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Profile: Beth Huntley talks about interiors
Charleston resident big on transitional elements

by Mark Smith

‘If you’re going to hire a designer — both of you have to be comfortable with each other.’ — Beth Huntley
Originally from Greenwood, S.C., Beth Huntley is an interior designer serving clients in and around Charleston, which she now calls home.

Her journey to becoming highly sought-after began with her fledgling interests in fashion design.

“I was very interested in fashion design,” she recalls. “But I knew if I was ever gonna go anywhere with it I’d probably have to go somewhere like New York on Los Angeles — and I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that.”

In her search to find answers, Huntley took a year off from school and made the move to L.A. “After spending a summer there I realized that it wasn’t for me.”

Later Huntley took a reception job with a design firm. “That was when I realized how much I liked that line of work. It was creative and visual and I could live where I wanted to.”

Huntley eventually snagged a degree in Fine Arts and Interior Design from Savannah College of Art and Design. Her experience during her last year of school would have an impact on her style that has stayed with her to this day.

“My last year in school I went to work for a small boutique firm,” Huntley recalls. “I worked as an assistant for awhile with a woman named Rene Brower. It was such a great experience — she had worked in stage and set design and was a very artistic and creative designer. Very different — she had a flair that other designers in Hilton Head didn’t have. I’m lucky to have been able to work with her.”

Eight years would pass before Huntley would leave the design company in Hilton Head to work for a building firm in Charleston.

Original designs by Beth Huntley.

At the behest of an enthusiastic client, Huntley started her own business in 1994.
She recalls the experience of owning a major design firm in Charleston with a mixture of bitter and sweet. “I had a business partner for awhile. I eventually bought her out three years later. I bought a building for the firm and I hired three employees. After awhile I realized I was working to pay the employees and not enjoying it anymore. In 2002 I decided I didn’t want a large firm, so I sold the building and ended up with just one employee on a part-time basis. Then I just started doing what I wanted to and taking projects I like. I’ve enjoyed the business so much more since I’m doing it that way now.”

Huntley points to the woman who insisted she start her own business as another pivotal influence on her career. “It was a fun project,” she recalls. “They were doing a Mediterranean style house, which was extremely different from everything else in this area. I was involved in every aspect of that design from trims and doorknobs to the furnishings.

Another project Huntley tackled lasted four years.

“It started in 1998 and we didn’t finish until 2002. It was a mammoth job and the client had an endless budget. I got to choose some incredible pieces, like really unique 17th and 18th Century French and Italian antiques. We got stuff from all over the place — Europe and all over the U.S.”

Huntley professes a fondness for incorporating as much diversity in her projects as possible.

“I love working with historic stuff to maintain the integrity,” she says, “and I like the diversity of being able to create. The Mediterranean house was very different from the work I did on the 17th and 18th century project. I’ve also done a very contemporary project. I think if you look at my portfolio you’ll see it’s very different for each client.”
That sensibility also translates over into her own personal sense of style.

“Transitional is my favorite,” she says enthusiastically. “I like old pieces with new things — it could be old tiles with new cabinetry. I really enjoy creating a warm and comfortable place.

If you’re thinking about hiring a designer to spruce up your digs — Huntley has a few words of advice.

“Most important — have a clear idea of what you want. The designer should help you pull some ideas out and determine how to put things together, however you can communicate your wishes to the designer through pictures in magazines and catalogues and letting them know right off the likes and dislikes that you have so you can start off clear about your goals.

“Make sure you have a clear contract that outlines their schedule and services. If you’re gonna hire somebody, you have to trust the designer. Let them have the power to create.”

info: www.bethhuntley.com

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