When Harry Met Chamois

“Life offered me a chance to be creative,” says long-time designer Harry Deaton. Photo by Tim Robison
“Life offered me a chance to be creative,” says long-time designer Harry Deaton. Photo by Tim Robison

Harry Deaton is a one-woman design powerhouse. (Yes, woman — Harry is short for “Harrietta.”) Her business, Harry Deaton Interiors, consists of an in-demand interior-design practice and her namesake retail space in downtown Hendersonville.

Deaton attributes her strong vision and ability to see beauty in most things to her half-Cherokee grandmother, after whom she was named. She happily uses these abilities to design striking spaces for her clients, participate in design shows (including Carolina Home + Garden’s fall Kitchen and Bath Show), and work with customers in her shop. Like most design types, she revels in color and texture (a particular love is fabrics), but is intent on keeping her work beautiful, practical, and client-centered.

CH+G: Were your parents design-oriented, or is this something you gravitated to on your own? HD: I guess I started as a child with dollhouses, playhouses, my room, and my sister’s room — though she really didn’t like for me to touch her room. My parents were not really creative, but my grandmother was. She was always making cornhusk dolls and quilts, and telling stories.

Which came first — your interior-design business or your store, and how does each side of the business impact the other?
I have been a designer for over 30 years. I was working as a designer in Hendersonville before I opened my retail space. Harry Deaton Interiors has one of the largest fabric libraries in this area, which is very important to those in the design business. My husband and business partner, Joe, makes all our window treatments, pillows, and bedding. My retail space allows me to offer my clients many furniture pieces, accessories, lighting, and other items that can only be found through a design store. I depend on my store for many aspects of the design process.

Did you study interior design, or did life just steer you in that direction?
I do think life offered me the chance to be creative and craft a business. Yes, I had some formal training, but I don’t always think that’s the answer [to attaining professional success]. You have to be visual and strong-willed. I love being a designer and never tire of my work.

What elements are most important when contemplating space design? Do you start out with, say, an object or piece of furniture the client loves and build the room around that, or is it paint color, or something else entirely?
First, I need to see the space and interview the client. I always ask clients to write down five words that describe how they want their space to feel and how they would use it. That tells me so much. Then I need to know about furniture they would love to use and colors they like. When I have this information, I just know what direction to go in; of course, budget information is always necessary. I always make sure each room has a surprise element, too.

Describe your design philosophy in three words.
Beautiful, comfortable, happy.

Who’s your favorite kind of client to work with?
I love it when a client’s really excited about their home and what we’re going to do. I recently worked on the home of a young couple with children, who’ve traveled with the military for several years. Now they have their first real home and they’re so excited and happy. I’m excited too, and can’t wait to share my ideas with them for this project. I think this is my favorite kind of client — it’s not always about large budgets. You need a good client relationship to create good design.

What’s the last piece you bought for your own home that really excited you?
An antique chest I found at an estate sale that came from a plantation in South Carolina. It’s made of rosewood, has a marble top, and is in perfect condition. We are remodeling our house and I’m using it as a bathroom vanity and adding a vessel sink.

What kind of commercial spaces do you design?
I’ve been working on some “treehouses” [forested rental cabins at Highland Lake Cove Retreat and Learning Center], redid the old Browning office building in downtown Hendersonville, and I’ve done many downtown lofts, too, including Senator Tom Apodaca’s. … I’ve done hotels, restaurants — even a yacht.

It’s obvious that you source wonderful things for your clients through your store and through the very best vendors. But do you have a favorite discount palace for the masses — a la TJ Maxx or World Market?
Of course I do. I love the thrill of the hunt, a good bargain, and TJ Maxx!

Harry Deaton Interiors, 419 S. King Street, Hendersonville. 423-972-1035, email hdinteriors@live.com