If you have an appreciation for locally designed and crafted furniture and home goods, then you must check out the work of Katy Skelton! This Savannah transplant recently moved out of Brooklyn after 5 years to start her own successful furniture design business. Guided by her background in interior design and product development, Katy strives to create beautiful, affordable furniture that is all made right here in America. We picked her brain about her inspiration, favorite designers, and plans and pieces for the future. I can't wait to step into her brick and mortar shop one day! Keep reading for the full interview:
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect when I was little. My uncle got me a CAD program when I was in middle school and I would draw very simple floor plans for fun. When I got to college I decided that I wanted to do something in the arts, but my parents convinced me that I needed a degree in a field that had more job opportunities, so I decided to pursue a degree in Advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. My intent was to be a creative director, but by the time I graduated, I was totally uninterested in advertising. Meanwhile, I had interned at an interior design firm during college, working as a muralist and design intern, so I started to become very interested in furniture and interior design.
Can you share a bit about the path you took to get to where you are now?
After college, IKEA was opening a store in Austin, so I worked there as an intern in their Interior Design/Visual Merchandising department. It was a really fun job and I learned a lot about retail merchandising. After the internship was over, I pursued jobs at furniture companies and ended up at Four Hands, which is a wholesale importer based in Austin. I started in their sales department with an eye on moving over to their product development department. I taught myself the software they were using and sent some design ideas to the product development team. At the same time, I let the merchandising team know that I was really interested in visual merchandising as well, so that fall they sent me to High Point market to help with merchandising. Shortly after I returned, they moved me to a full time product development and merchandising role. I spent two years in that role, and got to travel a ton domestically and internationally for trade shows and factory visits. I really enjoyed my job, but I was totally self-taught in my role as a furniture designer, and felt that I needed to go back to school for a better understanding of the technical and engineering side of design.
Ultimately, I knew that I wanted to start my own company, so I used my two years in graduate school at Savannah College of Art and Design as a springboard to start my business. My thesis was a mini-experiment in starting a company, and I even designed some furniture pieces that ended up in my current line. After graduating, I moved to New York where I worked retail jobs for about 8 months while finishing up my business plan and then finally started focusing on building my business in July of 2012. I grew the business by myself until May 2015, when I hired a part-time assistant, and then my husband came on board full-time in January 2016. We relocated to Savannah, Georgia (my husband's hometown and the city where we met) in April 2016 after almost 5 years in New York.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you stay inspired?
I find inspiration everywhere. I love to travel and that is a great way to stay inspired. When you run a design business like mine, you end up spending very little time actually designing furniture. Most days are spent working with clients or vendors, planning for future events (trade shows, product launches), keeping the accounting up to date, and making product for outgoing orders. It is hard to stay inspired when working at a computer all day, so I try to get out of the house to regain focus.
What do you aspire to for your future and what goals do you have for your business?
I eventually want a showroom or storefront, and planning for that is always in the back of my mind. I want to continue to grow the business and one day have my own factory so that we can keep as much of our production as possible in house. We are pursing several licensing agreements at the moment and that is a really fun thing for me because it gets me to design things that might not necessarily fit into my assortment.
If you had to hold onto only your three favorite creations that you made, what would they be?
I have an acrylic table that I designed for Four Hands that I really love, a chair that I built in graduate school that isn't perfect but I am very sentimental about it, and my Safari Bench. That one is a new introduction from this spring, but I really love how it came out.
What are three other pieces of art/home decor, brands or artists that you are currently admiring?
Kelly Wearstler - everything she does is so beautiful and thoughtful.
Jonathan Adler - I admire his use of whimsy and color. It is something that is hard for me and he does it so effortlessly.
Allied Maker- they are a small lighting company that is quickly growing and their craftsmanship and aesthetic are perfection.