podcast | May 6, 2024 |
Julie Hillman doesn’t want to create recognizable spaces

Growing up in Chicago, Julie Hillman dreamt of moving to New York and working in fashion. The dream came true: She went to Parsons and put in a decade at Liz Claiborne. But then it changed. When Hillman and her husband began building a house in the Hamptons, getting granular about the details—from molding and windows to doorknobs and floors—it sparked an interest in an entirely new industry. Eventually, after a parent from her daughter’s nursery school asked her to help design their apartment, the published project launched her next career. Along the way, she found that designing homes felt like less of an uphill battle than designing clothes: “I was finding much more success and ease in interiors than I was in fashion,” she tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast.

Now an AD100 regular, Hillman maintains a small firm in order to remain active in every design decision, from towel colors to napkin holders. Her process begins with the basics: She gets to know the clients, so by the end of a job she’s able to take more risks when accessorizing. “I always say, ‘If I’m not pushing you out of your comfort zone, I’m not doing my job. Otherwise, why have me?’” she explains. The designer uses original, collectible pieces in all of her spaces, and tries not to repeat items or ideas from project to project. “It’s boring for me [when they look the same]. I think that with many designers, they like that people walk into these rooms and they know this one did that, this one did that—they’re very recognizable,” she says. “I’m looking for the opposite.”

Elsewhere in the episode, Hillman talks about sourcing art, why the collectible design movement is just getting started, and finding inspiration for her ceramic exhibition at Ginori 1735.

Crucial insight: The designer discussed why she vets her clients not only for criteria like timing, but also for style and process. “You’re better off turning down something that is not a fit. [Otherwise] the right client will then possibly come around, and you won’t have time to focus on them because the client that is difficult takes over,” she says. “You’re just nervous. You’re worried about this, you’re worried about that. It’s better from the get-go to just really vet and get the right people.”

Key quote: “[You] shouldn't have a room that somebody can walk into and with one grand sweep [know], This is from here, this is from here, and this is from here. People should walk into your room, and it should feel beautiful, but they should be a little confused. They don’t know what is going on, and [are asking themselves] why it looks beautiful and what are all these pieces. [Clients] like that—that somebody’s going to come into their home, and they’re going to experience their home as interesting and different.”

This episode is sponsored by Four Hands. Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

The Thursday Show

BOH editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen and host Dennis Scully discuss the biggest news in the industry, including why Williams-Sonoma was fined by the Federal Trade Commission, the latest in the Cohen Brothers real estate saga, and what a noncompete ban could mean for the design world. Later, restaurateur Will Guidara joins to introduce his new book, Unreasonable Hospitality.

This episode is sponsored by Loloi and Annie Selke. Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

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