Designer Crush: Alison Pickart

1. How did you get your start in design? 

In college, I got a job at a fabric store where my best friend (now our Director of Procurement, Jennifer Latimer) was working as a bookkeeper. The owners had started taking on design clients and needed help managing the workload.  Because it was a small shop and a relatively new thing for them, they started sending me to clients homes to help photograph the spaces, measure rooms, furniture etc. I loved seeing the inside of all of these grand homes, listening to the homeowners talk and dream about the best version of their home and how they would like to live in the space.
 
I started reading everything I could get my hands on, to technically understand how to‘design’ and draw, self-teaching the basics of how to communicate through sketches and floorplan. This only fueled my desire to take on more responsibility with the projects I was sent on. That job gave me the first opportunity to see the design process from initial client meeting through to final installation…and I was hooked!
 
2. How does your knowledge of construction and architecture influence your approach and perspective?
 
When I consider the possibilities of building something new, I know that anything is possible with the right architectural detail accompanying the idea. When working with architects, engineers, and contractors, it is super important to be an effective communicator not only verbally but in written word and sketches…being able to lean on my architectural partners to translate ‘idea’ in to reality is one of my favorite things to do!
 
When I consider renovations or remodelsto existing spaces or structures, (and I put on my GC hat) I understand the composition of what already exists and (most often) the practical limitations of the structure. There is only so much time, money, manpower, etc…being able to‘deliver’ to the client who has entrusted you with their project has to be the priority that supersedes even the best creative ideas. One of the largest challenges is ‘reigning it in’ and sometimes designing to a specific program…when you have to create beauty and function within tight perameters, is when you are truly pushed to be the most creative!
 
3. What's your process for getting to know a client?
 
Listening.
 
4. Tell us about a particularly memorable project. 
 
In my 20s, I was working on a really fabulous penthouse in Chicago. I was so consumed by having the entire installation complete by the time the client arrived ‘home’, that when the electrician didn’t show to install the powder room sconces the morning of our turnover, our last detail, I decided that I would just install them myself. I had seen it done a million times, and really, how hard could it be? Needless to say, I missed the part where the electrician turns OFF the power at the box…and I sparked a small fire and took one heck of a shock to my system!! That was my hard learned lesson to always ‘trust your expert.’
 
5. How do you define "California style"?
 
Intentionally casual. We go to great lengths to design spaces that that feel innately human - keeping things stylistically ‘easy’ is a very California thing - natural materials, light neutrals, bare wood, mixed textures - having a well-curated look that spans periods creates a very ‘collected’ vibe that when mixed with the elements above, give an ‘elevated relaxed’ feeling…. and that’s just Northern California!
 
6. Which designers/architects have been most influential in your career and what about their work has inspired you most?
It’s a list!!
  • Bobby McAlpine
  • Tom Kundig
  • Alessandra Branca
  • Kelly Wearstler
  • Robert AM Stern
  • Victoria Hagaan
 
But my favorite…
Lee Ledbetter, (New Orleans based) who is an incredible architect, and a dear friend of my husband and I. A long time ago, we went to see him and his partner, Doug, at their home in New Orleans. It was this beautifully grand house in the French Quarter, exquisitely traditional in its architectural detailing; super high ceilings crowned with layers and layers of details. His furnishings were classically modern and filled with art collected throughout his and Doug’s careers. I remember being so inspired by what he had done at the time, blending the two ends of the design spectrum - in a way, seeing their space inspired a totally new approach to designing!
 
7. What's your dream vacation destination and why?
 
A big boat in clear blue waters.
 
Lightning round!
 
8. Best Halloween costume?
 
Lightning Bolt and Victim (my husband and I went as this last Halloween!).
 
9. First celebrity crush?
 
John Schneider from the Dukes of Hazzard. Oooooh boy! My six-year-old self couldn’t get enough…just ask my mom!  
 
10. Cookies and cream or key lime pie?
 
Key lime pie.
 
11. Rom-com or thriller?
 
Rom-com. Thrillers stress me out.
 
12. Selfies: yay or nay?
 
NAY! Unless you are a puppy. Then I’m in all day long.