Back in the summer, when I was interviewing my friend and Guest Krystal Culpepper of Sweet Pea Studios (See Jennifer the Beholder post dated September 21, 2017), Krystal said to me, “Oh, you have to interview Kate Davis from Olive and Ford.” I did a little research on Kate and her interior design business and I concurred. I needed to interview Kate Davis from Olive and Ford! These two very talented ladies are friends. I find their friendship endearing. It’s a beautiful thing to hear them speak of each other and promote each other’s talent. So that is how I was introduced to Olive and Ford. It is especially exciting to me when I leave one interview with a contact for another. The Jennifer the Beholder Guest network is working!
Kate Davis is a completely self taught interior designer. (Not unlike one very popular lady in one Waco, TX.) Kate has loved design for a very long time. She says, “When I look back, I think I’ve been fairly consistent [with my personal style] all along. But when [my design business] really came about was [when] my husband and I built our first house, from the ground up. We had trades come in and do the foundation, do the framing, but otherwise my husband and I were in there every day actually building. I hung windows!” She explains that initially when you’re building a house you think of all the pretty things like flooring and paint colors, but then the non-sexy details enter in like what kind of switches do you want, what kind of trim do you want on the windows and the like. Things most do not normally consider. (Nor do we really want to. Am I right?) Making decisions on these types of finishes can be very overwhelming. Kate adds, “When it’s more than just picking a floor [for example], it can be a lot. You know, where do you want your switch on the wall? Or [do you want] a door or a window [in your garage] so it won’t be so dark?” (Most just want it to look pretty when it’s all done and don’t really care how it gets that way.) Says Davis, “[Our house] was my first in-the-trenches experience with [design]. And I loved it. It was amazing.”
Kate’s entrance into interior design was definitely a very gradual process. At the inception of Olive and Ford, she was a stay-at-home-mom. But prior to building her house, Kate was a court reporter and background investigator. (Totally different, right?) But once her second child was born, she stayed at home. She explains, “[Interior design] was definitely not something I ever would have thought would be my career path. I never would have thought that it was …not a possibility, [more] an option maybe? You’re thinking you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer, right? The traditional things. So it just evolved organically, which is my favorite way for things to happen. It just popped up and I went with it. And it just keeps rolling into something bigger and bigger.“
In the beginning of Olive and Ford, Kate was doing projects for friends. Finally her husband said to her that she had to stop because it was taking so much of her time. He said, “You can’t just give this away to people because you’ve got a [family]. You need to go grocery shopping. We need to feed our children at some point. You can’t forget to do the laundry.” Kate explains, “Not that he was telling me what to do, but I was spending so much of my time doing [design projects], I was neglecting all of these chores that I normally have for myself.” Her husband suggested that she start charging for her work. Initially, Kate was not comfortable with the idea. But her good friend Krystal (Sweet Pea Studios) suggested setting up a Facebook page which became the launching point of Olive and Ford. Kate created the Facebook page, but didn’t publish it. Krystal encouraged her to “just hit the button”. Just hit the button. Of course, Kate insisted, “No, no, I don’t want to hit the button.” Kate continues, “I was working on [the Facebook page] and I hit publish by mistake.” She described her blood draining from her face. Total Panic Mode. Thankfully Krystal encouraged her to just leave it and reassured her that nothing was going to happen. She left it and that was how Olive and Ford was born.
Kate’s offered services run the gamut. Whether a client needs a quick design online, needs recommendations for accessories, or needs an entire floor of their home renovated, she’s done it all. She even offers color consultations, furniture placement and space planning. Says Davis, “My taste often exceeds my budget, so I found the perfect formula to get high style from thrift stores and big box stores. A monochromatic color scheme, clean lines, statement lighting, and a touch of nature. Those four elements unfailingly combine into a comfortable elegant, simple, livable home.” (Sign me up!)
Kate confesses that she’s currently in a little bit of a transition. When she first started designing, her focus was truly on the house that she and her husband built. People loved the colors that she chose and would ask for advice in their own homes. Because she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on furnishings, Kate started getting her hands on second hand pieces or inexpensive items from stores like Target, for example. She would strip, sand, and paint them to change them to look like higher end pieces. These newly refurbished furnishings got attention, so Kate began selling them. Her business continued to evolve to where she began consulting with real estate investors on houses that they were interested in flipping. She naturally moved into color consultations and creating e-designs for clients. But Kate explains, “I’m at a point now where I may refocus my energy on my own real estate investments where I’m putting my mark on properties.” When asked if this was a short term or long term plan, she readily answered, “Yes!” She shares, “You know, I’m kind of rolling with it. That’s kind of where I see things going. I love working with clients. I love working with people, but that may be where my passion is.”
In our current age of YouTube and HGTV stardom sweeping our culture, Kate interestingly shares that possibility does not interest her. She says, “If someone were to….not that this would happen, but if they came to me and said you get a TV show today, I can’t say that would be something that I would do. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just got more work to do or something. Do you know what I mean? I’m just saying that I’m happy.” The truth of Olive and Ford is that it was never a dream of Kate’s. Infact it’s the organic way that the business was born that appeals to Kate the most.
