Stay Inquisitive: A Conversation with Designer Katie Ridder

From the editorial side of style magazines to being published in them, Katie Ridder explored the world of design before discovering her path as an interior and textile designer. Her work, which is punctuated by rich, beautiful color in some seriously chic combinations has been featured in The New York Times and Architectural Digest and is regularly praised in the pages of House Beautiful and Elle Décor.

Her passion for and skill with patterns and color has led her to design her own line of textiles in the form of wallpapers, fabrics and rugs. Her designs are lush, sophisticated and nothing short of stunning. We find out what inspires her, how gardens impact her design aesthetic and what show she tunes into to relax after a busy day.

From the very start, Katie Ridder had a strong eye for design. Before she would go on to work in magazines and before becoming the lauded designer she is today, she grew up carefully observing the world around her and forming her own taste. “I grew up in a town where the taste was very traditional. It was almost East Coast taste but in Northern California. There was a local decorator who everyone used, and for that time her work was lovely: painted floors with tassels, classic cabbage rose chintzes. I don’t think that influenced my aesthetic, but it did show me that beautiful houses were and are not an accident–that the people who lived in them, cared about them and had to enlist a designer to get to that result. In turn, anyone who gets to design a house is lucky.”

While it would be some time before she would discover her own talent for design, she always found ways to be creative. “I always liked making things. I got my first sewing machine when I was 10 and have always loved needlework. However, when I was in college and knew I wanted to move to New York I didn’t think about working for a decorator. I wish I had taken a path that had included more training, but my training was all on the fly in the world of magazines.”

It was while working in magazines that she had the opportunity to have an impressive roster of mentors including greats such as Lou Gropp, Anna Wintour, Martin Filler, and Carolyn Sollis. “We photographed designers such as Mark Hampton, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley, Mario Buatta, Denning & Fourcade. House Beautiful was physically demanding. We were always trying to come up with clever ideas to excite the reader, and by default we had to pitch in and help designers whether that meant designing, working on budgets, or staging. These top designers and magazines taught me about looking at details and at the balance of shapes and color through a camera’s lens. There was not a lot of restraint in the 80s and there has been nothing like it since, and I am so lucky to have had that experience.”

Between the real world experience in editorial and her time spent as a designer, she is a wealth of information on the subject of beauty and design. When working with a new space, she keeps a wide variety of aspects in mind.

“I think about the people, the place, the style, and the character of the space. There is no fixed design rule that I live by, and I don’t let one thing limit the other dimensions of the project since I design in a variety of styles. I think more in terms of shapes. I don’t jump into ideas that don’t have staying power because I worry about doing something trendy and ephemeral. I don’t like fussy furniture and so having well-designed furniture and fabric is key. Taste is the most important thing!”

Finding well-designed furniture can often lead to vintage and antique pieces. She offers the following advice for those looking to find and add them to a space. “Dive deep into sources you admire. Take time to look at things when traveling, friends’ houses, museums, and colors that inspire you. You must be inquisitive. You must keep observing and learning and thinking.”

As a member of the Horticulture committee at the New York Botanical Garden, for Katie, one of her passions is nature and gardens. She is able to merge her love of interiors and horticulture to beautiful effect. “Color, texture, and scale are important in both interior design and garden design. Studying spatial relationships with my garden has helped my interior design work and thinking about scale.

Four Questions with Katie Ridder:

TLV: Favorite travel destination?

KR: Antigua.


TLV: Currently watching?

KR: Deutschland 83, a spy thriller about East and West Germany in 1983.


TLV: Go to housewarming gift?

KR: Rattan woven placemats from Creel and Gow from Morocco.


TLV: Where do you look for inspiration when you are feeling blocked?

KR: The Swedes.

Click here to shop Katie’s TLV picks.

Photos by Eric Piasecki / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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