Passion for Color Is Key to Kelley Interior Design

L'Orangerie or sunroom at the 2012 DC Design House
Angie Seckinger
L'Orangerie or sunroom at the 2012 DC Design House

For Kelley Proxmire, more color is better – especially when designing a room. Her interior design company, Kelley Interior Design, prides itself on brightening up any space with a fun, yet classic, flare.

While always remaining true to her classic style and timelessness, Proxmire believes no room is ever fully dressed without a pop of color. Her L’Orangerie show room, featured in this year’s DC Design House in Spring Valley, is a testament to her holy grail of color hues.

The former ballroom turned intimate sunroom features long, tangerine colored drapes by Ellen Goodman that shade mirrored Palladian windows. Another highlight is the Manuel Canovas toile table skirt accented in an orange, gray and white pattern.

“When you look at that room, you’ll see some things are skirted. Some things are legs, some are soft, some are straight,” she said. “It’s a blending.”

The sophisticated sunroom is merely a prelude to the Bethesda designer’s extensive portfolio. A fixture in the DC metropolitan area for more than 20 years, Proxmire has a wealth of knowledge and accolades that showcase what she refers to as her “innate talent.” Most notably, Proxmire was inducted into the Washington Design Center’s Hall of Fame in 2009.

“I was so happy,” she said of her induction. “I think it was that I use the Design Center a lot, so the design makers probably saw my face too much. But I’m very flattered.”

Before the Hall of Fame honor, Proxmire said her experience working for fellow inductee Bob Waldron impelled her to design. “I started in the '80s,” she said. “I definitely had on-the-job training. Bob did say to me, ‘Some have it, some don’t. You do, so go.’ And I realized I had ‘it,’ and I’ve worked like a dog over the years.”

Today, if one cannot find Proxmire perusing patterns at the Washington Design Center, she is most likely tailoring her traditional style to set it apart from other designers.

“Everybody says that they’re timeless,” she said. “But I really do like to think that there’s some time-element involved that will be in style for a long time. I’d hate to do something and then have it outdated in five years.”

She chooses to avoid the trendy route by accentuating rooms with unique pieces of art or accessories. “I always like to have some funky pieces in the room, and by ‘funky’ I mean one-of-a-kind,” she said. “Either it’s antique or vintage or something different.”

Inspired by designers such as Billy Baldwin, David Easton and Mark Hampton, Proxmire said she is moved by new styles everyday. “I spend my time at the end of the day either online on blogs, looking at magazines or looking at my files of rooms that I love and I get inspired all over again. Almost every night is spent doing some sort of work.”

Merging her love of design with a strong work ethic and business-minded media team, Proxmire defines her projects as having a “tailored traditional” style that emphasizes three fundamental elements.

“When I look at a space, the first thing I think about is that it has to be practical, especially if I’m designing for a family,” she said. “It has to be pretty or handsome. And then, I want my rooms to look inviting.”

Whether armed with a customer's vision for a future room, a piece of furniture or simply a section of fabric, Proxmire said her designs reflect a cooperative and collaborative effort from both parties. “I think I have a range, and I think [my projects] reflect my clients unless they come to me and say, ‘I want your look.’ Fine, I can do that, too. But, it’s usually a blending.”

For potential clients, she suggests being prepared for the detailed road ahead. “Number one is choosing a designer and having a plan,” she said. “Look up all the websites and see if you know the designer. A lot of my clients are personal recommendations.”

For those choosing to design themselves, she urges the use of floor plans in order to coordinate between rooms. “In other words, if you’re going to have a design, then be systematic about that," she said.

As Proxmire’s calendar continues to fill up with more projects, her enthusiasm for interior design and long-standing relationships with clients serve as the driving forces behind her success.

“I’ve done 21 show houses in 11 years,” she said. “That’s sick, but that’s just because I love the design aspect and the free rein, and I can put it all together pretty quickly. Then to see it all come together, it’s just such fun.”

Although designing and managing a business are key to Proxmire, she believes trust is essential between designers and clients.

“Over the years, I think customers become more relaxed and more assured that we’ll do a good job for them,” she said. “Some of them just say, ‘I really don’t know about this, Kel.’ And I’m thinking it’s going to make the room. So, I just really have to try to sell it and say, ‘It’s going to be fabulous. Trust me.’”★

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Jul 12, 2012 at 4:41 PM Martin Lange

Excellent article! Loads of the designer's
ideas. Kelly Proxmire's got it going on
and the so does the author.of the article.
Excellent all the way around.

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