Photo by Yumi Matsuo
Vanessa Katzen: Brooklyn Interior Designer
Vanessa Katzen is an in-demand and up-and-coming interior designer based in Williamsburg, as well as being mama to Jagger and step-mama to another three kiddos as part of a big, beautiful, blended family. We chatted to Vanessa about her design company, Decormate, how her business has been affected by Covid-19 and her advice (and super-affordable tips!) for giving your spaces a fresh look as we head into the winter.
Could you tell us a little about how you got started with your career? Has it been a linear journey?
It’s a funny story actually! At the time I lived on Broad Street in lower Manhattan, I was a stay-at-home mom to a 6-month-old and we were selling our apartment and moving to Tribeca. One of the realtors who was helping to sell our apartment fell in love with my style and asked if I would help her decorate her apartment in the West Village and it took off from there. I barely had any experience, but I’ve always loved interiors. My father, who is a mid-century furniture collector and art dealer always had an eye for interiors, so I grew up influenced by his passion. Being raised in Manhattan I was also always inspired by my surroundings. I would change my room around every season and my mom would let me! I had a jungle theme one month and hippie theme the next. That freedom of expression really stayed with me and I think brought me to where I am today.
Has having kids affected your career?
For the most part, it has not. I do not take on too many clients at once. This leaves me time to attend to my children and clients in a way that feels good on both ends (along with some loving help from family and friends). I like to give my clients as much personal attention as I can. My job is a very intimate one. People are letting me into their sacred spaces and I like to develop a friendship so they feel comfortable with the design choices “we” make as a team. Which is how my business name came to be: Decormate is your friend who helps you decorate.
Photo by Yumi Matsuo
How do you make your blended family work? Are there any rituals or practices that you would recommend to others?
When the love is there, anything can work! This is the main theme in our household. We are a family of six! Four amazing kids, my incredible love, Dean, and myself! At times it can get a bit hectic with everyone wanting to do different things, but we respect each other’s personal space, we make sure to communicate and sometimes we bicker, which is natural. As a step-family you need trust, consistency and safety. A good relationship with an ex is also very helpful for co-parenting. I remain friendly with mine and have built a friendship with his current partner and growing family, which allows us to celebrate occasions and even hang out as one big family. Again, the more love the better!
How has your business been impacted by Covid in 2020?
At first, my business came to a complete halt. I had a townhouse project in the West Village that I was very passionate about and my clients decided to halt it half way and move to the west coast. Everyone was in a panic and we didn’t know what would happen next. There was a long pause, but something good can always come out of every situation. I now offer e-design, which enables my clients to work with me in an interactive manner via video chat, which is perfect for social distancing. More than ever people are home and want their environment to look and feel good! Because everything is done online, I can work with clients regardless of where they are located.
How would you describe your interior design philosophy?
I love people and I love to help and this really comes through in my work. Also, I don’t believe it has to be expensive to look good. Style, in my opinion, is mixing high and low pieces. I can find something on the sidewalk, take it home and accessorize it and it will look just as chic as a store bought piece, except now it has a great story to go with it as well!
What makes you cringe when you walk into a space?
Clutter, clutter, clutter. As soon as I walk into a cluttered space I have the urge to move things around or eliminate them. No judgment, but I believe clutter hampers one’s ability to grow, creates anxiety, reduces one’s sleep and makes us less productive. I want to help each client feel good and that is my final objective.
What common mistakes do you see people making when we’re trying to improve our homes?
People usually think they need to spend a lot of money to improve their space. Sometimes I tell clients to take inventory of what they already have, to shop in their own space. It can just be as simple as rearranging, eliminating and swapping out a couple of pieces. Doing that can change the entire energy of a space.
How much control do your kids get over the design of their bedrooms?
Ha, not much, until recently! My 10-year-old stepdaughter is really growing into herself and discovering her personal style. She loves anime (Japanese animation). She has created a collage on her entire wall off of black and white anime posters. I have to say it’s original and inspirational to see and reminds me of my childhood experiences with decorating.
How often do you change or re-work your own spaces?
Actually quite a bit and have been doing it since I can remember. I like to refresh and change it up. It brings clarity and new perspectives on things. Moving one item can make a huge difference, creating more light or space in your home and your mind!
Photo by Yumi Matsuo
What are your favorite NYC interiors shopping recommendations?
I love boutique and vintage furniture stores. I currently live in Williamsburg where there are quite a few shops in my neighborhood that I love popping into on a regular basis. Leif on Grand Street, Mociun on Driggs Ave and The Somerset House on North 6th Street are amongst my favorites.
What are your favorite NYC interior spaces that always inspire you?
I always love experiencing hotels, whether it be a coffee in the lobby or a staycation. I find the Wythe Hotel, which is housed in a historic refurbished factory by the Brooklyn waterfront very inspiring. Also Tribeca’s Greenwich Hotel Shibui Spa. It’s a Japanese-inspired space surrounded by wood, water and stone elements. A great place to take a break and find inspiration in its simplicity.