Shelly Gerritsma The Carolinas Equestrian One only has to glance at photos of her design projects to see the equestrian influences peeping out from strategically placed nooks and crannies.  But this North Carolina based creative infuses spaces with a more modern, eclectic, style, that speaks to a younger generation of horse lovers.

From her modern and whimsical collection of original wall coverings and fabrics, to her passion for midcentury inspired furnishings and design, Gerritsma is making a noticeable mark on the interior’s world.

How did you get started in Interior Design?

Shelly:  I changed my major several times in undergrad school.  My heart was set on something relating to horses, but my strengths were never in heavy math and medical sciences.  As a kid growing up, my love of art and drawing set me up for a future somewhat destined to be in the design world.  The only trouble was, horses are expensive, and I didn’t want to just be a starving artist; so, when I found out about interior design as a degree choice, it was a no-brainer for me.  It included all the things I love; science in terms of the architectural and technical side of design, and artistry in the decorative side.  And, most importantly it would lead me to a regular paycheck which would afford me the ability to keep horses as a part of my life.

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You attended design school at Colorado State University.  How did you end up in North Carolina?

Shelly:  After graduating from CSU, I landed a job at a small architectural firm in Denver.  Gaining some much-needed CAD experience, but not feeling very fulfilled, I took a position in Oregon at a commercial design firm.  The job gave me wonderful experience in the business side of running a project.  Although I was still years out from my dream of starting my own firm, it was the stepping stone needed to get me closer to that reality.  In 2014 after designing restaurants for nearly seven years, I fell into a group of layoffs.  Our industry had finally been hit at the tail end of the financial crisis.  At the time, I was living in Southern California, burnt out of restaurant design and ready for a change.  The layoff was ironically exactly what I needed.  California is expensive, and to continue rent payments I had to cash out my retirement.  After a few months of floating around feeling totally lost and sinking further into debt, I made the decision to sell my horse and pack up my apartment.  

As fate would have it, longtime friend and International Eventer, Whitney Weston, and her husband, Luke, who had been living in Southern Pines for a few years were ready to build their horse farm.  Whitney reached out to me, nervous about how to go about such a large project and hoping to elicit my design help for the new facility.  So, I packed up my car and dog Ollie, and drove across the country to start a new life.  Here I am three years later and couldn’t have imagined how amazing this journey would turn out.

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Aside from designing horse farms and homes, you also design home decor items?

Shelly:  While I absolutely love doing interiors, I really love creating illustrative prints that end up being fun, whimsical, statement pieces in interior spaces.  This outlet really allows me to express my love of all things equestrian.

Currently, I am playing with samples of additional items.  My goal is to finalize a niche line of decor that plays on the equestrian and canine themes.  The final line will include my wall coverings, tea towels, coffee mugs and novelty dishware, candles (which will be a dual effort with another company locally), window treatments, throw pillows, and canvas or framed art prints.  The entire line is meant to be niche and bespoke, but still affordable.

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Do you have a launch date we should look out for?

Shelly:  Yes! Keep your eyes open for products to be fully ready for the 2019 holiday season.

Shelly Gerritsma The Carolinas Equestrian 05 What are some design tips you could give to readers?

Shelly:  Unless you are showcasing a gallery wall with multiple pieces of art, a good rule of thumb is to hang artwork at eye level, or about 60 inches to the midpoint of the art piece.  The result will be a more aesthetically pleasing space and art will be more accessible for enjoying.

Organization is key.  If your home is not functioning the way you, as the client, need it to from day to day, life can be pretty frustrating.  I always design spaces for function first and then form. This is not to say that my designs lack decor or personality, but that they work in tandem.  Make sure to take stock of your belongings a couple of times each year.  A lot of us accumulate excess over time and forget to clear out items from our lives to make space.  For clients who have loads of nostalgic items stuffed in drawers, the garage, or closets, I like to take photos of the items and write down the memory or notes about each.  From there, the photos are compiled into a keepsake book.  The book serves as the memory keeper rather than the item(s).

Following trends is not always right for everyone.  Know that your personal style and taste is your own signature, and that is the most authentic design style of all.  I prefer eclectic, curated, spaces over ones that feel forced.

You can follow Shelly Gerritsma at www.canterlaneinteriors.com