Interior design in the Queen City reflects its traditional Southern heritage, but with a nod to its newfound commercial vibe. The designers chosen here have made it to the top of their profession, largely because they know how to achieve balance in more than just color palettes. They understand the contemporary, urban lifestyle that makes their Charlotte clients tick. The term “full-service” is one they all use. It means they perform at high levels, whether they are suggesting fabric for custom draperies or driving the design choices from a home’s construction phase to its move-in readiness. The following list ranks these design stars by the scope of their design projects, their academic pedigree and awards, and the artistic influences that inspire their creations.
10) Diel Design & Interiors
Featured Designers: Cathy Diel
Address: 1978 Maryland Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28209
Charlotte Magazine’s “Face of Interior Design” in 2015 and 2016 was Cathy Diel, owner of Diel Design & Interiors. Since opening her firm in 2002, Diel has impressed homeowners throughout the Charlotte metro area with what she calls a “transitional style”: clean lines, bold contrasting colors, and elegant spaces. She and her small team of designers pride themselves on having repeat customers. The success, says Diel, is partly due to her being a working wife and mother herself, which means she understands how families today live, work, and entertain. The firm handles projects ranging from a single room to an entire home renovation. They typically work in Charlotte neighborhoods, but also handle vacation homes throughout the state. Diel’s projects have been featured in Charlotte Home & Garden and Luxury Home Magazine.
A remodel in Myers Park in 2015 was the subject of a write-up in Charlotte Magazine. The clients, who had used Diel before, wanted their four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home built in 1935 overhauled – but not to the extreme. Diel preserved the classic look with wall art, a vintage chandelier, antique gold and muted tones, with dark wood paneling throughout. She chose an open floor plan: the kitchen opening to the family room, which also opens to a screen-in patio with a stone fireplace. A project in Davidson required Diel to design a study for a homeowner to work from home and meet with clients. He wanted it to have a “masculine” touch, so Diel relied on dark navy walls and trim to create a bold style. But she finished the room with a favorite touch, gold antique-rimmed furniture. A bar cart would allow the owner to entertain clients. Rather than choosing a bulky work station, Diel went for a simple desk with a separate but matching file cabinet that created a clean look.
9) Interiors by Redesign
Featured Designers: Melanie Crabtree
Address: 241 Normandy Road, Mooresville, NC 28117
When Melanie Crabtree founded this Mooresville-based firm in 2002, she wanted people to know that the process of interior design can be efficient and, yes, enjoyable. Since then, she’s brought her full-service design or “use what you have” approach to homes in Lake Norman, Mooresville, Huntersville, Statesville, Cornelius, Davidson, Charlotte, and even the surrounding areas in the Triad of Winston-Salem, Clemmons and Lewisville. Her projects are often featured in the local press, Charlotte Magazine and The Charlotte Observer. She’s a member of the Interior Design Society and has CQRID credentials as a residential interior design professional. She’s also a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association. She was recently honored with the “Best of the Lake Design Completion” award from the Lake Norman Home Builders Association.
The Charlotte Observer highlighted Crabtree’s reworking of an 1800-square-foot, two-story townhome in Cornelius. Lime green and fuchsia dominated the color palette to please the client, who loves spring colors. But Crabtree softened the colors by adding deep gray walls and matte gold accents. She reupholstered a wooden arm chair with green and ivory strips, then transformed a bamboos chair into a desk chair by wrapping it in scaled houndstooth. The owner loves art, so Crabtree situated a portrait by a local artist and scenes from a bustling Parisian street over a living room sofa. Decorated ivory plates were strung up in the living room, where ivory wall covers repeated the ivory theme. For a kitchen remodel in Park Crossing, Crabtree mixed up textures and natural fabrics, hanging a jute string over the kitchen island and continuing with jute embroidery on window treatments. Rattan fabric was chosen for the chairs. Neutral colors and classic cabinets ensured the design would last for years.
8) Anne Buresh Interior Design
Featured Designers: Anne Buresh
Address: 2205 Sedley Road, Charlotte, NC 28211
“Core classic, yet timelessly stunning” is how Anne Buresh describes her distinctive decorating style. Buresh got her start in design when a neighbor in the Foxcroft neighborhood in South Park was so impressed with the way Buresh remodeled her own home in that she asked Anne to do the same for hers. From there her design projects started to snowball; that neighbor told another and the next thing she knew, Anne was fully booked. At that point she decided to make a real go at it and opened her firm in 2008. Anne has steadily made a name for herself in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. She has done several high profile projects that have allowed her to not only build on her impressive portfolio but has also gained her the attention in several local publications where she has been featured, including, Charlotte Urban Home, Charlotte Home & Garden, and The Observer. She has two more coming in Charlotte Home & Design and Charlotte Magazine. Fresh Home named her one of the “Best Interior Designers in Charlotte” for 2016.
