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Barrington designer Jae Wylie Willard fashions interiors that are as attractive as they are functional

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From her Barrington studio, interior designer Jae Wylie Willard enjoys working with clients to bring their visions into working realities, making sure that everything from the ground-up is not only attractive, but architecturally sound. Willard can handle everything from sourcing materials and project managing subcontractors to picking out light fixtures – or making them herself. for a look at some of her design work, check out this month's featured home.

How would you describe your interior design philosophy?
Every project is unique and it’s my job to expand upon that. My goal is to design a space that highlights my clients’ personality and that’s inviting and comfortable while making it as functional as possible. I believe furniture should be multi-functional and work in the space no matter what. So, if you’re entertaining and you need a few more seats, a chair pulled from another room should look like it belongs there, too. It’s important to pick timeless pieces, like a sofa with clean lines. Then have fun with accessories that can easily be changed. Most importantly, surround yourself with things that make you happy, not what you think is on trend.

Most interior designers go hunting around when they can’t find what a client is looking for. You make it. What brought you to making products for your interior design projects?

When you walk into a space I’ve designed, I want there to be that “Aha!” moment. It doesn’t have to hit you in the face, like, “Wow look at this room,” though that’s nice too of course. It’s more about the personalized details, from noticing a uniquely designed solution to an everyday problem, to being intrigued by an interesting custom light fixture. Selfishly, I’ve always loved making things, and I want every space I design to have at least one custom piece from my in-house design studio, BicycleTricycle. It’s fun for me!

Where do you find inspiration for the pieces and where do you source materials? 
My friends make fun of me because I’m inspired by the most random things. I’ve literally taken items from their trash, like a large filter from an old air conditioning unit. It’s now one of my favorite light fixtures with its new glossy black finish. Although vintage or antique shops are always a good source for materials, my products aren’t just about upcycling and repurposing old objects. Currently, I’m making a pendant out of a high-end wire fruit bowl and brightly colored electrical cording. It looks like a modern sculptural piece. You’d never guess what it originally was.

Some make art for art’s sake, but your pieces are art that has a function. What are some of your favorite things to make?
You might have noticed I talk a lot about unique lighting fixtures. Without a doubt that is one of my favorite things to make. But I also love mixing custom paint colors for clients. Choosing a paint color can be overwhelming even for designers, so most of the time I create my own. I also really enjoy designing installation pieces that serve a purpose for that specific space, like a ladder and railing made of reclaimed wood and iron piping designed for a kid’s loft play area. 

If you could make anything what would it be?
Wallpaper! I’d love to design and produce a funky 3D wallpaper. I’ve been playing around with the idea of stripes of dehydrated slices of fruit with a glossy finish. Picture a 1950s kitchen wallpaper come to life! 

Jae Willard Designs
Barrington