I realized it wasn’’t for me. I took my GED and moved to NYC to work. While it is not the path I encourage my children to take, I did not go to college. I have taken different courses and studied on my own while working very hard. I had a passion and I went for it.

Who are your major influences in the design industry if any?
Philippe Stark, Alexa Hampton, Phoebe Howard, Barclay Butera are at the top. Iconic fashion designers, such as Coco Chanel, Tom Ford and Christian Dior inspire me because fashion, beauty and design are all so closely connected.

How would you classify your style and design aesthetic?
C’’mon! You should know I’’m not someone who likes to be “classified”! I will say, however, that I love simple beauty that has just the right details, and neutral color as a backdrop to beautiful and harmonious pieces. I appreciate a “collected” aesthetic that is not matched but works together. Although the details are tremendously important, I am a “big picture” kind of girl.

Explain your French and Italian inspirations in your designs?
Design is an emotional and sensory experience. Having been exposed to authentic French and Italian lifestyle and culture at a very critical age in my life, these amazing aesthetics have been intricately woven into me. I constantly find inspiration in European design and travel as often as I can, in the US and abroad, to keep my inspiration and knowledge fresh.

What have you learned through your travels to places like Paris and Rome that are evident in your designs?
The most amazing aspect of French and Italian design and architecture is the ever-present and intriguing mix of the old and the new. I go crazy for spaces that are old – timeless but with fresh air blown in – bringing new, fresh and modern pieces. I love Philippe Starke for this. It’s old herringbone wood floors and a century old fireplace mantle in a room with antique chairs that have been refinished in amazing colors and fabrics next to a clean-line and insanely comfortable sofa and pillows topped off with that a modern statement chandelier.

You use a lot of neutrals and muted colors in your designs. What draws you to these hues and why do you think they make a room look elegant?
I love the right neutrals because they are calming and easy to live in and they create appreciation for individual pieces that can be more bold. That being said, keeping neutrals elegant and beautiful is about balance because neutral can turn to “blah” or “cold” very easily.

Statement pieces abound in your home. What types of pieces make for amazing statement pieces and conversation pieces and why?
At the end of the day, it’s all about pieces you are drawn to. JP, you have quickly identified some of the pieces that I love the very most in my home! And that is because there is something magical about finding and collecting things you love. They always work together and they bring your personality and emotions into your home for anyone who is there to enjoy. My dining table, for example, is something that I knew I wanted to invest in. I went with Habersham, one of my very favorite lines. I decided to do away with a dining room and instead make one eating area in our home. I am very sentimental and I wanted that table to be the one that we raised our children around. It’s my most prized material possession. The French sign is something that I fell in love with instantly. It is from Sugarboo Designs out of Atlanta and reads (in French) “ I love you more than yesterday, less than tomorrow”. I had to have it. The Persian rug ottoman just has that simple luxury quality to it that I appreciate.

How do you source the decor for designs and what stores do you use?
I see things when I travel and pick up lines and ideas that way and I also attend the furniture markets to keep on top of what’s great and out there. I typically buy everything directly from the manufacturers or wholesale design companies so I don’t go to a lot of retail stores. Some of my favorite furnishing lines are Caracole, Gabby Home, Century, Highland House, Habersham, Vanguard, Global Views and Arteriors, to name a few.

What is the biggest challenge of your design process?
Helping people to see the big picture and not let them get caught up on details. When you see something by itself, it’s not always obvious how it will come together. In order to accomplish a new and beautiful space, there is a good amount of trust that has to be bestowed to the designer.

How does it make you feel when you execute a client’s design flawlessly?
Making sure that the client’s home is the “client’s” home and not mine is the top goal. I have always had an intuitive knack to be able to understand people’s design aesthetic and I have taken that a step further and developed a process that helps me learn more and zone into that aesthetic. It’s amazing to help people find their style and then create it!

When you design for the holidays where do you start?
The color theme is the starting point. This year, I’m into ivory, gold and mocha. I love Target for yearly holiday updates!

What features of the home come to life with added holiday decor and how?
I focus on stair railings, mantles and the tree, and then try to scatter holiday pieces around, like tree-bark candles or a reindeer on a tabletop, bells on doors, etc.

How do you steer clear of an over themed holiday aesthetic?
Choose a color combination and stick to it. Keep the colors limited to two or three choices. Choose items that offer more feeling and emotion. I try and stay away from Santa Claus themes and keep more of a festive spirit through suggestive décor. Ideas include crystal candleholders, bell wreaths, the use of accent or candle lighting, holiday pillows, and throws. Ambient music and festive scents are huge proponents to my holiday décor.

How do you select holiday linens and what do you pair them with to achieve a sophisticated look?
I love gold and/or silver paired with ivory and one other color. I look for sparkle and simplicity as well as comfortable and usable additions to make the home feel inviting. For example, white cable-knit comfy pillows for the sofa and trays of beautiful assorted candles on a tabletop. Luxurious ivory table linens embroidered with holiday or winter symbols. A ceramic pair of turtledoves on the bookcase, a bowl of pinecones on a table for the amazing smell and whimsical stockings hung at the mantle. I love garland that is full of ornaments, ribbon and other decorative items, and pre-lit so that you can light everything up at night. It’s so magical.

What are your tips for the tree?
Stick to your color combination. It has to be full of ornaments and well lit. The key to a beautiful tree is tons of consistent ornaments and color.

What are your specific tips for designing a holiday tablescape?
The key here is a layered and complete look with full place settings, simple but beautiful napkins and rings, a centerpiece(s) using fresh flowers, festive place holders, beautiful serving dishes and as much candle light as you can.

What is the most important thing to consider when designing and decorating for the holidays?
For the holidays or for any other day, the most important thing about designing your home is incorporating things that you love into your home. When you are surrounded by things that you find beautiful, you are happier, more inspired, more relaxed and have a better sense of self. It is actually life-changing for people when they create a home that they love to live in.

Jaclyn Ehrlich | Award Winning Designer
Best of Houzz 2014