How Interiors Tell Colin King's Story
Creating simple, minimalistic, and inspiring spaces are one of the many things that Colin King does best. We chatted with the New York City-based stylist and designer about how his style has changed throughout the years, how he landed his dream career, and the upcoming product line he has coming out in 2020.
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You are an interior stylist and designer. Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are in your career.
It wasn’t linear. I always liked the design but I didn’t think that I could become a designer. I pursued numerous careers before landing on this one. Looking back, I had no idea where I was going but I can see that all roads led me to exactly where I am which is exactly where I am supposed to be. From classical dancer to personal trainer, estate manager to social media strategist, I learned that it wasn’t about finding the perfect career - it was about finding a career that I liked enough to stick with through the fun parts and not run during the more challenging aspects. Little did I know, I was developing a tool that no one else has and no one else can take away from me - my eye. The key is to stay open and stay persistent in finding work that makes you lose track of time and feel alive. It’s like that Amy Hempel's quote that says, “There is no such thing as luck; luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
And at the end of the day, I get to tell stories for a living and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I get to connect with people and help create a context for the intimate rituals of peoples’ lives. There is a sense of delicacy and sensitivity that has been birthed from working with many personalities and in many different arenas which I hope comes across in the work I produce. Adding in the constant photoshoots and styling, I also get to surrender to the subjectivity of what I do and knowing that the narrative I’ve created will be interpreted differently by each viewer - it challenges me to be vulnerable in a way - it’s all part of being a creative - and I feel grateful to be able to make a living by being creative.
The spaces you design are sophisticated and minimalistic. Did your style change throughout the years to land where it is now?
Of course, it did! I grew up on a dairy farm in Ohio. I love rustic barns, equestrian culture, and highway diners. Being thrown into these spaces to style and designing for somebody else, it’s good because I am forced to think differently. My style comes from a huge range of things that I’ve absorbed and is constantly evolving. I am always pushing the learning process by taking on challenging jobs that put me in discomfort. I learn something new on every shoot. And if I’m coasting, I am going downhill. I guess my approach has changed - ultimately, it’s not about me - my job is to make the space the best version of itself.
You live in New York City! How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to take myself on a least one artist date a week. I venture alone to museums and galleries, neighborhoods and artists studios; I try to go one place I’ve never been before each week to stay curious and keep my eye fresh. I also love taking photographs of everything, all day, every day. I suppose it’s a mixture of note-taking and record-keeping. My iPhone is a tool for both ideation and communication.
What are 3 things that can instantly polish off a space?
A rug, art, and lighting.
What is a project that you are most proud of?
I’m most proud of the T Magazine story I produced on artist Jack Ceglic and his partner Manuel Fernandez-Casteleiro (see here). A mutual friend had brought me to Jack and Manuel’s East Hampton home for a dinner party one evening and I was floored by the dramatically austere interiors. Everything was strictly controlled and followed zero residential cliches. Even the wall switches are very low, 28 inches from the ground, lest they distract his eye.
It was the first interior I had been in where I immediately wanted to share the experience I was having and asked myself the question: how can I share this space with the most amount of people as possible? With some polite persistence, I took scouting shots on my iPhone, pitched them to T Magazine’s Tom Delavan, went out to shoot the house with a crew and a few months later was reading the story on the pages of the magazine. Finding a home that felt so unique to its owners and making sure the story was told was a surreal experience from inception to execution and the project I am most proud of.
What are a few tips you’d give someone who wants to elevate their space but doesn’t know where to start?
I would start by pairing away everything to a state of emptiness. With a simplistic and functional approach, there is a serenity that can be found where the selected pieces become the main feature. A room should arrive at a point where adding or subtracting anything would ruin the overall design.
What is a favorite space in your own home?
People constantly ask me what my own home is like. The notion that I have an insane storage unit or prop closet isn’t the case. I live simply, it starts with knowing what not to do and recognizing what to leave out. My living room is my favorite space. With lots of natural light and low slung minimal furniture, it gives you that feeling of calmness.
Let’s talk trade secrets. What are 3 items you always have in your styling kit?
Sheers always! I love to forage for the perfect branch and it’s fun to have the interiors have a bit of its surroundings inside. Also, a lint brush and krazy glue are necessities.
You pair vintage with new so well. What’s your advice for doing so?
I am drawn to anything of quality, whatever the period or style. Although the aesthetic strands running through my work are pretty consistent, the influences feeding into the design process are typically eclectic and even the most unlikely of subjects can provide food for thought. With vintage, It’s important to find that modern twist and the magic contrast between old and new. A home can feel trendy but dated when it’s all one style or presents a certain ‘theme’ if you will. It’s a true balancing act - pairing a more trendy piece with a timeless piece will not grow tired. Classic lines and quality materials will carry more than trendy pieces for decades.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw my inspiration from other people. I’ve learned to surround myself with people who have something that I want; and challenge me to be more honest, take more risks, and ultimately how to not fear failure. I am energized and encouraged by other people’s victories; the immense joy I get from watching peers succeed gives me hope that I too, can achieve anything I put my mind to.
I am also very inspired by nature - I am in constant awe of what it produces. Nature has a way of humbling me and is a great reminder to abandon the idea of perfect - nothing about nature is linear or symmetrical and nothing is immune to decay.
What is next for you?
Well, most importantly, I want to stay present and open so that when the next opportunity presents itself, I will be ready for whatever comes my way. I am also exploring product development. I’ve just completed a collection in collaboration with a previous client - lookout for it early next year. Oh and the completion of my own apartment which has proven to be my most difficult project to date!
Photography by Coliena Rentmeester, Stephen Kent Johnson, RW Guild Williams NY, Stephen Kent Johnson