Southern Style: Designing woman Beth Claybourn has an eye for distinct tastes.
As an interior designer with nearly 40 years of experience, Beth Claybourn certainly knows about décor, but she also knows a great deal about people and their tastes.
“Getting to know my clients and their personal styles is one of the biggest challenges of my job, but it’s also so rewarding,” says Claybourn, licensed interior designer and ASID member. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some families for three generations. You become very close. They trust you and you trust them, and you’re able to form this great, long-lasting relationship.”
A native of Mississippi, Beth Claybourn has been developing her personal tastes and sense of style since childhood. “All my life, I always said I was going to be a designer,” she says. Claybourn received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern Mississippi and was soon hired by designer Mary Tatum. She served as Tatum’s protégé for six years — an experience to which Claybourn credits a great deal of her success today.
“Education is everything,” Claybourn says. “I was so fortunate to be trained by such a talented designer who encouraged me to learn and experience new things to develop my tastes. I always tell my clients to read, travel, shop and get exposed to different styles. The best thing a person can do is have knowledge and experiences to pull from.”
In 1985, she founded Beth Claybourn Interiors in Baton Rouge. The licensed, full-service design firm offers a comprehensive range of services — from conceptual drawings all the way through turn-key installations — and also sells antiques, furniture, accessories, linens, custom drapery, and china from home décor showrooms in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
In July, Claybourn opened a New Orleans showroom — located downtown at 401 Tchoupitoulas St. in the historic Walle & Company building — that houses more than $1.3 million in inventory. The 5,000 square foot showroom features an industrial look and preserves the structure’s original architectural details, including high ceilings and 13-foot windows that look out onto Tchoupitoulas and Natchez streets. It is the designer’s first New Orleans retail endeavor, although Claybourn has strong ties to the city and a large clientele here.
“My husband and I used to live in New Orleans,” Claybourn says. “I just love the city, its art and culture, and my dream was always to come back! I’m so excited about this new gallery, and how it will service new and existing clients.”
Claybourn has worked with clients across the country, and her projects have “run the gamut” in terms of style, from contemporary to country, but, while the homes are certainly stimulating, the people who live in them make her job truly rewarding.
“I love to work with people who have a vision and know what they like,” she says. “Then my job is to fine-tune that style and keep the project on course. The average person likes a mixture, especially the younger generation, who want simple, clean lines but to also keep traditional pieces. Our team offers guidance for combining pieces and incorporating different styles, so the client can just pick and choose and direct us. We work closely with clients so we can learn from each other.”
Though Claybourn describes her personal style as more traditional, she is adamant about pleasing her clients and working within their tastes. “I tell people to have their own taste and not to worry about what their friends or neighbors have, or what they saw in a magazine. Let your personality come out!”
Over the past four decades, Claybourn says she has been “incredibly blessed to have had opportunities to travel internationally and experience some of the most beautiful places in the world,” and she pulls much of her inspiration from such travel. Her own home, which she showcases in her book Ma Maison, features a collection of pieces that she has acquired throughout different periods in her life, which she says she has learned to “mix together like a gumbo pot and tastefully display!”
Mixing, when it comes to home décor, can be tricky, however, so Claybourn recommends seeking professional guidance before spending too much. “People waste a lot of money by just buying without having a greater vision,” she cautions. “The most successful way to spend your money is to find a designer you can trust; someone who cares about you and will happily guide you. A good designer is someone who can take a small budget and make it look wonderful, and make you happy!”
While a designer is essential to pulling an entire look together, Claybourn’s advice to young couples starting out or to people who just want to refresh their space is to buy art. “Put the biggest budget you have on a lovely painting, something that speaks to you and will last,” she says. “Money should be in the accessories!”
With locations in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Miramar Beach (by appointment only), Beth Claybourn Interiors offers a distinguished selection of furniture, fabrics, art, antiques and accessories to create unique, individualized spaces for clients nationwide. bethclaybourninteriors.com