Anne’s passion for her design and her ability to bring out her client’s style within each individual project makes her very unique.
“I think a dream home means something different to everyone but I mostly think the underlying common ground for that is a place where you walk through the door and you feel an overwhelming sense of comfort. My clients love that I listen intently to them; their visions, and their dreams. My job is to translate that to fit the client’s lifestyle and vision for their newly designed home. My clients love the anticipation of the Reveal Day. I have everything set, down to the to the welcoming bowl of nuts on the coffee table that adds southern hospitality and a nod to good health and well-being!!” – Anne Buresh
The remodel for a new Tudor home on Queens Road West in 2015 had to be done in time for the clients to host a Christmas party for their neighbors. Buresh knew the professional clients wanted a chic look that wasn’t overpowering. She added Hickory Chair sofas and a huge gray leather ottoman for a cozy family room. To temper the red paint and bold artwork the owners chose for a billiards room, Buresh added linen drapes and blue-gray rugs with muted designs in other areas. To give the illusion of more space in the dining room, she hung pleated silk curtains extra high, which created lift and brightness. When clients with two young children had just moved from Seattle to the Charlotte area, they wanted a stylish but comfortable abode. A color balance was created when neutral tones were contrasted with deep corals. Highlights were an Italian chandelier, an antique gilded dining room table with nailhead-trimmed chairs, a Greek Key console table, and a gilded glass coffee table with a book about Seattle.
7) Freespace Design
Featured Designers: Geri Cruickshank Eaker
Address: 512-B North Pine Street, Charlotte, NC 28202
Geri Cruickshank Eaker’s clients say that the Scottish-born designer sets the bar high when it comes to bold Euro-modern interiors. Eaker herself says that her distinctly contemporary style reveals a passion for abstract art and detail. The Charlotte-based designer – who once lived in Osaka, Japan — has more than 30 years’ experience in design and photography throughout the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan, and the US. She opened Freespace Design in 2005. Eaker earned a bachelor’s degree in design and two master’s degrees in design and interior architecture and environmental design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee in Scotland. She then served for five years as an interior design consultant at Boomerang Design in Shelby, North Carolina. Her work is often featured in local Charlotte business magazines.
The Thomas residence clients — who worked in the entertainment industry — were looking for a modern kitchen to fit a busy lifestyle. Eaker opened up the space by replacing a wall with a custom bar island. She then fitted the kitchen with a new ceiling, redesigned a main window, and created a new entrance to the home theater room. The crowning touch was a pantry with a glass door made by laminating an image of celluloid film. For another kitchen redesign in Charlotte, “The Johnson residence,” Eaker showed her expertise with using color to create boundaries. A red wall by the sink was angled to create a visual boundary between the 290-square-foot kitchen and central living space. The “red” concept was continued with a ribbon that started with a ceiling soffit at the island and wrapped through the wall cabinets right down to a red mosaic tile floor. A linear emphasis was established with a white Silestone wrap-around countertop and sliding panels for the new window.
6) Starr Miller Interior Design
Featured Designers: Starr Miller
Address: 19732 One Norman Drive #350, Cornelius, NC 28031
When interior design pro Starr Miller begins a project, she walks through a client’s home looking for clues about their “design puzzle,”: their collections, favorite colors, artwork, etc. This allows her to connect with clients so she can create designs that will personally inspire them. Before founding the firm, Miller had a successful career in merchandising for Fortune 500 retailers. She’s earned a business degree from The University of Alabama and an Interior Design degree from the Parsons School of Design in NYC. She’s been featured on multiple episodes of HGTV’s Save My Bath and writes columns on interior design for Lake Norman Woman magazine. Her work has been featured in national magazines such as New American Luxury and Rug News and Design, as well as The Charlotte Observer and Lake Norman Woman. Miller has won at least 19 awards since 2010, including the Interior Design Society’s Designer of the Year Award in 2012.
A Huntersville client selected Miller to renovate her 4k-square-foot home’s central living spaces, which she felt needed a more contemporary, feminine look. Miller’s solution, written up in The Charlotte Observer in February 2012, started with a scattering of Delft pottery throughout the house. She then replaced large, cushioned armchairs with delicate tables and hand-painted custom-upholstered chairs and even added Pindler & Pidler draperies. A final touch in the entertainment room was to hide a TV behind a wall mirror. Miller’s “elegant pink” redesign of a Huntersville farmhouse added the “wow factor,” according to an April 2012 article in Lake Norman Currents magazine. The custom-built ranch home had a relaxed, traditional country vibe. Miller brought the structure to life with bright floral patterns; a custom Italian chandelier in the dining room; Brunschwig fabrics with custom painted drapes; metal mantles on a brick, wood-burning fireplace; and pink upholstered traditional dining chairs in dark wood.
