Meet Ethan Allen Design Star Kate Marchesini
Kate Marchesini got a job in advertising right out of college—as an art director on Madison Avenue, no less. She worked her way up to VP, but after more than a few demanding years, she veered off the ad path into the world of interior design, where she’s stayed ever since. Over the years, Kate has worked as a freelancer, an Ethan Allen designer, and a stay-at-home mom. In 1998, she started her own design firm with her husband, and in 2011, she returned to the EA family as a designer in our Somerville, New Jersey, Design Center.
Kate lives with her husband, Charles, outside of Frenchtown, New Jersey, near the Delaware River in an older home they restored themselves. Fun fact: The couple’s first design project was also one of their own homes, a 1765 Dutch farmhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. Their award-winning restoration was based on plans they found at the Library of Congress.
The couple has always been passionate about architecture and design, so Kate says they spend their free time visiting historic structures and “shopping for anything that feeds our passion.” She also enjoys drawing, painting, and gardening.
EA: You’re an artist. What part does art play both in and out of work?
KM: On the job I use my art to illustrate how a room will look. Sometimes the old cliché of a picture being worth a thousand words absolutely applies. A drawing can help distinguish details and colors, fabrics, and the scale of pieces you can’t understand from a floor plan. Even a computer-generated image doesn’t do what a drawing can do.
Outside of work, I use my art all the time to help explain things—whether it’s to show a contractor how a piece of molding joins another, or how I want the fabric to drape on a dress.
EA: What is your favorite Ethan Allen project?
KM: I’ve done a lot of fun projects, but there’s one that stands out. It was in an older home that had built-in bookcases and wonderful woodwork—and purple walls that the clients wanted to keep! There was also black and white geometric wallpaper inside the bookcases, which made quite a statement. They liked the unexpected color, but wanted to put their own spin on it.
We achieved this by choosing classic pieces: our Shelton sofa in a solid taupe fabric, and the Zachary mirrored coffee table. We replaced the wallpaper with a pearlized pattern to soften the look of the bookcases and we put lots of contemporary glass and crystal inside. The result was better than they imagined. We became friends and have since worked on other projects together. You know you’ve done a good job when a client comes back for more!
EA: Which Ethan Allen item do you covet?
KM: My favorite piece is our shapely Donatella console table. I can put that anywhere for an instant “wow” factor.
EA: What is your favorite design tip?
KM: Think of your sofa as background music. Always choose a versatile, neutral fabric that you can live with, and use accents to change up the mood or tempo of the room. You can create a fresh, new look by simply switching out your pillows!
EA: Complete this sentence: Every room needs …
KM: A single focal point—something that draws your eye in, and is more important than everything else in the room.
EA: What is the color you can’t live without, and why?
KM: Black is my go-to color whenever I need a little drama. Hang a white mirror on a black wall, or choose black pillows when you can’t (or don’t want to) match the color in a rug. I like to put black picture frames around old artwork for an instant lift.
EA: If you could do any project, anywhere, on any budget, what would it be?
KM: I would love to design an Italian villa on a canal in Venice. It would be my dream to work with ancient pigmented walls, patinaed with age—even while infusing the space with a fresh dose of contemporary design. Visiting the city wouldn’t be so bad either.
EA: Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you?
KM: I design because I love to create with the end result in mind. I can picture a finished room down to the last candlestick. It’s very rewarding for me to see pieces being added as excitement builds and a project comes to life.