Fabric and Paint

The living room of this home in the Village of Skaneateles mixed antiques with colorful accents from nearby Mackenzie-Childs.

A whimsical fabric is all Katie Hess needs to inspire a new design. Her style is nestled in the details – grass-cloth walls, MacKenzie-Childs accents, an old chair or maybe a modern one, a bit of the old mixed in with new.

For nearly eight years, Hess has spent her time decorating and re-imagining homes across the United States. Today, she owns Belle Interior Designs in Skaneateles.

She’s reworked rooms in Boston, made over nooks and crannies in Nantucket, painted walls in Palm Springs, and spent a large part of her time designing locally in Skaneateles and throughout Central New York.

Discovering her decorative dexterity 

Hess has always had a knack for putting things together, she says. But it wasn’t until she decided to move back to the area and renovate an old home in Auburn that she really discovered what her own decorative talents could do for others.“I was looking for a two- or three-unit house that I thought I would rework,” she explains. “I ended up turning it into a bed-and-breakfast.”

Hess renovated the historic Auburn home at 10 Fitch Ave. for a year before opening it up to guests in 2005. Each suite shares some of her own design style mixed in with the old-world sophistication of the house.

Claw-foot soaking tubs or jacuzzi tubs are the centerpiece of every bathroom, along with vibrant colors, artwork and antique furniture. Deep reds, dark blues and pastel greens line the walls of each suite. Every room is different, yet offers a complementary feel to the rest of the home.

The little things

After a successful first year at the inn, Hess decided to try her hand at her own interior design business. She sold the inn and began Belle Interior Designs.

Today, she spends her time meeting with clients to help revamp their homes. While she frequently favors a more whimsical design, her work varies – from Ralph Lauren-inspired rooms to modern designs inside old homes.

“I love to use color, and I get excited when people are open to my creativity, but it really just depends on what they want,” she elaborates. “It’s the little things that inspire me, a bit of fabric, a pillow or piece of furniture.”

Some of her favorite rooms to design are bedrooms because of the comfort and coziness they emit. Every detail down to the bedding matters. It’s not solely about the design, but how the design makes you feel.

Recently, Hess redecorated three bedrooms in Skaneateles. She wanted to liven up each room and beget a playfulness to reflect the personality of the person in each one. Through fabric and color she created subtle design differences that tied each room together and set them each apart.

Bright pink plaid drapery and paisley bedding complement the soft green splashed along the walls of one bedroom. Another showcases a soft floral print fabric surrounded by ice-blue walls. Lavender and green round out the final room.

Love for Skaneateles

Regardless of the setting, Hess says she draws inspiration from anywhere. Her designs carry a part of the homeowner, too. She not only observes the home and the furniture, but also the people living there. She says that a homeowner’s sense of style is an important part of the design process.

Despite her love of bold colors, paint is the very last thing Hess sets her sights on. She works from fabric and then furniture, and finally adds a dash of color to complement the room. “There aren’t as many fabrics as there are paint colors,” she admits. “And it’s working out the little details that are often hardest.”

In Skaneateles, the architecture and style of each home varies. She has worked in newly built homes and some older ones, too. She says the variety makes the process interesting.

Her love of Central New York also makes the design process easy and enjoyable. “I’ve always loved it and this is home,” she says. “It’s easy to work in a place when you love where you live.”

For more information about Katie Hess and her business, visit belleinterior designs.com, call 315-730-4690 or e-mail Katie at katie@belleinteriordesigns.com.


by Sistina Giordano