Christina Henck learned from a young age to break tradition. Her spaces reflect design thinking that’s unconventionally stunning and unique to each client while undeniably very Henck.
Q&A With Christina Henck
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Christina Henck: I got my start designing at a very early age. Both of my parents have always had great taste. When I was growing up, I went with them on day-long “antiquing” excursions through Southern Mississippi, where I was raised, and New Orleans’ famed Royal Street. I remember lots of crystal, old wood, and stories explaining what odd pieces and styles were from shop owners.
My mom grew up in Okinawa, Japan, and my dad’s background was in architecture, so our house was full of interesting one-of-a-kind items that people in a typical American household would not have combined. I think that really shaped me as a person and as a designer. I’m constantly trying to mix things that are unexpected and create contrast with opposing elements.
C: How would you describe your style?
CH: I’ve always been known for taking risks and using unexpected color stories. I feel comfortable breaking traditional color rules because I spent so much time in college working to understand color theory (shout-out to my color theory professor, Traci Stover) in my fine art studies and I really honed those skills in order to be able to do what I’m doing now.
I’m always trying to push the envelope with my design work when clients allow me to take risks. Purple velvet contemporary sofas? Yes, I’ve done that. Earthy green and deep blue mid-century modern interiors? Sure thing. Soft lavender mixed with delicate silver and antique brass details? Absolutely. It’s one of my favorite classic modern master bedrooms I’ve outfitted to date.
So, it’s hard to say what my design style really is, because I don’t frequently do the same thing twice. I am, however, always incorporating color in a new way and trying something that I’ve never done before in order to keep my creative inspiration flowing!
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
CH: My new ideas and inspiration usually come to me when I order samples to mix and match materials. Travel also inspires me and exposes me to new ideas to incorporate for clients. I always come back inspired when I return from High Point or Las Vegas markets. It’s important to me as a designer to never do the same thing twice. A lot of designers really pride themselves on having one specific look that they’re really good at and I totally get why. It’s just not me.
I’m always wanting to integrate a new idea like using animal hides, mixing unexpected prints together, or hanging big gallery walls for a dramatic effect. I think a lot of my motivation and inspiration comes from always wanting to create something new. If I created the same thing over and over again, I would’ve stopped what I’m doing a long time ago!
C: Favorite room in the house? Why?
CH: My favorite room in the house is the bedroom. I know that sounds super sexy because it is! The last few master bedrooms I designed, all three clients said to me I literally work from bed on my laptop. Now I know this is against all the rules that say electronics should be out of the bedroom, and Ariana Huffington would be very disappointed, but if I can create a space for a client where they can rest and get their work done in a comfy environment when they want to, I’ve done my job.
If the bedroom is large enough to where it can serve multiple purposes for them and have a second seating area for them to use and they never want to leave, then it becomes not only a place of refuge but a place of inspiration. That’s my goal, and I’ll leave it up to the client how they want to use the space in unexpected ways.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
CH: I recently completed a project at one of the most fabulous condo buildings in Philadelphia. One Riverside is a super luxury building in a historic neighborhood called Fitler Square. The building overlooks spectacular views of the adjacent Schuylkill River and surrounding city lights.
My client at One Riverside is a very cool bachelor who owns his business and has a huge bloodhound named FedEx! I designed a space to be mostly masculine with some traditional elements, while I also elevated that design style with some modern pieces and inspirations make it feel current and inspiring day-to-day. And you guessed it, the space is full of mixed motifs with an unexpected color story.
C: What is “good design” to you?
CH: Good design to me is holistic. Anyone who is reading this with a design background will immediately think of gestalt and the quote by famous Kurt Koffka who said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The gestalt theory basically explains that when I, for instance, create an interior for an entire home I should consider what the overall concept is before I break things down room-to-room and design each part of the home. “Good design” should be represented by the whole design, rather than by having attractive parts.
It’s really important that I work whole-to-part when I develop the design for a space. I need to develop the vision as an entire concept with the overall palette and different elements in mind for a project in the beginning. Things like textures, scale and the amount of light in the space are broad considerations that need to be worked out before I start making decisions that about more detailed items like paint color or specific tile or fabric selections.
C: Pack your bag, you’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it and why?
CH: I’m definitely going to the Eames house in Malibu. It’s a space that’s far more than a home. It represents one of the most important design movements in the last 100 years in architecture and design. The home is truly an architectural time capsule of mid-century motifs and there’s a real authenticity and magic around the spaces. Not to mention, it’s right off the beach in Malibu, one of the most beautiful oceanfront locations in the U.S.
There are two different spaces, and one is a workspace where Charles and Ray put together their design concepts and really got creative. It is absolutely my dream to live near the ocean and have a creative home that is from a different era. This space was lived in by an incredible couple who have proven to be two of the most influential people in modern-day design.
I had the chance of seeing this house in 2017 first hand and it really took me back to my childhood. It reminds me of my father in the most beautiful way and it reeks of nostalgia; it represents a simpler time. There is an intention in the design that you can sense with every detail in the home while remaining very much a cohesive whole. You can feel the love that Charles and Ray had for design upon encountering the home.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
CH: I’m originally from the south, so I believe hospitality is second to none. I absolutely love to have a group of friends rendezvous around a beautiful tablescape to discuss ideas and what’s going on in the world. It’s the best way to focus on the here and now. I’m always sneaking up on a guest to ask if they need another glass of champagne. Good stemware is not something that can be replaced and a beautiful table setting goes a long way!
C: Best advice for DIYers?
CH: My best advice to DIYers is Do. Your. Homework. If you didn’t go to design school and you’re trying to pull off an elaborate plan, make sure you’re working with the right materials and know what you’re getting into. DIYers have to educate themselves on anything process-oriented, and YouTube is there to help! If you’re painting make sure you know what kind of paint you need. If you’re building cabinetry, make sure you know what type of wood is best. If you’re renovating a bathroom, make sure you’re making selections that won’t date. You don’t want to go to all that trouble and have something become outdated two years after or have the wrong finish!
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
CH: The best advice I can give someone who wants to hire an interior designer is to really look at their portfolio. It’s just like when you want to get a new awesome tattoo or need someone in real estate to help sell your house. You’d better look at their portfolio. Interior designers run some of the most complex business models around, and we are some of the most knowledgeable creatures in our industry.
Keep in mind when you hire an interior designer you really hire someone with multiple skill sets. Interior designers know about interior landscaping; they know how to create construction documents; they know about building materials and are familiar with mechanical systems and even fire code. Not only do interior designers know how to make things functional but they understand how to make things beautiful.
Here are a few good Q’s to ask a potential interior designer for hire:
- How hands-on are you?
- Do you project manage?
- What sort of tradesmen are you in the habit of working with?
These are all questions that will give you insight on how educated the interior designer is and whether they’re used to being on the ground during the design process. That’s what you really want an interior designer – someone who’s going to show up, understand the moving parts, and be able to communicate with tradesmen who are executing the work.
C: How do you take your coffee?
CH: I drink my coffee strong with a splash of almond milk. And I drink it daily.