Interior Divine: The Styles of Josette Kark

With evolving design styles—not to mention lifestyles—it can be difficult to put your house together in a way that artfully represents you while maintaining comfortable livability.

Photos by Julie Botos
Additional photos provided by Mat Green, Mat-N-Suzie Photography

With evolving design styles—not to mention lifestyles—it can be difficult to put your house together in a way that artfully represents you while maintaining comfortable livability.

For the past 25 years, interior designer Josette Kark has been creating everything from top-to-bottom home designs to smaller room refreshes for clients around the country. Her bread and butter is the design and merchandising of Schumacher Homes’ model homes. The award-winning national homebuilder relies on Kark for her passion and vision.

“Interior design is my life, my passion and my hobby. I just love doing it,” she said of working with clients. “The most rewarding thing is to see the smile on a client’s face when they love it. That’s what I absolutely love.”

Kark studied at the New York School of Interior Design and has developed a unique style that is recognizable in her residential and commercial designs. It is her belief that clients should have the interior of their dreams—and that means more than just fabrics and paint colors.

“When I first started out, I did the legwork, working at J.L. Goodman Furniture. I got to know all about furniture construction and upholstery in a hands-on way,” she said.

She has applied that hands-on philosophy throughout her career, never staying behind her desk. Her installations take days of nonstop, manual work, moving and tweaking furniture, working with contractors and running around.

“When it all comes together during the install, you get in a trance, pure momentum. You step back and tweak things to ensure everything works together,” Kark said.

She also has learned the biggest key to success in designing home interiors: reading people.

“You have to go into a client’s home and read them. You can’t influx your personal taste; it has to be their taste. But at the same time, you have to push them a little bit, just out of their comfort zone.”

THE DESIGN PROCESS

Kark’s clients find her in a number of ways: through referrals, from walking through model homes, from her website (josettekark.com).

“They come to me wanting a style, but they don’t know how to put it together. They don’t know what to do.”

And while there are many howtos and ideas—even full design schemes—available online these days, seeing and actually doing are two different things. There is a method to the madness of putting together an eclectic assembly of furniture, accessories, fabric and art, and having it look organic. Especially when integrating new styles with existing elements in your home.

“You want to take an old French armoire of your mother’s, but add a very contemporary sofa and a mirrored table, a little bit of the old and the new. But you have to know how to do it. It’s an art that takes fine-tuning to make it work in a room together. Otherwise it looks like you just didn’t want to get rid of an old armoire,” Kark explained of one recent project.

She describes clients who don’t know quite how to ask for what they want.

“ ‘I want casual and sophisticated, but with glitz.’ They’re all over the place. I look at the lifestyle. How are you going to use the room? Is it just for show, or are you going to be watching TV in there with the kids? That dictates fabric and accessories because I have to make sure it’s going to hold up and last for them.”

GETTING TO WORK

Depending on the project, the work can become all encompassing. After meeting with the client, she begins to develop a vision for the space—and it sometimes extends to construction. She describes jobs where she has sat down with the builders and architects, working to represent the client and his interests in everything from the size of the laundry room, to the amount of natural light, and whether there will be space for the bed.

“I’ve gone into remodels with architectural layouts of rooms, knocking out walls. Asking where should the refrigerator go? Where can we curve in an island? I work closely with architects.”

She then works with subcontractors such as Hartville Cabinet and Design, Paul Perduk, a faux-finish painter, J-Bar Custom Drapery and Copley Upholstering in Medina, to name a few.

Beyond the work to the house or room itself, she also is a skilled merchandiser, with direct access to Lexington and Marge Carson Furniture, Drexel Heritage, Artistica Home Furnishings, the John Richard collection and others. She goes to market twice a year with blueprints in hand.

“When I buy artwork or lamps or furniture, I always have specific people in mind. I have had clients for over 25 years that keep coming back, getting little face-lifts.“

With the merchandising—adding furniture, art, accessories, décor and lamps—voila, the room is created.

“It’s a God-given talent. He blessed me with this artistic vision, talent and taste. It’s an exciting career. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

TIPS FOR HOMEOWNERS

INSPIRATION. Start by getting magazines and tearing out pages of things you like.

GO ONLINE. Use Pinterest in place of magazines to create a board of things you like. Also check out Houzz.com. You can search millions of photos of room designs and look for products and save files to share.

SHOW AND TELL. The more you can show your designer, the more she can get a sense for where your tastes lie and what you would like your space to do for you.

DON’T BE AFRAID. Kark said clients sometimes fear she will “take over their whole life.” Remember: She’s there to create your vision and put it together in a professional manner.

TIME’S UP. How often should you redesign? Kark recommends every five to eight years. Trends will change drastically in that time, things wear out and start looking haggard.

FACE-LIFT. Sometimes you just need a room “face-lift” instead of a total redesign. New paint, new pillows. By using neutral palettes, you need only to update the accessories, art and draperies.

BIG SPEND? Kark says that budgets vary, and she can select pieces based on the budget, but at the end of the day the old adage is true: You get what you pay for in a remodel.

TOPS TRENDS
  • Interior design trends are skewing contemporary and very eclectic.
  • Start your design palette with clean lines and soft neutrals and grays—especially taupy grays—and white trim.
  • Add bold pops of color with darker-colored feature walls and add in artwork, pillows, chairs and other accessories.
  • Hot colors now include baked clay, turquoise, violets, amethysts and fuchsias, and chartreuse green. Some clients still prefer a Tuscan look with rich lattes and golds.
  • Last year, sapphire and marine blue were popular, but blues largely are relegated to the Eastern Seaboard.
  • Jewel tones are no longer in vogue—no burgundy or hunter.
  • Seek furniture with simple lines, big Chesterfield arms.
  • Lots of sparkle and glitz in fabrics. Large Venetian mirrors, mirrored accessories and mercury glass are being snapped up now.
  • Draperies are sheer and simple, with many turning to blinds.