A Creative Quarantine: Designer Caroline Beaulieu Plays Tastemaker to Help Us Shake off Our Lockdown
CB: I’ve always loved to draw. Ever since I could hold my first crayon. I was really into horses, you remember this I’m sure. I started by copying pictures that I saw in books. I wasn’t really big into tracing but I definitely started by observing photos, observing other people’s drawings and teaching myself through that. Do you remember Mr. Cicetti?
FM: Of course! He was only one of my favorite teachers of all time!
CB: He honest to God, Mr. C sparked my interest in art, in terms of learning about painters, techniques and artistic movements. He was definitely a huge influence as far back as Kindergarten.
It probably also started from an appreciation of beautiful things. I liked being able to create beautiful things.
FM: What’s your favorite thing to draw now?
CB: I like drawing people but I’m terrible at it. If I could draw one thing really well, it would definitely be people. They’re all different and if you’re drawing from life and you have to capture their essence in a matter of seconds. I went to design school, but I drew less when I was in college. Drawing as a designer and drawing as an artist are very different things. They’re both extremely valuable in their own right.
FM: What was it like in college pursuing such a rigorous art program?
CB: I definitely leaned into the school work and design work — I probably could have had way more fun in college. I did have a lot of fun, don’t worry. But it was stressful. Those five years truly changed how I think. It was a really formative time.
FM: Who are your artist crushes?
CB: My design education and career has made me appreciate gestural drawings; quick sketches with a few lines drawn in 30 seconds, but they get an idea across and they’re really beautiful in their own weird way. They’re really emotive — the fact that a designer can give such a personality and sense of movement to something so static is really fascinating to me. I love looking at that type of art. I’m really impressed by it.
FM: How can the common person be more artistic and what are some ways that we can all appreciate our own creativity?
CB: Really take the time to appreciate the things we look at every day, whether it’s a scene in nature, a detail of a plant, or the curvature of someone’s face. In school we were taught to do blind contour drawings. You place pen on paper and without looking at your paper, you try to draw what you’re looking at. It really forces you to take the time to observe it.
A lot of times our brains mask what we’re seeing. We draw what we know and not what we see. If I’m feeling in a creative rut, I’ll do a couple of blind contours and it gets me back in that mode of seeing and appreciating. I think that’s an important first step to tapping into your creativity.
FM: So, what is the JOB of an interior designer?
CB: There are a lot of misconceptions. Interior decorating focuses on the decorative elements that make a space beautiful and comfortable and functional. A lot of times you’ll see that in the context of residential design. That's very important and takes a lot of skill. But Interior design takes into account the architecture, basically designing every element from the structure of the building, inward. Every surface, finish, and fixture is created by the interior designer, and they try to make a space beautiful but also functional and safe.
There are rules that you have to follow and just general best practices for making sure everyone in a space will have the same experience. For example, if someone in a wheelchair comes into a space, they need to be able to perform all the same actions that a walking person would. They need to access all the same spaces and all the same surfaces. They should have the same experience.
FM: Can you tell us about some of your obstacles, past and present?
CB: I’m three years into my career and messing up every day learning new stuff every day. It’s definitely a learning curve I’m on. But that being said, there have been a lot of wins too. Seeing my first project built, getting to experience new roles within a project team, getting to wear new hats on a team…
One thing that’s hard for students who are going to design school to learn is that your personal aesthetic needs to be left at the door. Especially in retail design when your client is inherently a brand and has their own point of view, customer base, and brand ethos. That’s what I love about retail design; you have new clients all the time, so you’re having to put yourself in that headspace of who that customer is. For REI, maybe it’s a 34-year-old mountain man in Seattle. For Böhme, the clothing store I did in Salt Lake City, maybe it’s a Mormon 23-year-old mother of four. It’s so fun to play with those personas and really allow that to influence your design.
FM: What does your house look like?
CB: I really gravitate towards simple forms, natural tones and materials, anything that looks organic, warm and hand-crafted.
FM: How do city-scapes and architecture influence your work?
CB: For example, traveling is a huge influence. So when I spent 8 weeks in Southeast Asia, I observed the way they design their cities. Their lifestyle is so different from ours. Cities are just a reflection of the people who live in them.
FM: What do you do for fun?
Umm…Netflix? Haha. No, I love being out in nature as much as possible. It really grounds me, de-stresses me and ironically reminds me why I’m in design. I build the built environment — but I'm reminded how important the design and architecture and engineering industries are and how much of a responsibility we all have to create buildings that are more sustainable, more responsive to the environment. Buildings that are more responsive to people’s health.
We’ve seen so many changes this year, just as a response to COVID. It’s brought up a lot of interesting questions that we all should have been thinking about before. How is the design industry going to change? Can we use more materials that are inherently anti microbial? Can we find better ways of gathering people in a space? Can we find better ways of protecting the health of employees?
FM: What are strategies to make a space more functional and conducive to health and happiness?
CB: First, identify the problem you’re trying to solve and make it specific and simple. If you try to solve too many things at once it’s going to get muddied and your solution won’t be as affective.
Many people think of design as an art form, but it’s also a science. You go through a version of the scientific method and it’s called the design process. One thing that drew me to design is the marriage of right brain creativity and left brain logic.
My overall career projection and my goal with my design career is to do something that truly benefits humanity, whether that’s a more socially driven project or a more environmentally driven project.
I'm not surprised my brilliant friend is using design to solve the world's problems. Follow Caroline @carobeau.design to hire her to solve your design problems.