Building ‘The Collected Home’ with Juli Catlin

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As we approach Thanksgiving and reflect on all the blessings in our lives, one of those blessings in mine has been Juli Catlin. Last week we sat down and talked antiques, design, and collecting. Working with Juli is always inspiring, and indeed does not feel like work at all (we usually need to allot double the time for whatever project we are working on because we end up having so much fun). Juliana Catlin needs little introduction from me. Her name has become synonymous with The Women’s Board of Wolfson Children’s Hospital and the Art & Antiques Show.  Well-respected in the design world, Juli is known as a leader in her field both locally and nationally. I am always amazed at how Juli can transform an interior, whether modern or traditional. Her designs are timelessly elegant and yet bold and innovative. Style and comfort both play equal roles as she creates the perfect modern home. Whatever her clients’ tastes, Juli helps make their living spaces reflect them. As I have always said, her homes look “collected and not decorated.”  Whether it’s classic Georgian, a modern villa, or a chateau in Paris, Juli will help you build a home that is both beautiful and reflective of the person who resides there.

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Here is an excerpt from her bio:

‘As Principal of Catlin Design, Juliana Catlin has led her firm to over 30 years of design excellence. She has a degree from the University of Florida with a Bachelors of Design in Architecture.  Not only has Juliana won numerous awards and been featured in many national publications, she has been a leader on ethical and professional standards in the design profession and speaks nationally on visionary leadership.  Past National President and a Fellow Member of ASID, Juliana also served as the Inaugural Chair of the ASID Foundation Board.’

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You can learn more about Juli and her firm, Catlin Design, at their website. Be sure to catch our lecture on Dec 6 at 11:30 at the Art & Antiques Show, “British History Through Antiques: Blenheim Palace to Downton Abbey”. I personally want to thank Juli for making Jacksonville more beautiful, one design project at a time and for teaching us how to build “the collected home.” Without further ado…..Juli Catlin.

Juli, so many people want to start a collection of something, but don’t know how….maybe they are intimidated. Inkwells, tea caddies, paper weights, something…. What advice do you have for the person that wants to be a “collector” but doesn’t know where to start?

Collecting is best when it comes from something that just speaks to you. As a child, you have things you are drawn to, requiring nothing more than a love of the things.  It may have been Barbie dolls, rocks from a stream, or even stuffed animals that meant something to us. We need to allow ourselves the same deep reaction to something we are drawn to as an adult.  Many times collecting starts because we have a treasured item from a grandmother or uncle that gives us the beginning keepsake and we begin the hunt for similar things to add.  Or you can even be drawn to things for no reason other than it appeals to you or has wonderful memories for you. It usually starts small and the next thing you know you have found six or more of any type of item and really have the beginning of a collection. I enjoy the hunt and it gives a framework to a trip out-of-town or shopping with a friend. Collecting is a great way to give yourself permission to just like something because it speaks to you without needing approval or explanation – it can be very freeing and fun.

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How do you find out more about things you want to collect and jump into antiques without being afraid?

Antique dealers and appraisers are always a great resource of information and I always spend time asking them lots of questions about something I like. They have helped me immensely and even recommend sources or books to buy that can help you refine your search. Always ask where they found a piece you like and how did they determine its date or authenticity.  I love hearing the stories of how something was originally used or how it was found at an estate sale or auction house. The internet has also been such a help to learn more about the things we already own or see things we are drawn to.  Ebay is one of my favorite ways to learn. If you enjoy Antique Chinese Porcelain and want to learn more, just search about it and you will begin to get a basic feel for what you are drawn to.

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Will you share with me one of your favorite things to collect in your home?

Oh my goodness, it’s hard to think of a favorite since I am drawn to a ridiculous variety of things.  My collecting can get out of hand!  Since I love classical architecture, I love to collect miniature bronze buildings or monuments.   If visiting a town or city with a great building or cathedral, I try to find a miniature antique of the building I have visited.  Many a dusty shop has been searched in off the beaten paths to find a representation of the architecture of an area.  My husband is often glad when the hunt is over and the town can be further explored. I also have a love of glass art and unusual examples of art glass have always drawn me in.  It is a fascinating medium with amazing varieties.  Glass objects on a table always catch the light in beautiful ways and can add life to any room.

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Where did you first develop your love of antiques and collecting?

