Interior designer Cecilie Starin is known for her artistic approach to interiors. In fact, she views each project with the eye of a painter, and each room as a still life. With fine art training from the University of California at Davis and a BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, it’s no surprise! However, her experience doesn’t stop there. For nearly 20 years, Cecilie was a clothing designer for Smith & Hawken, Levi Strauss & Co. and The Lee Company. Her discerning eye has resulted in a portfolio filled with the timelessness of modern classicism, and luxe interiors that are high end yet magically comfortable. She is truly unique, and we wanted to know more! We put Cecilie through our “5 Minutes” questionnaire, and left as inspired as ever:

MY LIGHTBULB MOMENT:
I can’t say there was any one light bulb moment.

For me, light bulb moments happen all the time. Some of them are “learning opportunities” (aka mistakes) and some are accomplishments.

I keep a log of “learning opportunities” and accomplishments – they are both essential for growth. For me, the key is to keep these kind of moments top of mind and recognize them when they are happening and use them to make things better next time.

Sometimes everything goes right and that becomes a light bulb too! That happened when I met Ian Ross, the street artist who I’m working with on my SF Decorator Showcase room this year.

I CAN’T START MY DAY UNTIL:
I wake up and gaze at my amazing view of the San Francisco Bay. I can see the Golden Gate Bridge and the city from my bed! When we bought our house it was a tiny, humble (pea green) two bedroom, very funky 50’s ranch house and we’ve slowly remodeled it. I am so grateful to live in such a naturally beautiful place. Now I need to decorate and design my garden. Can you believe I am a designer and I have never decorated my own house?! Stay tuned for the decorating journey…

SUCCESS IS:
Figuring out how to be me and my authentic self, allowing the real me to come through. It takes a long time to figure this out and it can be challenging as a designer because I am exposed to and like so many different things. Sometimes I feel like I have whiplash! But staying true to myself has kept me grounded and helped me be successful

On my bulletin board I have a magazine photo that I have saved for years. I still love the image and I keep it there to remind me that there is a common thread that runs through what speaks to me and that part of me is consistent. I try to be open and constantly learn as much as I possibly can and expose myself to many things and that knowledge will expand my view of the world, but again, there is a common thread that runs through all things I love.

YOU’LL NEVER SEE ME WITHOUT:
My iPhone. What can I say? It’s my lifeline! It is my email, phone book, camera, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Houzz, library, my sketch pad, my recording device and more. Yes, of course I lived before there were cell phones and it is a very good thing to disconnect sometimes, but for working, it is essential.

MY DREAM COLLABORATION:
My dream collaboration would be with Matisse. He is one of my very favorite artists. I just saw his “Cut Outs” at MOMA in New York. I was in awe.

When I was in high school, my mother bought me a book of his cut outs. I have looked at the book and admired his work for years and I have even been to the Matisse Museum in Nice, but somehow I was not prepared for how extensive the ”Cut Out” collections is and how massive some of the pieces are. I was overwhelmed and greatly moved. He created those at a time, in his 80s, when he was not ambulatory but he was so compelled to create that he figured out a way to make art without standing (something painting required). He did something that had never been done in that way, cutting out paper to create art.

I would love to have collaborated with him on creating a room using his murals. I am thinking of him now and his famous dining room because I am currently designing the dining room at the 2015 San Francisco Decorator Showcase and collaborating with noted San Francisco street artist, Ian Ross. He is painting a black and white mural which will go around the room above the high-gloss charcoal-colored wainscoting to create something that is contemporary and timely.

Like Matisse, Ian Ross and so many other street artists around the world are compelled by something beyond their control, to create beautiful and wonderful things that the rest of us can enjoy for years to come.

THE ONLY PLACE BETTER THAN SAN FRANCISCO:
There are so many wonderful places for different reasons, but for me, it is hard to beat Paris. I have spent so much time there and each time I go it is different and more wonderful than the next. I love cities, architecture, fashion, art, decorative arts and it is hard to find a place with more of that in one place.

I was in Paris this past January. The city presents a beautiful juxtaposition between contemporary and classical. For instance, one second I’d be Instagramming modern street art and then next I’d turn the corner to see the Louvre! I also attended Maison & Objet, an exposition the size of eight football fields of furniture, fabric, lighting, objet d’art and accessories. How do you top that?!

WHEN I FEEL UNINSPIRED:
When I feel uninspired I go to a museum (art or science), take a walk in nature, or travel. Traveling either geographically – actually going somewhere different and wonderful – or simply escaping by looking at a magazine or history and art books, gets me out of my head and absorbs me in something else. Last May I went to Morocco, which totally expanded my vision!

ADVICE I WISH I HAD 5 YEARS AGO:
Travel as much as you possibly can, it is the best way to learn. Travel on vacation or to as many trade shows as you can. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission or for someone to go with you! There are so many tours and organizations that plan travel/learning tours. I like to go to exotic places and since I wouldn’t want to travel to them alone as a woman, I go with architectural or history groups. These groups are so wonderful and you meet so many like-minded, interesting people.

IN 5 YEARS FIND ME:
At my desk or working on a project or on a trip learning about something new. I love what I do!

ABOVE ALL ELSE:
Learn and grow and take in as much as you can and be open to change. Work very hard (there is no way around hard work and dedication) at your craft. At the same time, continue to listen to your inner voice and be your genuine self, be authentically you. Sometimes that is scary and may not be in keeping with every current trend, but in the end you need to do that to be at peace and find inspiration.

To learn more about Cecilie, click here