According to interior designer Pamela Harvey, every great designer has a combination of the universal principles of design and natural talent. In her Coastal Colors project in Sarasota, Florida, it’s clear she has both. With a blend of vibrant colors and patterns, Harvey transformed a seaside family home into a comfortable but eye-catching retreat.

How did you get started in the interior design business?

I was in the fashion industry for many years, and, as a self-taught designer, I had designed my own house. Friends were always asking me to help them with their homes. These projects seemed to get bigger and bigger, so I decided to make a career change and go back to school in my late thirties for interior design. My first paying client was a parent of one of my interior design classmates.

When did you decide to start your own firm? What is the basis of your firm’s style?

I think it was decided for me. After my classmate approached me to work with her parents, I continued to be offered jobs as I finished school. My style has evolved over the years, but it always follows function and allows my clients to live comfortably in a space they enjoy being in.

Photography by Bos Images

Have online platforms like Houzz and Pinterest influenced your work?

A lot of our clients will come to us having already set up a Pinterest page. If they don’t have one, we’ll ask them to send us anything they’ve seen online to draw inspiration from. A picture tells a story, and it’s very helpful for us. I’ve gone into clients’ homes where they thought they wanted this huge change, but people’s ideas of a big change vary—so, in those cases, getting to know their tastes online is important.

What was your inspiration for the Coastal Colors project?

The wife, Trish, told me that she spent almost two years looking for a designer who could really transform her house into the place she wanted it to be. I met with the clients several times before they eventually hired us, and the house needed about twenty years taken off of it. The inspiration came almost entirely from the clients’ personal style and the goals they had for their home.

Photography by Bos Images

How did you establish a color palette?

When we first entered the clients’ home, the living room was dark red and the dining room was dark gold, which made the whole house feel heavy. A lot of other designers were doing white and gray at the time, but my clients still wanted color. Typically, we go through a series of images and ask the clients to tell us rooms that they like—without overthinking them. A pattern for what they want starts to emerge, and we go from there.

There are a lot of patterns used in this project, especially in the living areas. How do you make a variety of patterns work cohesively in a space?

I have always had a flair for mixing patterns and colors, so I think this comes mostly innately. To me, there are two pieces to being a good designer: remembering what we learned in school and having a natural design sense. I grew up with the rule that you can have a stripe, a floral, and a solid, but, as I’ve worked, I’ve learned it’s more a matter of keeping undertones the same between mixed patterns.

Photography by Bos Images

I always look at the color wheel to see what will look good together and how I can make a space more interesting. I wouldn’t say I have a formula, but most people want to hire me because of my expertise at mixing patterns and colors and making it work. I was told recently that a lot of designers do everything online—they never touch or see the materials in real life. I like to set the designs up on a table and walk past them for a few days.

The raised stone sink in the bathroom is such an interesting piece. How do you go about selecting specific statement pieces for a project?

My client actually found the stone sink, and we had the cabinet custom-made for it. She wanted to update the bathroom from its original Old World look but wanted to incorporate the sink, so we worked with our cabinetmaker to achieve the finished product.

You used wallpaper in the bedrooms and bathrooms of this project. Is wallpaper making a resurgence in the design world?

Nothing transforms a room easier or faster than wallpaper. I sometimes love it as an accent to a whole room. In this home, the wallpaper in the powder room was the critical element. I wanted something that had the warm tones of the travertine but also looked modern. We enveloped the room in that one pattern and then had fabric made to match the paper.

What are your favorite places to source furniture and decor for your designs?

I never use only one vendor—I like to mix it up. But my go-to is Circa Lighting. I also use some small American-made companies for most of our furniture. A couple of favorites are Hickory Chair and Caracole.

Photography by Bos Images

Do art and accessories typically play a large role in your designs?

Typically, when we do the floor plan, all the major walls are called out with art. In the beginning of the design, I’ll specify the largest art pieces. In this project, it was the piece above the couch and the sculpture. This was a huge departure for the clients—they hadn’t owned any abstract art before, but I went with my gut feeling. That’s my philosophy when I can’t quite push a client over the edge. I just show up with the rest of the art and accessories. Most of my clients hire me for a 100 percent completed room—they don’t want to have to worry about what they’re missing. I always put in an allowance for those finishing items, play around with them, and style the room.

How do you determine when a project is finished?

My clients might think it’s finished before I do. I’m a perfectionist, so I’ll agonize over the details. Typically, when I photograph a project, it’s finished. I analyze those photos and make changes if necessary. But once I do the photo shoot, it’s done. That’s when I feel like it’s really beautiful—and I think the clients do, too.

What is your favorite part about designing people’s spaces?

I love the “big reveal”—that final moment when the clients walk in and see the finished project. We had an install in February 2020 where the client literally jumped up and down and said, “I can’t believe I live here!” She had gone through a few designers before us, so I took this as the highest compliment. It sounds corny, but seeing my clients so happy really makes me happy.

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