Austin, in New York

AUSTIN A.VARNER is the principal interior designer of VARNER INTERIORS in New York City. Austin founded her design firm last summer after three years of working with venerable New York designer Alexa Hampton.

Since then Austin has overseen diverse projects on both coasts and along the Mississippi with great success. Her philosophy is simple: best of class and that doesn’t have to involve huge amounts of money. It does mean that Austin feels that the interior spaces she designs are better when she focuses on quality over quantity with a heavy emphasis on the signature details that she feels are the soul of a room.

I’ve got to say, there’s just something about Austin…she’s not a household name yet, but I’m certain she will be and it seems that I’m not alone in my theory. Austin was recently featured in House Beautiful, so timing couldn’t be better and I’m thrilled to share my one-on-one with her. I found Austin candid, charming, clearly in control and prepared for an exciting future.

Austin, you trained with Alexa Hampton, who has such a storied design legacy, what valuable lessons did you learn while working for her?
Alexa Hampton is such a talented designer. Her work exudes confidence and is always very “her”. I think every designer’s goal should be to create a look that is all their own and is recognizable as such, and Alexa has certainly achieved that many times over.

Which style and design innovators have most influenced your work?
Axel Vervoordt, Albert Hadley, and Mariette Himes Gomez. These designers have defined what I see as ultimate, timeless style. I’m constantly referencing their books when working with my own clients.

How difficult was your decision to start your own design firm?
It was actually quite an easy decision. I had been working at Mark Hampton for 3 years, and I came to the realization that I could do this on my own. When you have a clear vision of what you want your style to be, you should go for it.

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting Varner Interiors?
It’s always intimidating to go out on your own. When you work at a firm, you have others to bounce ideas off of and you have someone to check your work, but when you work on your own, it’s all on you. You are responsible for so much more and you have to rely completely on your own style and knowledge.

What’s the best part of being on your own?
The best part of going out on your own is also the most intimidating. I love seeing my visions come to life and knowing that I have created a space completely on my own. It’s also very gratifying to know that you’re able to take a client’s likes and dislikes and create a space they truly love.

What would be a dream collaboration for you?
I would have to say fashion designer Michael Kors. I love absolutely everything he does and I would love to create a room with him. As you know, fashion and interior design are alike in so many ways, but they are their own arts at the same time. I think when the two are combined, it’s perfection.

Any tips for people wanting to start their own business?
Be patient, stay focused and be consistent. Starting your own business is not something that happens overnight, but with the right mindset and motivation, it can be a wonderful thing.

Describe a typical day at Varner Interiors.
The D & D building in New York City is my second home. I am constantly going to shop for new fabrics for my clients and to get inspiration for unexpected color combinations, as well as new textures. I think the best way to get inspired is to surround yourself with the materials to do so.

It sounds like you are constantly on-the-go, so how do you create balance in your life?
Yolanda, I think organization is the key to balance. When you are in a creative field, it’s so easy to get absorbed into one specific aspect of your job, so I try my best to plan each day to insure that I am as productive as possible, without stifling my creativity.


Describe your design style.
My design style is streamlined, yet interesting. I love a solid color palette mixed with whimsical and architectural shapes and forms. Decorative objects and architectural fragments are a real love of mine, as they add so much depth and intrigue to a space. If I have a wonderfully shaped chair, I don’t want to distract someone’s eye from its form by using a large patterned fabric. Instead I want to use the fabric to emphasize the shape and let it speak for itself.

How much does your personal style influence your creative work?
My personal style greatly influences my creative work. I love fashion, but I’m a big believer in only wearing what works best on you. There are some fashion trends that I’m not interested in wearing, even if they are “in style”. The same goes for interior design; if you love color, let that be your focus. If you don’t, then choose something else. There is no need to force yourself into a particular design concept just because it’s considered “chic”. One should only live in what they love and believe, to exhibit their homes best qualities.

Tell us about one unforgettable place you’ve traveled too.
Greece. It is by far my favorite place in the world, not only for vacations, but for inspiration as well. There is no color scheme more breathtaking or effective as that of Greece.

One word…

Asked to write your memoirs, what would the title be?
Austin Varner: Intentional Whimsy

Interviewed June 2012 by Yolanda, editor of Zavvi Rodaine.
Photos © 2012 Varner Interiors, Inc
© Zavvi Rodaine.com 2012. No part of this interview may be used or reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the Editor of Zavvi Rodaine.com.

Design, Life + Style 1 Comment

One Response to “Austin, in New York

  1. 1
    Camille Mueller says:
    July 2, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I have known Austin all of her life and can say without hesitation that ‘what you see (and read) is what you get’ with her! She had incredible style and intentional whimsy even as a child! Way to go, Austin