From journalism major to interior designer, Caitlin Murray from Black Lacquer Design believes that the little details make all the difference. She tells me about her design philosophies and firm from her studio in Los Angeles.

Q:  When and why did you start your company?

CM:  I started Black Lacquer Design at the end of 2014. I previously had a company with a business partner but we parted ways. So, I re-established myself. I named it Black Lacquer Design get away from using my own name. It was all kind of random and it happened very, very fast! I had some clients that came with me and then things just really took off a lot more quickly than I had anticipated.

Q:  What is the story behind the choice of name?

CM:  I was trying to figure out a way to disassociate myself from my brand. I wanted something that was a little different and I wanted something that evokes the visual. I liked the way the words sounded together and the idea of black lacquer in general: it’s classic, it doesn’t really go out of style and I often use it in projects as a finish.

Q:   How would you describe your own personal style?

CM:   I’m Pisces and apparently that means that I take on the character of all of the different signs of the Zodiac. I think that’s a good way to sum up my personal taste because I really do appreciate a lot of different styles and eras. For me, it’s about having an eclectic mix that has this inherent artistic balance to it. I have the tendency to mix modern with vintage and to incorporate a lot of color. And everything that I do has a little bit of glamour to it and a touch of femininity.

Q:  You love to use strong color.  How important do you think color is in interior design?

CM:  To me, it feels really exciting and rich.  I see things that excite me in color. I have this condition calls synaesthesia and it kind of translates to the mixing of the senses. I perceive a color for every letter and every number and I perceive color with emotions and with people’s personalities. So, color has a deeper meaning for me that’s soulful and packed with like meaning. I think that’s why I gravitate towards a color. I also have a really good sense of tone and hue and I can differentiate tiny nuances which is a great skill, so I like to play with it.

Q:  I’m curious to know what your own place looks like.

CM:  It is pretty colorful!  When I moved into my house I didn’t want to do any major renovations yet. The kitchen has black granite and I wanted to distract from it so I went for something super poppy. So, I did the kitchen cabinets in Florida Keys Blue by Benjamin Moore, which makes it really fun. Then I have rooms that are black, with subtle seafoam green and forest green accents. My bedroom is a deep blue-green color. I like to play with color but I think it’s important when you walk through a house that there’s a common narrative while every space still has its own identity.

Q:   Your site also speaks of the importance of investing in your interior.  Why is that important and which pieces do you think are key to building that investment?

CM:  I believe that it’s important to invest in your interior the same way that you would invest in your wardrobe or your skin care or anything that is going to affect how you see yourself and how you want the world to see you. It has a direct effect on your sense of self-worth and your happiness. It’s hugely important to build a sanctuary and to have a place in which to recharge that’s inspiring.  

I like to approach projects holistically because I think it’s like composing a song: every note is important.

- Caitlin Murray


And if you change one then it affects the rest. If you have a budget, it’s better to try to maximise it rather than spend all of it or most of it on one or two pieces. You don’t want to not have money for accessories and art because that’s really the heart and soul of a space.

Q:  You also refer to yourself as object obsessed. Which of your own objects are your favorites?

CM: I love vintage brass pieces that I come across. It’s crazy because you can get them for so little compared to what the actual material costs now. Those are my favorite. I also collect vintage portraits of women which are fascinating because you never really know what the story is. Building collections like that are really fun especially if you display them in a gallery wall.

Q:  Do you have a favorite project?

CM: They’re all so completely different. But the one that has gotten the most accolades is the Hollywood Hills project. It has tons of color which is I think the reason why it was so successful. The client gave me carte blanch and we got the best result because he trusted in the process and people can see that. When you’re able to execute your vision as a designer, it creates the best result.

Q:   What would you say differentiates you as an interior designer?

CM:  I bring a lot of authenticity to my work and in my approach to clients. I don’t think that anything should be precious, but at the same time I appreciate high style and I see the value in spending the money on very artful special things. I approach everything as a whole. Details are so important, not just in interior design but also in the way that you word your emails and the way you talk to clients. There’s so much psychology and it’s really about me wanting to provide this experience that’s satisfying for everyone involved. I approach work as an extension of life in that way because it’s such a personal thing to be going into someone’s home.

Q:  What does your ideal client look like?

CM:   It’s usually young families in their 30s or 40s. They tend to come from creative backgrounds. They have their own style already and they’re artistically inclined. A lot of them work in entertainment or in fashion it’s a much more efficient and rewarding for everyone because you’re not spending your time trying to sell your ideas to make it happen.

Q:  What do you love most about interior design?

CM:  I really love curating. It’s so rewarding to hunt for and collect these things and have that satisfaction of everything just working together in a way that’s really impossible to explain why it works. I think that’s the art and the magic in it.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.