“The best designs are not designed,” confesses Erin Martin. The St. Helena-based interior designer not only resembles a young, blonde haired Diane Keaton, but she’s helped Keaton with her design book House. Erin has also adorned the home of Robert Redford, and recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of Trinchero Napa Valley’s tasting room.
The eccentric 44-year old—who has been tapped for the upcoming Four Season’s in Napa Valley—doesn’t conform to rules. She points out that if she followed guidelines she’d be Martha Stewart. Instead Erin lives by mantras including “everything works out,” “it’s never done,” and “don’t think.”
Inside the Trinchero’s private dining room, for instance, she went off-script and left the concrete ceiling unfinished. The carnal space—envision a darkly lit dining room, replete with chains, and a 25-person walnut-dining table in the shape of a lady’s legs—also features a floor-to-ceiling wall of candles that have dripped wax over time. “Let things unfold,” Erin tells us as well as eight more non-rules to creating a space that’s full of soul.
Do your thing
I’ve sat on many panels with other designers, and they’ll say, “clients who have something that I hate, I convince them that they cannot use it.” That breaks my heart, because I cannot create nostalgia. Create your story, and be nostalgic.
Don’t be afraid of your possessions
You know people with big, crazy pieces of art, and they’re like, “don’t touch it!” “where are the kids?’” I say, “ego is not your amigo.” I think I’ve been an instrument in people’s lives to let go of precious feeling. The only thing in life that’s precious is life.
Try something different
If you’re repeating yourself you’re stuck. With every project I’m learning and growing. It should always be like that.
Splurge on antiques, or things that are collectible
It’s an investment—you’re looking at something that’s going to gain value. But, don’t buy it because of that; buy it because you love it.
Spend on items you come in contact with
I’m a tactile person. The things we come in contact with is what’s important to me. If it feels good, if it looks good, smells good, hopefully it will be good.
Every room doesn’t have to be the same. There are no rules.
Focus on the positive
A lot of people show you everything they hate or tell you everything they hate, or everything that’s wrong. I tell my clients to tell me what they love.
Show what you’re proud of
On how to incorporate family heirlooms in a design. Be creative, but not clever. Clever is gross. And so is ambition. Instead of replicating something from a DIY show, create something that’s meaningful to you.