With over a decade of hospitality experience under her belt, designer Carolyn Rebuffel Flannery brings a thoughtful approach to each project she completes. At her namesake design firm, established in 2006, Carolyn believes that your home should be a retreat that provides you with a sense of ease and calm. After building a career as an antique store owner, buyer, and merchandiser, Carolyn transitioned to interior design, crafting practical yet beautiful interiors that reflect her clients’ unique lifestyles. As a mother of four, she understands the value of creating family-friendly spaces with durable, multi-functional furnishings. Her work highlights unconventional lighting, savvy design solutions, and a healthy mix of high and low pieces. In addition to designing artful interiors, Carolyn helms WorkRoom C, a textile company that offers fabric by the yard, pillows, drapery, and bespoke soft goods.
What is your background?
I have a degree in Art History from University of California at Santa Barbara and had ten years of experience as an antiques dealer before going into interior design.
How did you get into design? Have you always been aesthetically minded?
Yes, I’ve always been aesthetically-minded. That’s what first drew me to Art History. But, I think what most people don’t realize is that Art History is still history. I was drawn to the story behind each piece, the science that went into its creation, and the person and/or era that made it come to life. The same goes for antique dealing. When I decided that I wanted to go into interior design, I realized that both sides could be applied to my business. Good design includes understanding the overall aesthetic value of a space as well as the history, science, and numbers that go along with it.
How do you achieve a polished look without it seeming too precious and austere?
I think that layering textures is really important. I’m always playing with contrasts and adding unexpected details. This keeps things down to earth but as long as you’re mixing and matching the right pieces, it still looks pulled together.
If someone is working within a strict budget where do you encourage them to spend and save?
The first rule is to love everything that you bring into your home. If a client has totally fallen in love with a particular item, they should buy it. In the end, it will make them happy.
Other than that, I think a place to spend is on upholstered seating that you know will get a lot of wear. Consider it an investment (and you’ll save in the long run). Also, decorative lighting is another item to consider spending a bit more on. It’s the jewelry of the home, while at the same time, a necessary, functional element.
Do you have a signature that finds its way into every project?
Any chance I get, I’ll include a velvet-upholstered sofa into a living room or entry hall. They’re just so elegant! I also love combining quirky and eclectic fabrics. When I started my bespoke textile line, Workroom C, I had a blast just pairing this pattern with that and discovering all of the different color matches. Speaking of color, I usually add a bit of navy blue into my projects. Oh, and as a one-time antiques dealer, I can never resist bringing in vintage or antique pieces.
Is there a current trend that you think will endure?
Mixing patterns has become totally acceptable (and even preferred) in the world of design. I don’t see that going away anytime soon. Navy blue is a trending color and is often being used as a neutral in projects. I really hope to see that trend continue.
Do you tend to have tried-and-true favorites that find themselves into every job?
Repurposing pieces with a new coat of paint is something that I do a lot. I also think that a fluffy rug will always make happy feet. Sectional sofas are great for families. I love incorporating them into common areas so that everyone can sit together.
What is your favorite recent project and what made it so special?
I just finished a remodel that included a new kitchen, three new bathrooms, moving walls, replacing windows and doors and the client was very brave and spirited with her selections, especially with tile. Usually, I coax people to be a little bit more avant-garde but this client was way ahead of me and a dream to collaborate with to create some unusual and distinctive designs.
Do you have a fantasy project?
Don’t we all? I would love to build a family compound on a big property already populated with beautiful oak trees, somewhere in central California, complete with pool, teepees, tent cabins, ping pong tables, a library and a huge kitchen where everyone can gather, relax and play together.
What are your favorite pieces on Previously Owned by a Gay Man and how would you use them in a project?
This fixture over a dining table or in a breakfast nook is such a wonderful conversation piece and will always keep the mood fun, flowing and interesting.
This is a really unique piece and at such a great price. The mirror would really open up a space, making it feel more expansive. I would use it as a landing spot in a small entryway, adding storage, ample space to drop keys and mail, and a bit of sexy bling with the mirrors.
This Surya rug is really affordable and would add a wonderful base in a dining room, set underneath a dark walnut dining table.
These outdoor chaise lounges would make any poolside patio the grooviest spot in the neighborhood. I would add some white planters with succulents and white side tables to create a Palm Springs vibe.
Learn more about Carolyn Rebuffel Flannery and Workroom C.