5) Lauren Nicole Designs
Featured Designers: Lauren Nicole
Address: 11031 Carmel Commons Blvd, Suite 106, Charlotte, NC 28277
Lauren Nicole caught the interior design bug early in life. Her mom, Linda Riddiough, was a professional home decorator during Lauren’s childhood. Today, she serves as her daughter’s Creative & Merchandising Director. Nicole’s philosophy is simple: “It’s all about the customer.” She started the award-winning firm in 2006 in Charlotte, where she now lives. Her client base is focused around Charlotte, Ballantyne, Waxhaw, Weddington, Lake Norman, Lake Wylie, Mecklenburg, and Union Counties. Nicole’s designs are featured in a series called “Design 101” on The Design Network. She has been featured in Today’s Charlotte Woman magazine as one of Charlotte’s Top 7 Designers. Nicole received Charlotte Magazine’s “Best of the Best” Award for Home Accessories, and, in 2013, her projects were featured in Best of Nova Magazine.
Nicole is especially proud of having designed the Aldie estate in Charlotte in 2015. She highlighted a tray ceiling with warm, brown colors and repeated the brown theme with custom draperies in ivory-brown patterns. The game room featured woven wood shades to prevent sun glare, but also to allow natural light to filter in. For a reading nook, Nicole selected blue fabric in a rope check pattern for side-by-side chairs, to add warmth and coziness. The North Shore Estate in Mooresville – for a family of seven — was given an open concept floor plan with the family room adjoining a large kitchen. A large, round table with a curved bench was perfect to allow the whole family to see each other as they eat. The breakfast area was framed with custom draperies and decked out with upholstered chairs and a textured fabric bench to add style while maintaining the room’s lived-in feel.
4) Tammy Coulter Design
Featured Designers: Tammy Coulter
Address: 4631 Nations Crossing Road, Charlotte, NC 28217
For 15 years, Tammy Coulter has worked with architects, contractors, and homeowners to design interiors and custom homes. Her approach is described as “eclectic.” She is not committed to any one style, believing that this is the way to incorporate the varied visions of her clients. However, she tends to prefer traditional patterns with modern lines and warm color schemes. Because she’s travelled extensively, she has been influenced by designs around the world and tries to weave these ideas into fresh patterns for her clients. Coulter’s projects have been focused on homes throughout Charlotte, Fort Mill, Lake Wylie, Matthews, Myers Park, Huntersville, Lake Norman, and Cornelius. She was the First Place Winner in the 2017 Thermador Kitchen Design Challenge. In 2013, she won Best Interior Design from Charlotte’s Homearama.
Featured in Luxury Home Magazine were Coulter’s designs for a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath, 7,085-square-foot French Renaissance Estate at 1001 Colville Road. An entryway tower led to hidden doors in the foyer that ran into a powder room. The gourmet kitchen was equipped with a 48-inch dual-range and built-in refrigerator and freezer, a custom-designed hood and backsplash, and an adjoining pantry. A great room featured a veranda and a fireplace. A Grandfather Home on a wooded site in Foxcroft was a new build that had two master suites and more than 1,000 square feet of entertaining space outside, including a grilling porch, zen room, veranda, and poolscape. The home also featured a theater and wine cellar. Elaborate luxury trim, custom cabinets, shiplap accents, and intricate ceiling textures created a meticulous finish.
3) Traci Zeller Designs
Designers: Traci Zeller
Address: 2935 Providence Road, Suite 202, Charlotte, NC 28211
Traci Zeller came to the interior design field by way of a successful law career, which started when she graduated from the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law and held positions with the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Though she no longer practices law, Zeller uses her legal training to advise clients on how to manage their design projects. Her style is built around the juxtaposition of trendy palettes and crisp lines. She uses patterns to breathe life into neutral color schemes. Twice named one of the 25 Most Stylish People in Charlotte, Zeller is an Associate Member of ASID and an active member of WithIt, an association that promotes women in the home furnishings field. She has appeared on TV and at design industry events, and her projects have been the subject of articles in local, regional, and national home decorating magazines.
