The first time I was connected to J.P. Horton was through comments on Instagram. His best friend is the wildly talented Robin Verrier, an Art Director and brand stylist who I met back home in San Antonio at an event a few years ago, and ended up having as a guest on my ELEANORA Live! talk show content series during the COVID lockdown in 2020. From there, J.P. and I became online friends, and when we both found ourselves relocated to Los Angeles “IRL” in 2021, we decided it was time for us to sit down and chat in person.
It was an idyllic, sunny Southern California day when we met at Alfred Coffee on Melrose in West Hollywood. J.P. was here to work for big name design firms in the industry (Michael S. Smith & Christine Markatos), and I had just found out I was pregnant, so I ordered my latte decaf. Because of the timing of our meet-up, J.P. was one of the first friends to know the news.
He is now back in his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, operating his namesake design firm and expanding his entrepreneurial ventures with his fabric line. As a design enthusiast who deeply appreciates J.P.’s profession and craft, I asked him a few burning questions about his career journey, personal design rules, and tips he recommends for celebrating creative living in your own space.
Why should you listen to J.P.? For one, he has been named by House Beautiful magazine as a “design talent to watch” and a “timeless designer” by the national blog, The Scout Guide. And two, he’s a kind person just oozing with talent, whose personal Wedgwood collection could fill a small museum. There are more reasons too, but these alone should be good enough.
EM: Have you always known you wanted to be an interior designer? What was your initial inspiration to follow this path?
JPH: I originally started college at SCAD for filmmaking. All throughout high school, I was obsessed with films; watching them, making them, and being in them. I loved how so many different fields of art come together to create a movie. I made a full-length film my senior year of high school for my independent study and grew ever more interested in set design and interiors. Once I got to college, I realized interior design was similar to film in that many talented artists work together to make a room or home come to life, and the rest was history. I changed my major. It all goes in hand-in-hand now too, because when I am designing a home, I often envision the spaces like a movie and see how the clients are going to be living in them.
EM: What does an interior designer do and how do you work with one?
JPH: Many designers work differently from each other, some people do consulting, some people only decorate, some only specialize in kitchens, etc. My firm is a full-service interior design studio – meaning, I work with a client to discover and create a design for their home or spaces and then implement it. This encompasses everything that goes into a house – from AutoCAD drawings down to the toilet paper holders. I partner with many incredible architects, workrooms, and tradespeople to reach the end result. Working with an interior designer takes trust and develops naturally over time. I work with clients on creating a home that is tailored to their lifestyle and sense of taste. That isn’t achieved in one try, we discover a design over time and sometimes many presentations. At the end of the day, it is the client’s house, I offer my professional recommendations and expertise and we reach an outcome that is mutually agreed upon.
EM: What is your favorite project you’ve worked on to date?
JPH: I worked on a house on the Isle of Palms where the clients were very trusting and open to what I had to offer, allowing me to do my job with little restraint. Projects like that always have a better end result. This project was on waterfront property and the natural landscape around the house was very inspiring. I incorporated blues, greens, celadon, creams, pale blues, and wood tones to create a very sophisticated but livable home for them.
EM: What are the questions you are asked most as an interior designer?
JPH: I am most asked about paint when someone meets me for the first time or finds out what I do. Paint is easy in that it is not expensive and can make a big impact, but it is not one-size-fits-all. I always recommend getting large samples made of multiple paint colors and living with them in your actual space before painting. Everyone’s lighting is different and it drastically impacts the color.
EM: What is one thing you see people often do “right” or “wrong” when they decorate?
JPH: In the average person’s home, I often see rug sizes that are way too small and furniture that is way too large. No one wants a postage stamp-sized rug. Spend more on the 10×14 and it will make the room feel so much bigger. Have floorplans drawn when selecting furniture, there is no other way to know it will correctly fit in your space if you don’t do the math!
EM: If someone is wanting to start learning how to decorate their space in a less trendy way and a more eclectic and collected way, what are some steps they can take to move in that direction?
JPH: Hunt for antiques! Go to your local antique stores, thrift stores, and estate sales and find what speaks to you. Your style will begin to develop and you’ll find items that are usually much better quality, and price, than a lot of things that are made today by big box stores.
EM: What item(s) can you not live without in your home or studio?
JPH: I cannot live without good lighting or bookcases. A space is completely useless if you can’t properly see or read and since I love to read, and have far too many books, I therefore need bookshelves!
EM: How do you celebrate creative living?
JPH: I celebrate creative living by creating custom spaces and homes for my clients. Oftentimes furniture, curtains, and rugs are custom made and does it get any more creative than that?
EM: What is your favorite step in the creative process with a client?
JPH: My favorite step in the design process is reaching a cohesive design that the client is excited about. It takes a moment to learn a client’s likes and dislikes and once you hit the nail on the head you know you did your job.
EM: Can you share more about your fabric line?
JPH: I started my boutique fabric line in 2019. I had created a custom fabric for a client and some of my peers became interested, so I kept drawing more patterns and they quickly became available to the trade. This year I am excited to be creating new patterns but am also expanding into wallpaper. I draw everything in house and the patterns are created digitally. They are printed to order in North Carolina and ship in under two weeks.