There is no interior or furniture designer quite like Caitlin Wilson. Known for her use of color, she has put her own bold spin on traditional design like no one else has. In addition to designing homes, she also operates an online store as well as a brick-and-mortar boutique in Dallas, Texas. From sofas to dressers and lots of decor, Wilson’s look is fun and feminine, yet undeniably sophisticated. With more than 331000 followers on Instagram, it’s easy to understand why so many people are drawn to her unique aesthetic.
The designer recently announced her book, Return To Pretty would be available on April 18th, 2023. It features lots of gorgeous photos, decorating ideas, and inspiration. This book is guaranteed to get looked through and not just sit there on the coffee table.
I recently spoke with Wilson to learn how she become an interior designer, what it’s like to have such a defined style and so much more.
Amanda Lauren: What was your road to becoming an interior designer?
Caitlin Wilson: I went to college, studied abroad in Paris, and worked at a floral shop boutique. I just was so passionate about it. I loved working and so I just kind of got creative with my time outside of school. I worked a lot of different creative jobs and I always had in my mind that I wanted to actually have some type of store or, something in retail.
I worked for a few interior designers, but always really knew I had a passion for textiles. I continue to design but I also really liked the finishing touches.
Lauren: How did you end up opening up your store?
Wilson: We opened our first storefront in 2016 in San Francisco, but we actually opened our online store in 2011. It started as an online e-commerce business. My husband was actually in business school, and I was running the operation out of our little apartment in Philadelphia. It grew pretty quickly and took off, within the first few months, I was realizing that this was probably going to be more than I bargained for, but also more lucrative than I thought.
Lauren: How would you describe your signature aesthetic?
Wilson: Color has always been the foundation of my designs. And so I would say fearlessly feminine and traditional but with a twist. I think that most people recognize my work maybe because of my use of color. I think that’s really how I usually start the design process. And it’s definitely what drives my product line as well.
Lauren: What are some of the best ways to incorporate color into your space if you’re hesitant to go bold with it?
Wilson: I’m not afraid to commit to color personally. And I always say, “Well, if you’re going to do this project and hire me—why have something that everyone else is going to have?”
I think people are afraid to commit to something because it may be overwhelming for them. I think it’s just giving them the confidence that they can do it. And yes, they can repaint walls or switch out wallpaper. I tell people to live in the moment and bring that joie de vivre. Seize the day and live, live in the moment, and have fun with it.
Lauren: What do you think is the difference between the way French women decorate their homes versus the way American women do?
Wilson: I think that the French tend to be fearless when decorating, and Americans sometimes prefer to see someone else do something first to prove the concept. Or they think they can’t do it because of [certain] rules.
There are foundational principles when it comes to scale, but when it comes to decor, I think rules were meant to be broken. French women embody that spirit. Whether it’s combining different patterns into an outfit or combining an antique with something really bold and colorful in their homes. It’s not being too serious, but maintaining a certain sophistication.
Lauren: What are the best ways for the average person to discover their own style as opposed to copying what they see on social media?
Wilson: I definitely encourage people to find their own inspiration. And whether that’s something as simple as a flower that they love in the garden, or a fabric that they’ve picked. I think people struggle to find a theme or a concept without a designer or influencer. Finding your own style is about taking the time to go through and look at a lot of different things. And whether that means experimenting with them and trying it out, or, making mistake by buying a really horrible silhouette. I think it’s about not being impulsive, and not choosing those things on Amazon that for example are instant purchases.
We’re so used to this instantly accessible fashion. It’s unfortunate that this is becoming the way in the home space as well. I’d love to be able to give my customers great pieces in a flash, and we’re getting better at that.
Lauren: Are you saying you can’t rush the process?
Wilson: I think that the best thing you can do is just to give yourself that time to get to know yourself and to get to know your house. The best way you can find your style is by giving it time and investing in good quality, foundational pieces, but taking the time to really get inspired and to live with things.
Lauren: From a professional standpoint, what do you think are the biggest challenges of having such as specific aesthetic?
Wilson: There’s always the challenge of trying to convince someone that they’re gonna love a pink sofa in ten years. But at the end of the day, in this fast-fashion world that we live in, I highly doubt that someone’s going to have the same sofa for ten years. But I think, I think that really [well-designed] pieces will last, and you can always keep the silhouette and re-upholster it.
It’s a challenge to either commit to it or convince your customer to commit to it.
Lauren: Tell me about your book, Return To Pretty.
Wilson: I might be a millennial, technically, but I’m kind of an old soul or a purist in the sense that I’ve always loved magazines and print. And so the ultimate for a designer would be to have a book. So I’ve just always aspired to create one, to shoot one, and to write one.
It’s really a story kind of, of my journey and my process. And it’s a lot of just pretty photography, and pretty everything, because obviously, the name is Return To Pretty.
We go back to what is traditionally beautiful, what’s classical, what’s lovely, and what really feels warm, and inviting. There’s also the instructional side of it, where I offer a lot of very helpful, but simple, straightforward tools and tips and ideas for how to put things together and all the pretty elements of a home.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.