Throughout her career in the entertainment industry, Caitlin Scanlon produced and developed many films, including The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington, and Coach Carter starring Samuel L. Jackson. But her most well-known and beloved project was Bring It On, which spawned multiple sequels and even a Broadway musical.
Then the writer’s strike of 2007 changed the course of Scanlon’s career. Unable to work for six months, she found herself with a lot of extra time. Always the design-enthusiast, she began to assist friends and colleges with the interior design of their homes.
After finding a mentor in Sasha Emerson, who successfully made the leap to interior design after a career in the television industry, Scanlon parlayed her Hollywood connections (and raw talent) to become a name in the interior design world.
I recently spoke with the designer about how she approaches her work, learned some of her best tips, and found out the truth about working with celebrities.
How did you first become interested in interior design?
I’ve always been into design and architecture. I was fortunate enough to have parents who loved restoring houses. So I grew up in, among other places, a Park Slope brownstone that they bought in the 60’s for approximately $18k, a Tribeca loft that my dad lived in in the 70’s, and what’s been called the “Jewel of Sag Harbor”— the Hannibal French House, where the addition was built in 1860. I caught the bug.
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When I moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, I bought my first house in Silverlake in 1996 because it was a well maintained and untouched 1929 jewel-box of a home that just needed a loving glow-up.
My best friend, the genius landscape designer and California treasure, Judy Kameon of Elysian Landscapes, made a beautiful garden. I designed most of the furniture that I couldn’t find at the flea market or local vintage and thrift shops. When it was written about in the Los Angeles Times magazine, I was thrilled, but I never saw design as a career until I restored my second house in the neighborhood.
When did you know it was the right time to change career paths?
When I was more excited by a client presentation than selling an original pitch to Paramount, I knew the time was right.
What is your general design philosophy?
I believe in approachable elegance with a pinch of theatrical fun. My job is to create spaces that reflect the stories my clients want to tell, to aid them in living their best lives.
Sometimes that means paring back to the essentials to create a space that encourages deep serenity. Sometimes that means turning the aesthetic dial up to eleven and really going for it in terms of intense color and daring furniture choices. It always means sourcing materials that will outlast trends and age gracefully. I try to always actively listen to my client’s unique wants and needs and strive to give them something beyond what they dreamed possible.
Are celebrities more challenging to work with compared to regular people?
No. Just like my other industry clients, celebrities are really design-forward. After all, like the rest of us, their days are made up of moments of intense, full-body focus followed by time on set scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest.
As artists, they care about living in an artful way. Of course, privacy and security are a bigger concern, so I always approach those projects with that in mind.
What are your best tips for anyone trying to create a beautiful space?
Plan before you execute. Create a Pinterest board using images that inspire you—even if they’re unrelated to interior design. Then take time to develop it until you see the through-lines emerge.
Let your board dictate your color palette and the design story you want to tell. Start by executing the “skin” of your space—the paint on your walls and the rugs on your floor. Then focus on furnishings, window treatments, and the rest. Keep it simple and allow for your space to evolve over time. And don’t forget to have fun.
How has COVID impacted your business?
At first, it was devastating as my projects stopped in their tracks while everyone figured out what the implications of the pandemic would be. Then, like everybody else, I counted my blessings as I was healthy and safe and got on with life.
I used the free time to refine some of my systems and develop better business practices. Then things came roaring back to life, and now I’m working on a big commercial project and numerous residential projects.
I’m busier than ever since so many people have been stuck at home and now hunger for improvements like outdoor spaces to safely spend time with friends and family, functional and gorgeous home offices, Zoom Rooms, enhanced home gyms and more.
On the commercial side, we’re redesigning a production company space to be COVID-safe so that the staff can return. Clients are craving collaboration and community. Working remotely can be great but, especially in the entertainment business, there’s no substitute for real face time.