Betsy Helmuth is a New York City-based interior designer and owner of Affordable Interior Design. She and her team have been designing homes and offices throughout the New York area, Washington, D.C., and London for 14 years.
We reached out to Betsy with a few questions about her design strategy and driving belief of beautiful home design for all.
Why is exceptional, accessible home design important to you?
It’s really important to me to make the world of interior design completely transparent because I feel for too long the field has been somewhat elitist – something that is only accessible for people who are wealthy or can afford to hire an interior designer.
Now, more than ever, there are beautiful items on the retail market. You can buy furniture and accessories that look just as good as what you would find in high-end boutiques. That was not the case 20 years ago – the landscape has totally changed. Anyone who knows a few simple rules can have a well-appointed home.
Is there a design rule that you always follow?
The design rule I always follow is to not mix warm and cool metals in the same room. Cool metals include nickel, silver, pewter, and chrome. Warm metals include copper, gold, and brass. The only metals that I will mix with them are black metals or wrought irons.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I look to my clients. I have them fill out a questionnaire ahead of time so I can clearly understand their style preferences and the challenges they’re facing. I have used the metaphor of a painter who’s painting a still life. When you’re painting a vase of flowers and feeling uninspired, all you need to do is take a closer look. Look more deeply at the rose petals. Look for shine on the side of the vase. The inspiration is there!
That’s exactly what I do with my clients when I’m feeling uninspired and don’t know what to choose. I go more deeply into their questionnaire – looking at their answers and understanding what they’ve told me about who they are.
Where do you begin when faced with an empty room?
I always begin with one question: What do you want to do in this room? What are the functions that this room needs to perform? Form should always follow function.
What is your favorite room to design?
In the city, my favorite room to design is a studio apartment. I love designing studios because they have so many functions to perform. You have to be strategic. You have to think more critically. You can’t just have pretty things for the sake of having things, and I really love the challenge in that. Not to mention the fact that I lived in seven studio apartments in the course of my life ranging from 150 square feet all the way to 500 square feet!
In the suburbs, I love to design living rooms because they don’t usually have to do double-duty. They can really be impressive showpieces that reflect a client’s personality.
What are your favorite trends for 2019?
There are several trends that I’m very excited about in 2019. I love bold backsplashes, and those are really in demand right now. My clients are no longer satisfied with marble or simple subway tile. They want to make a splash. It’s fun to choose a printed or an irregularly shaped tile.
I’m also loving low-pile rugs. These days people are steering clear of the shag rugs that were popular even a couple years ago. They don’t even want thick wool rugs. They’re gravitating more towards low cotton, mat-style rugs that you can roll up and easily withstand scrubbing. It’s fun because those are much easier to swap out, and they’re also much more affordable than standard rugs.
All photos courtesy of Dov Plawsky.