Connie Vernich, Principal and Founder of Vernich Interiors talks about designing her own home and her inspiration from travel and nature.

By Chelsea Rand

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

Interior designer Connie Vernich has always had a love of older homes and historic neighborhoods with beautiful tree-lined streets. When the 12 South/Belmont neighborhood of her beloved, 1920s cottage rapidly began changing around her – cottages were bulldozed, replaced with tall and skinny houses – sometimes two to a lot, and the old trees providing the shade for the street being torn down with them – Connie knew it was time to go. For her next personal home, she and her husband sought an older home in a neighborhood with a lot of trees and character. They landed on a 1960s home in West Meade and set out to renovate, trying to keep as much of the character that was there.

We spoke with Connie, hoping to hear more about her experience designing her own home and where this esteemed, talented designer draws inspiration.

Connie, do you prefer renovation to a new build?

Renovation, absolutely. Our goal was to renovate and add a second floor. What we loved the most about the house was you cannot go beyond the footprint – there were a lot of restrictions to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. We thought we could renovate, but we got in and found out there was lot of damage to it…we had to redo the house. There is a lot of flooding in the neighborhood so we put French drains in so this will never happen again.

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

How did you apply your own personal philosophy to this project, especially as it was your own home?

It was kind of fun because when you work for other people doing someone else’s home you are kind of limited to what you can and can’t do. So, in my home I was able to play a bit more with color. I wanted really, really, bright, chartreuse colors and to play with deeper olive greens, yellows…. colors that you wouldn’t normally put together. I think I was a bit more daring. One of my favorite things is trees and the outdoors and I always want to bring in more of what you see outside. I’ve always just been drawn to blues and greens. My last house was blue and very calming so this house I wanted to bring in the outside. The shutters were green, and I knew right away I wanted to bring it in. I love Napa design with light woods and that light airy feeling, my husband and I go there quite a bit and we wanted to incorporate what we’ve seen there. Light warm woods and light walls. Even though certain parts of the home would have color, most of it is very light. And, green just plays well off anything.

We have a lot of company in our home sometimes up to twenty people – I have four kids. So, our intent was big open space, but lots of cozy intimate spaces. The floors that Textures Nashville installed are the most amazing thing…. I’ve caught my grandkids riding their little bikes and scooters on them and I’ve gone over them and nothing, not a scratch. Very low maintenance for someone with a family.

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

How do you combine beauty and function?

Today almost all materials come in performance so you can do beautiful fabrics. My dining room chairs are perennial fabrics that are indoor/outdoor. Having beautiful things but not having to worry about them, like the beautiful floors. And the worse thing would be having people come in and not feel like they can sit down in your house. Even my drapes are performance in case something spills. You can have beautiful things today and you don’t have to forsake the function.

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

What distinguishes your design for this project?

I think bringing in some of the architecture like the arches and the way the staircase curves, it kind of has a neoclassic look to it. Some of the arches are really pretty and a little different from what we’re seeing lately. It adds a little bit of a softness that we’ve been missing in the past as far as architecture goes. Going into the dining room there’s a huge curve rounded wall. I drew up the ceiling, everything was drawn, each wall was drawn, each cabinet, the benches, and even books in the cabinet. The staircase was drawn, the cabinets in the living room were all drawn up. Everything you see was put on paper first. I’m not very good at visualizing it unless I draw it.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration everywhere. Travels, definitely travels, my husband and I love to travel. We went to Greece this past year and I was taking photos of staircases and front doors and arched walls and ceilings. Everywhere we went I took pictures. Going to NY, all the Art Deco. Napa and all the beautiful architecture. Provence. Inspiration is everywhere. I’ll be going for a walk at Radnor, and I’ll see these beautiful flowers in the water, and I’ll take a picture of the colors because that would be so beautiful in a home. Nature and architecture.

Favorite place?

Provence. Definitely. If I could live there I would.

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

You were a professor of historical architecture for 9 years at Watkins, now Belmont. If a student wanted to enter the field, what advice would you give them?

I would say soak up as many opportunities as you can in school. If there are student competitions do as many as you can, join ASID and IDDIA, support groups for designers. Go to as many museums and see as much architecture as you can and really engulf yourself in everything so when you’re working on projects you have inspiration. Putting yourself out there and joining competitions because the competitions are the ones that are going to help you get a job as an intern. And it emboldens you to become a designer. Throw yourself into it and don’t go home and watch television.

What else have you been working on?

We’re working on a couple of really big modern homes. We’re also working on a barn house, a house that looks like a barn which is really exciting because I’ve never done that before. It’s going to have some event space and art studio. That’s a really large project for us now.

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Photographer – Caroline Sharpnack

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