For clients who wanted a sophisticated but welcoming remodel of their home after the kids left for college, Zeller reached out for lavender and green tones to brighten up a traditional living room. She added pleats to custom window treatments for a polished look and the appearance of movement. An inviting look was created by adding several seating areas. Shades of blue and cream combined to add a touch of boldness to the master bedroom. An open-concept was added to update the kitchen. Classic, white furniture in the living and keeping rooms was given punch by lively color accents. Carrara marble added elegance to a master bathroom. Clients in Mint Hill wanted to relocate to upper crust Cheval, and Zeller was part of the design team for their home that was to be featured at Charlotte’s HomeArama tour in July 2015. Zeller’s design gave the clients what they wanted: an escape from the hustle and bustle of their daily routines, but still a perfect venue to entertain inside and out. For a timeless look, Zeller chose furniture from the latest Ethan Allen collections, which she called “icons of livable luxury.”
2) Amy Vermillion Interiors
Featured Designers: Amy Martineau Vermillion
Address: 4518 Pendock Court, Charlotte, NC 28226
By the time Amy Martineau Vermillion founded her Charlotte firm in 1999, she had already worked for two of Chicago’s most prestigious design firms. Vermillion earned a bachelor’s in interior and environmental design from Illinois State University. She trained at the Foundation for Interior Design Education and Research, a program that emphasizes architecture, fine art, and interior design. Vermillion is an Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers. She has developed a reputation for taking on challenging interior design projects throughout the Southeast. Her projects have been written about in The New York Times, Charlotte Magazine, Southpark Magazine, The Charlotte Observer, Front Door Magazine, and Pioneer Press in Chicago. She is active in the Carolinas Chapter Association of ASID. For many of her designs, she takes inspiration from her travels through Europe and the Middle East.
“Stunning” is the word most often chosen to describe Vermillion’s renovations, such as one in Foxcroft. Vermillion designed kitchen cabinets to match the home’s beautiful and unusually tall doors, which were decorated in a flat reeded pattern. For cabinet fronts and pulls, Vermillion had round handles forged in Chicago, then found a design to complement the flat reeding detail she found so fascinating. For an elegant sitting room, she put up elaborate chandeliers. Adding another story to the house was not possible, so Vermillion designed a guest room and upstairs den in a loft, decorated with traditional wood ship lap and pocket change. For a living room remodel, Vermillion used different shades of blue in lamps, a rug, and artwork to keep things interesting. To balance a classic oil painting over a mantel, Vermillion placed bold abstract works on each side of the French doors. A custom loveseat was upholstered in linen velvet to mimic the rippling flow of water then topped with cut velvet pillows and embroidered linens.
1) Laura Casey Interiors
Featured Designers: Laura Casey
One look at Laura Casey’s work tells anyone she is a giant among interior designers. Casey founded her firm in New York City in 2003, but moved it to Charlotte four years later. She is nationally licensed: ASID and NCIDQ. Casey studied at Vanderbilt University and obtained her AAS degree from The New York School of Interior Design. From there, she went on to successful terms at top New York firms, such as La Jolie Maison, Terry Sullivan, Cullman & Kravis, and Victoria Hagan Interiors. Her work has been featured in dozens of local and national magazines, such as Woman’s Day, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Her designs often rely on original artwork. She admits to having a soft spot for French Norman architecture.
“I started as an intern in high school at an interior design firm and continued throughout college. During this time I realized the importance of going to design school, developing an understanding of the client and having solid communication skills. Travel, cultural immersion and varying mediums of art inspire my designs.” – Laura Casey
Casey is known for understated elegance. She relied on a neutral palette to dominate a French-styled entryway in a Foxcroft home. The daintiness of the room and furniture was highlighted by gray settee upholstery in pale pink damask fabric next to an ivory cabriole side table. For a new build in Charlotte, Casey’s clients wanted a clean look, which meant no clutter. Casey’s solution, featured in QC Exclusive, was to create visual balance by allowing all pieces to contribute toward the look rather than having one or two to become focal points. That meant a traditional all-white kitchen with a range hood built right into the cabinets. The white and ivory theme continued through the living room with pale curtains, upholstered white chairs paired in front of a fireplace, and a splash of color from a blue sofa placed beneath an abstract painting. In 2011, Casey’s “outside the box” thinking was featured in a Charlotte Magazine article. Clients in Elizabeth wanted a colorful decor to liven up their 100-year-old home and show off their impressive art collection. She relied on lighter shades for walls because the artwork needed a neutral background. Patterns and solids were alternated to achieve balance in color. For a sitting room, Casey decided on matching orange leather armchairs and an ottoman, because the pieces coordinated with the slightly flamboyant sofa pattern. Typical of older homes, the rooms were not large. To create space, Casey added lots of open glass shelves and tubular steel chairs, but chose a wood coffee table for a touch of a simplicity.on