Freshly Launched

“I still like to experiment with trends, but with things that are easy to update or in small doses,” says designer Chelsea Benay Larson. Photo by Matt Rose.
“I still like to experiment with trends, but with things that are easy to update or in small doses,” says designer Chelsea Benay Larson. Photo by Matt Rose.

Interior designer Chelsea Benay Larson has a freshly launched, full-service interior design business whose office is housed in North Asheville’s elegant Ventana Community, and she (and her clients) couldn’t be more pleased.

With her namesake company, Chelsea Benay, she works with outside clients as well as others building homes in Ventana.

Larson spent three years working at the design firm Collins & Dupont in Naples, Florida. She moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University where she obtained a degree in finance, and moved to Asheville two years ago to be closer to family.

In Asheville, Larson worked with Allard & Roberts Interior Design and then branched out on her own.

Her time in Philadelphia satisfied her hankering to live in a big city.

Referring to her days in Philly, she remarks, “I wanted to have the experience of walking cobblestone streets in the fall and marveling at all the old architecture.” She’s learned a lot, connected professionally, and gotten involved with the local chapter of ASID since relocating. Not bad for an Asheville newbie. Here Larson discusses design, what inspires her, and more.

Carolina Home + Garden: Your situation is unique: you have your own firm, but it’s within Ventana.
Chelsea Benay Larson: Yes, I was hired by Ventana to help with a few model homes and potentially some interior selections for lot/home packages. I’m hoping to work with some of the Ventana homeowners as construction progresses. Ventana is still a new community and it’s really just getting to a point where it’s buzzing with new construction activity. I’m also working on design projects outside of Ventana.

What is your basic philosophy of design, your guiding principles, in a nutshell?
My design philosophy is all about keeping things classic, simple, and functional. I try to stay away from building an interior around finishes or selections that may not stand the test of time. I still like to experiment with trends, but with things that are easy to update or in small doses. I also think simplicity is beautiful. It’s amazing what can be done with just a few fundamental selections and repetition. And functionality is key in any design.

The designer/client relationship is surprisingly intimate. How do you build rapport?
Open and frequent communication is a must, which means I update my clients often. I am entrusted to give them a clear understanding of the design process, and the more closely I listen, the more their confidence level increases. As each milestone of a project comes to completion, you feel closer also. It’s definitely a sequential process.

There are so many branding buzzwords, from “cottage quaint” to industrial. If you had to have one, what would yours be?
My biggest concern is my clients’ tastes and lifestyles. My design aesthetic is always evolving, but “relaxed contemporary” and “modern farmhouse” would probably describe the styles I’m most identifying with right now. … I also really like a Scandinavian aesthetic. My own home has a wood wall in the living room that is really warm, but I balance that with pieces that convey a crisp feel.

What’s a fantastic piece you found for a client’s home that came from an unexpected source?
I happened to go down into a client’s basement, where I saw, hidden in a corner, these amazing large vases. There were two of them, four feet tall or higher, and I knew they’d be awesome grouped in their great room. They had a very archaeological feel to them. One of them had a broken handle, but that almost looked intentional. Often a great surprise source is your own home, where you can find something interesting and freshen it up by changing its context.

What’s your association with ASID of the Carolinas?
I’m co-chair for the Carolinas Chapter of ASID, Western North Carolina Design Community, with designer Maria Aponte [a CH+G advertising consultant]. Our field changes constantly, and connecting professionally with other designers, architects, and builders, as well as keeping up with continuing-education opportunities, is really important.

What’s your favorite thing to do in nature here?
I love hiking around Black Balsam Knob off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views are incredible!

Now for a random question: What’s your favorite junk food that you could never give up?
I’m generally a very healthy eater, but I love a good biscuit or croissant. I usually have one a week — WNC has so many great local bakeries and restaurants.

Contact Chelsea Benay Larson, ASID, at chelsea@chelseabenay.com or visit chelseabenay.com.