My mother was a huge influence on my career choice. She would always be changing the design of our home and we used to laugh that if we stood still she would reupholster us! She loved hunting for antiques and even as a young girl started collecting things she loved.  She taught me to be curious and to never be afraid to ask or learn about something before buying anything.  She was always dragging something into the light or asking where something came from.  By the time we left any shop we had learned many things, including where to have dinner that night.  She was quite a Southern character.

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Who or what has been one of the biggest influences on your style?

I love collecting older design books with Elsa DeWolfe, Sister Parrish and the later designers like Billy Baldwin.  Many great designers have changed our homes and how we live.  My favorite thing is to see a design book from 1930 and study rooms that with just a few changes would still be current today. Homes in traditional or contemporary style can have a classicism that protect your investment from being ‘of the moment’. Furnishings are too expensive to spend money on the hottest trend, so I enjoy seeing what was classic and how it could be updated today. A contemporary mid-century Eames chair can be as classic as a Georgian desk.

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Do you have a favorite period or style? I know you work with everything, but do you have a particular one that you love to draw from or incorporate?

I think I share your love of the cleaner pieces of the Edwardarian period or Directoire. Any period with cleaner lines is always my preference.  I am not overly drawn to items too heavy handed.  I find them harder to blend with the simpler way we all like to live today.

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Do you have a favorite piece in your home? If so, what is it?

My favorite things would be our art and hard to pick one piece.   My father is a very good watercolorist and I have a painting he did of an old church on Frederica Road. He painted it while my mother and he picnicked on a date and it is quite charming. It would be the first thing I grabbed in a fire.  I also have treasured pieces of art that I just wouldn’t want to part with in any future home.  The art is in many ways the heart of a home to me.  It is what always draws me into a room and keeps me interested in a space for a long time.  I always see new things in my paintings after years of living with them.

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 It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the whole “process”-buying a home, decorating, collecting-especially when you are just starting out, starting from scratch. What advice do you have for the young collector?

Start with a few key pieces, a good chest can be used in an entry now and a dining room at your next home.  Something that you will like for many years.  I think it is a good exercise to go look at new furniture before you shop for antiques. It gives you an idea of what prices are running for a good dining table or chest of drawers.  You can inspect the quality and see price ranges and then you know if the antique prices work for you. Homework pays off when you find a reasonable piece you love –  with antiques you have to be willing to decide fairly quickly to not lose the piece.  Come prepared with sizes of walls needing things, even measure the wall over your mantle if a mirror strikes your fancy. I am always surprised what good values antiques can be, as well as adding a sense of depth to your home.  It can be scary to form your home from found items and not rely on mass produced furniture.  A designer can be a big help and many accredited designers are available on an hourly basis to help you decide a game plan for your buying.  Often money very well spent to not pay for expensive mistakes.

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You have been a lifelong collector, and it reflects in your home, which is beautiful.  After all these years, is there any piece you are still on the hunt for? Anything in particular that you will be looking for at this year’s show?

Adding a few contemporary paintings is on my list of things I am interested in still collecting.  But the fun of the show to me is walking away with something I didn’t know I needed! Last year I bought a table that is now in my living room and I wasn’t looking for anything at all for my own home.  The best finds are surprises to me and my husband gave up years ago trying to figure out why we ‘need’ anything.

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Juli, you are known both locally and nationally as the best of the best. You have a reputation as the designer you seek to help incorporate your family’s collection into the modern home…….as well as the designer who will help you build that collection from the ground up. What’s the trick? I mean, not to give away too much of your lecture… but you make homes look collected, not decorated.  Any advice to our readers as to how to achieve the “Juli Catlin” look, that has become such a statement in our community?

I will have to read that question anytime I am having a bad day!  I truly believe good design is all about bringing forward the desires and style of the individuals as they daily live.  A designer should help lead you to finding your own sense of style and make your home or office comfortable and workable for a long time. I love making a special space for grandmother’s clock or a painting the couple bought on their honeymoon. Those things make up who we are and I get immense satisfaction from bringing those things forward into new and exciting spaces that still reflect a life well lived. So my advice would be to consider your home a map of your own journey with your own history. The myth is following a color or style trend that will never last very long. Clip your favorite things in magazines, on sites like Houzz or Pinterest and you will see your style coming through. Your home reflects what you love and a good designer just helps you edit your own story.

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