Take Ten with Paulina Oldenbrook

With over 20 years of experience in residential and development design, Paulina Oldenbrook has perfected practical luxury. Now, she is pioneering a new model in retailing. As the first interior designer to offer the Williams-Sonoma Home brand in her showroom, Paulina chooses her favorite pieces through the lens of sophistication and comfort. Located in Larkspur, California, the store offers a curated selection of beautiful home furnishings and accessories. After a splendid chat, Paulina shares her thoughts on design and why she is so passionate about the industry!

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How did you get your start in interior design?

Paulina Oldenbrook: Honestly, I started when I was 7 converting my closet shelves into my Barbie’s condo - I’ve been doing renovations and furnishings design since the 1st grade!  Actually, I was really fortunate to be able to assist a couple of amazing design firms in Southern California - one focused on high end residential and one on high-end model home design.  I earned my stripes there on detailed custom furnishings and all levels of design for renovation and construction.

Can you tell us a little bit about an upcoming project that you're proud of?

PO: I am very excited about launching construction next month on a brand new house in Napa Valley in collaboration with my husband's development company.  This 7,000 sf elegant farmhouse is on 7 acres and is my first project with Studio Coupar.  The property’s scope includes the main house, a guest house, barn & pool house, a vineyard & kitchen garden, and pond - it’s going to be spectacular!

How does it feel to be the first designer to offer Williams-Sonoma Home products in your showroom?

PO: I’m completely and humbly honored, I’ve been such a fan since they launched in 2004. The products are so well designed and so sophisticated.  Mixing them with my custom pieces and other vendors hits the perfect curated note for my clients and theirs.

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The current trend is that brick-and-mortar retailers are losing business to companies like Amazon. How do you think design retailers will generate business and fight back against increasing competition?

PO: I firmly believe that people show up for an experience, and for themselves.  We will have success if we meet them in that place - we are here to help people solve problems - if we do that well, we’ll always have success.

How do you go about sourcing items for your boutique and where do you find inspiration?

PO: That’s a good question, I honestly stay true to what I love and am inspired by!  We are constantly looking at new sources. My goal is to be a really great resource for my clients, customers and other designers especially for really exceptional custom pieces, accessories and decor.

What are your favorite furnishings from Williams-Sonoma Home?

PO: WSH does fantastic upholstery. I love the Wilshire & Bedford shapes for sofas, the Regency chair, the Chelsea Wing chair.  The Maxwell and Sylvia have been two of my favorite dining chair options…in their mohair, you can’t beat it.  Their Travertine and Penshell pieces totally have my heart, they are so well priced and add a perfect note of natural character and sophistication. Just wait until you see what’s coming to market from WSH in Spring/Summer 2018!!!

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What design trends are you most excited about and/or wishing would go away?

PO: I’m most excited about fabulous, sculptural LED light fixtures.  And the one thing I wish would “go away” is the efforts I see people making trying to turn “anything”into a modern farmhouse style.  This look can be amazing, but only if it honors the architecture of the home you are in, when it’s forced, it’s not compelling.

What are your thoughts on the future of design?

PO: It’s all about relationship, really.  I think the increased focus placed on authenticity and return on investment for people’s homes will continue to push designers to establish authority; not only as beautifiers but also having real know-how in bringing significant “value add” to a project.  People show up because they believe you care about what they care about. If we do that really well, we will establish life-long clients.

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What inspires you to create the luxurious interiors that you are so well-known for?

PO: Since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with improving the quality of life - mine and those around me in every sense of the word.   I think that’s why I’m so so passionate about pursuing the perfect floor and space plan development and finishes…creating the perfect harmony with the exterior of a home.   I’m inspired by the blessed opportunity to transform someone’s experience of the most important place in their world, home!

When a client steps into a Paulina Oldenbrook Interior Design space, how do you want them to feel?

PO: I want them to feel a solid sense of calm, quality and practical luxury.   I had a client once say to me, “I don’t know how to articulate what I love here, I just know that I love it, it’s calming and I want to be here all the time…it just feels right.”   That’s a winner in my book.