The Color of Your Life with Kathryn Chaplow

interview by Elyse Wild | photography by Two Eagles Marcus

Kathryn Chaplow knows a lot about color. She has been designing commercial and residential interiors for more than 20 years, bringing an invigorating sense of beauty that reflects who we are into the spaces we occupy most. In 2014, Chaplow gave an engaging talk at CreativeMornings GR, a free monthly breakfast lecture series geared toward creative professionals, about the colors we reflect on social media and what they can tell us about our lives. We sat down with her to learn more.

“What I noticed in looking at these  images on the screen was there was a very distinct pattern and emotion about what I was drawn to.” –from Kathryn Chaplow’s CreativeMornings GR talk

Women’s LifeStyle Magazine: Tell us about developing your talk for CreativeMornings GR.

Kathryn Chaplow: I was given the topic of color. I didn’t want it to be boring— a designer talking about color to a roomful of designers. I felt like I needed to find a creative angle, and that’s why I kind of went down that path. What I love about color and why I use a lot of it both in my life and in my work is that to me, it’s just an expression of self. The use of color, whether it’s a very neutral, quiet palette or a very colorful, vibrant, layered palette can tell you a lot about a person’s approach to living, how they feel about themselves and what they want to be. I enjoy wearing very colorful clothing, my home is full of colorful work and textiles, and I love to use it in my work.

I was printing photographs to make a photo album. There is a website where you choose photos on your Instagram account and you plug them into a template, so I was looking at my Instagram account differently than I looked at it before: There was a whole page on my computer screen rather than just a few images on my phone.

WLM: What did you see?

KC: What was interesting is that I saw kind of a distinct palette; it was surprising to see that I was instinctively or naturally drawn to, not just to specific colors, but also a specific scale and proportion.

So, I went and looked at other Instagram accounts and you can see that people are very intentional about curating their pages while others, you can tell just naturally did what I had done, which is gravitate toward a very similar vibe, if you will, a similar mood. Some people’s pages looked very down-to-earth and lovely; they would use dreamy filters and maybe step back from their subject. Other’s pages were very intense and they would get very close to their subject; they would use high contrast and bright colors. I loved that there was this really unique pattern that you could see with people, both intentionally and accidentally.

WLM: In your talk, you brought up that ever since people have been using social media, there has been a conversation around the questions, “Is this really us? Is what we are presenting really our lives?” Can you elaborate on that in relation to this accidental or purposeful palette that we are presenting?

KC:  I carefully use social media in my own life. I think it’s great for business. With my personal life, I’m much more careful about whom I share my images with and how much attention I give to that because it can be very exhausting and high-maintenance. I think that what you are focusing on and what you’re putting out there is, “My life is flawed and imperfect and I love it,” you know? I think what’s interesting though is that you can tell a lot about someone, even if it’s artificial, from what they gather and what they collect and what they’re putting out there. It’s just like running into people and having conversations and you take bits of those conversations and you build the story; you can build the same story with images. What I really enjoyed about the exercise of looking at my Instagram images through this color filter was that when I got in close, there may have been silly things, or funny things or sad things, but in general, I had this really colorful palette and it was not by design; it was unexpected. Even though you’re working really hard to craft something and pick the right images, sometimes you have to step back.

“There is an innate perspective we have that is colored by things… it is all shaping the way I see the world, and what I am willing to stop and take a picture of and share with the world.” –Kathryn Chaplow

WLM: How do you use this concept in your work as an interior designer?

KC: More than anything, I want people to be true to themselves. One of the downsides of social media and design platforms is that you get so over-exposed to an idea without even realizing it, and it’s hard to filter through so many good ideas. It’s easy to lose sight of what you really love. I mean, it’s like a fire hose of trends and ideas. What’s the newest idea? What’s the coolest thing? It’s so accessible. As a designer, you instinctively don’t want to follow trends; you want to make it more about the individual, and that is where personal style comes in; identifying what makes you different becomes even more important.

When I looked at that palette on my Instagram account and how unexpected it was, it was so refreshing because I wasn’t planning it. Everybody is crafting their images, planning their interior, trying to make it pinable or likable; to take a new approach is just so good.

WLM: At one point, you compared your living room from two different times. One was for a photo shoot for a magazine, the other was years later after you had your two kids. One is very curated, and the other is full of life. You said you knew which room you would rather spend time in. What advice do you have for people who want to asses their lives through their social media images in the same way you found yourself doing?

KC: It is really interesting to learn about yourself this way. What you do with it from there is up to you. It is kind of fun and interesting, and sometimes it provides a reason to stop and assess things. It’s different for everyone.

WLM: What is the color of your life?

KC: I would say that I’m really open and I try to find that in my work, as well. Working with clients, I try to just be open and allow them or invite them to help me discover new things. Their perspectives are so much more inspiring than my own preconceived ideas. When you get to work with somebody who has creative ideas and needs a designer to help them get there, that is the ultimate collaboration. That collaborative energy, inspiration and perspective fuels me to do something different and helps my team get excited about and wonder if they’re going to like this. I think that openness to anything is really where I try to be, and where I’m happiest.

To view Kathryn’s full talk about color, visit creativemornings.com/talks/kathryn-chaplow.


When she is not editing for WLM, Elyse enjoys traveling to far off lands, enjoying live music, and practicing kung fu. She is also the owner of Your Story, a personal biography writing service for senior citizens.


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