Kate shares, “I feel like we’re hard on ourselves, especially as moms, to have everything together. I wish that there was a way to make that messiness super pretty. I think we all have messy moments and we just [shove] things aside and it’s pretty for a second and that’s what you see on Instagram. God love Instagram. Everything is so pretty and you can scroll through and it’s all pretty, but let me tell you, behind the scenes…. I can say across the board, with all Instagrammers’ beautiful pictures, there’s a bunch of crap behind the camera. We go like this (mimes shoving) and it’s all outside the frame of the picture.” She finds that to be the biggest difference between how the business of interior design appears versus how it actually is. People think everything is picture perfect always and the reality is that Kate and her family are just like everybody else. (Everybody else who incidentally has 45K Instagram followers!!!!)
Kate adds, “My house is not always staged. People are always asking about my white sofas. How do I keep them so white? Well guess what, they’re not always so perfectly white. I’ve got a black dog, I’ve got a white sofa, people freak out! It’s not always perfect. I vacuum it and when it gets a little dirtier than I want, I rip it off and put it in the washer and I put it back on.” I told Kate that whenever someone comes to my home, I always apologize first and say, I’m sorry about the mess, but we actually live here. Her response? “Stop!” She concurred that she found herself apologizing too. But she goes on, “I’ve decided I’m going to stop apologizing. Because the truth of the matter is that you do live there. And frankly, I know for myself when I go to someone’s house and I know that they haven’t run around to pick things up, it’s more welcoming because it’s more real.” (You heard it here! Woohoo!) Kate wishes people were easier on themselves. (I agree. I have some friends who I swear live in their basement because their first floor is like a model home. It’s unbelievable.) Kate recognizes the level of stress that accompanies that perfection and she is not interested in that type of lifestyle for herself. “Otherwise,” she admits, “[Designing is] just as fun as you would imagine.” (I’m so happy to hear that!) Kate enjoys learning about people and what people like, and trying to find things that make them happy. (How much better does it get? I’m a little jel. LOL.)
Kate is naturally kind of reserved and introverted, so she is quite proud that she’s even pursuing design in the first place. Beyond that, she’s learned a lot. She shares, “Sometimes when I hear myself talking I think, how do I know that? But I know it. I’ve learned it. That’s really exciting.” In addition to her comfort zone stretch, Kate had a feature in Country Living Magazine. (O..M..GEEE!!! It’s one of my favorite magazines and I’m not even a country girl!) She humbly refers to the feature as a “really fun moment”. (Again, O..M..GEEE! My head just exploded.) But equally important to her is the working relationships that she has developed with some really great companies. Kate says, “I never thought that they would even know who I am.” She’s worked with companies such as Rugs USA, Bemz, Casper, Boll and Branch and Lumber Liquidators, to name a few. Kate shares, “It’s been really fun, getting to know the people behind the companies.” In the beginning, it was Kate reaching out to them, but as time has gone on, the companies have begun to reach out to her. (Sweet!)
As with most “artists”, everything inspires Kate. Colors from nature, looking at magazines, shopping in stores….it comes from everywhere. She explains, “I want to know how [a client] wants a space to feel. That’s a big deal. I think everyone deserves to have a home that is whatever they need it to be. A refuge at the end of the day, a place to get them pumped up, whatever it is. So if I’m working with a client, it’s going to have to be their emotion about the space [that’s the driver]. But I get inspiration from everything.” She adds, “I think it’s all about energy. [Each designed space has] a very individual kind of feeling and I think your home should reflect that. Everyone needs a place to recharge and whatever recharging is for me may be different than what recharging is for you. It is fun to follow trends and be trendy and current for the moment, but then also to be true to yourself.”
Admittedly, Kate feels that she’s in a little bit of a creative slump. She explains that she, like the rest of us, are exposed to so much input from all kinds of places. She noticed that she was forgetting her own design aesthetic. She shares “Energy, right now to me, its really interesting. I’m realizing how important it is to create a space that supports the person, which is different from pretty. I don’t know how that’s going to evolve, but I think it’s so important. I think it’s something that maybe we forget.” She admits that it may be difficult to put a finger on but reiterates it’s importance. She’s now finding herself walking through her own house thinking, “I don’t like it.” She shares, “I was doing color and I need to go back. If I go back 20 years ago, or even further, I always had white curtains, white beds, white whatever. My colors: white, black, gray, neutral (like a tan). I need to go back.” She attributes her need for decor change to her need to change the energy of her home; how she wants to feel in her home. She also feels that people get hung up on buying things and thinks that everyone deserves a beautiful space. Not only the people that can spend tons of money on their houses. Everybody needs a beautiful space. She declares, “No matter who you are, or where you live, or how much your house is worth, or how much money you make. You get people to find ways [to make their home beautiful]. Is it paint on the wall? Is it arranging your furniture in a particular way? Frankly, I think it’s getting rid of a bunch of crap. I think we all have TOO MUCH STUFF. Way too much. It [creates] visual clutter and mental clutter and it exhausts us. That’s free! Just clean!” She wants people to know that no matter what, it isn’t just the people on Instagram, who are spending thousands of dollars on a pillow, that can actually have a pretty house.
Kate loves fancy houses where the dogs come in, and there’s paw prints on the floor but it’s beautiful anyway. Says Kate, “I want everyone to give themselves permission to live in their homes. Make it yours. [Don’t] apologize for it. [Don’t] ask permission. Do what feels good and what feels right for you. So whatever that may be, don’t apologize for your messy sinks. You live there. Make [your home] beautiful. Make it serve you. Your house should serve you.“
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