Top Interior Designers Experience Adventure Every Day
His disappearance continues to inspire many theories, but it was his transformation of the Thai silk industry that remains one of the great accomplishments of designer Jim Thompson, a former Army officer and spy whose career really began when he opened the Office of Strategic Services in Bangkok.
The women featured on these pages are representative of Jim Thompson in many ways. Their sense of adventure, their ability to transform a home, even the fascinating ways in which they came into their professions are proof that it is the sum of experiences that can lead to the career of a lifetime.
For each of the business owners, interior design is not just a profession, it’s a passion. They make their living transforming houses into the personal, fabulous, unique spaces that their clients will call home.
Nicole Roberts Winmill
NR Interiors LLC, Founded in 2008
Native of: Galesburg, Ill., “a town with a large, charming historic district.”
“I’m a nature girl all the way,” says Nicole Winmill. “If I weren’t an interior designer, I would spend my days working outside and enjoying the spectacular beauty of nature.” The business owner has, however, found a way to bring nature into the homes she designs.
“I try to incorporate elements that are very organic, very natural,” she says. The use of wood in a dimensional contemporary feature wall, for example, can help bring some warmth to a contemporary home, explains Winmill, “It gives the interior a balance.”
Her office in north San Antonio, in the International Trade Cartel Building, offers her access to the 10,000-square-foot design showroom that is the ITC. She has thousands of designer fabrics, fine furnishings and home decor at her fingertips to help her create that balance for clients.
This entrepreneur has clients in San Antonio. She also has carved a niche for herself among the high-end neighborhoods in Boerne and areas north of the Alamo City, including Lake McQueeney and Austin.
While she started her company with a focus on new homes, Winmill also has seen a growing demand for her talents on remodels. Whatever the scope, it is her job to be there from the very beginning — from reviewing the architecture plans to selecting the construction finishes to designing the custom furnishings. She does it all, inside and out. “I want to make the process as stress-free as possible,” she says.
The Illinois native’s childhood home was an older Victorian house. That home helped to instill in Winmill an appreciation for fine craftsmanship and for homes with a little bit of character and fueled her passion for remodeling homes and incorporating special, one-of-a-kind details in each design.
As for her dream house, this nature girl would love to one day have her own home on the lake. “I love designing lake homes. They are instantly calming,” Winmill says. “I’m saving my pennies — one of these years it will happen.”
Collected by Holly Rabinowitz
Opened storefront in Fall 2015
Her goal: “I want to deliver more than the client is asking for.”
Holly Rabinowitz says she always wanted to be an adventurer.
But take one look around her showroom and her warehouse — at the vast collection of bespoke lamps, antique furnishings and one-of-a-kind art pieces that take up nearly every inch of space. She’s living her dream.
Rabinowitz’s inventory is available via the 1stdibs website and by appointment. Her collection is varied and ranges in age from the 17th century to vintage pieces and items of the modern era. “Because all of our projects are so different, I buy what I believe in and what I love,” she says, “with the idea that pieces may work their way into a project someday.”
This business owner believes in giving clients more than they ask for. So strong is her belief and her love of the profession that she has made runs at 11 o’clock at night to find that one item that will help her create a space that exceeds the expectations of a client.
Sometimes, exceeding expectations means delivering something clients didn’t even realize they wanted. “Our goal is to help our clients achieve the best version of their space,” Rabinowitz says. “So, of course, I try to steer them outside of their comfort zone a bit when it’s right for the project.”
Rabinowitz knows firsthand the joy that comes from unanticipated surprises. She initially signed the lease in Olmos Park to create warehouse space for the inventory she was already selling on 1stdibs. “Upon the recommendation of a friend and colleague, I retained window frontage for a showroom,” she recalls. “It was the first time that the items I had been gathering and selling internationally had a public presence locally.” And the local public has definitely responded — proof that sometimes the greatest journey is the one you didn’t plan on.
Says Rabinowtiz: “Opening this space that showcases our collection brought decorating and design work to me — even if I didn’t originally know that’s where I was headed.”
Betsy Homan Interior Design LLC
Founded in 2003
2017 is the year: “I continue creating beautiful and functional living spaces for my clients.”
Betsy Homan’s first interior project? Her home, when she was around 8 years old. “My mom would come home, and the living room was all rearranged,” she recalls. “I’d get in trouble for moving the furniture.”
But Homan did not start out doing residential interiors. In fact, she started college with the goal of becoming an artist. Then she received some sage advice from a professor. “He pulled me aside and said, ‘An artist is a solitary life,’” Homan recalls. “He told me to look into interior design.”
This vivacious woman with a flair for color would go on to receive a degree in interior design from the University of Texas. And still the residential sector was not in the plans just yet.
She honed her skills in the transportation industry — doing interior design on private aircraft for some of the most powerful business leaders and for heads of state around the world. She worked in Switzerland and Hong Kong and frequently traveled to places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and London.
Eventually, however, the travel got old — and thus began the next phase of her career. Friend and fellow interior designer Derrick Dodge was the one who steered her toward residential interiors. “He told me, ‘If you can design the inside of a tube (an airplane), you can design a house,’” she recalls.
Fifteen years later, she still loves it. “I get great satisfaction working with families and experiencing the joy of creating a beautiful, functional home for and with them. Interior design is a team sport,” she continues. “I love my clients to be engaged with the process.”
As for what Homan would do if she weren’t an interior designer, this entrepreneur knows she is exactly where she belongs.
“I’ve been asked that question. I would do this,” she says. “This business brings me so much joy — being able to give a client something beautiful and seeing how thrilled they are with the outcome.”
Founded in 2015
My home is: “my initial portfolio.”
When Nicola Bathie decided to open her own firm, she could think of no better project to show off her talents than the house she and her husband had just purchased.
The traditional 1950s home was remodeled top to bottom. The project even included renovating separate living quarters that now serve as Bathie’s home office. “I gained so much experience doing this house,” she says.
Meanwhile, the recognition she received from the publication of photos of the finished product in a local magazine has been an invaluable marketing source for her company.
The entrepreneur’s focus has been on remodels not only in areas like Terrell Hills and Alamo Heights, but also in Austin. These projects have run the gamut from updating the furniture to more complex jobs involving sizable additions — the structure at the heart of the project often in a traditional home. “I love older homes,” she says. “They have so much character.”
McLaughlin Interiors may be young, but its founder already has several years of experience under her belt, including two years with a firm in Dallas. And before Dallas, there was the grueling curriculum at Texas Christian University required for her to earn her bachelor of science degree.
She is thankful for the hard work it has taken to get to this point in her career. “It has made me more driven,” Bathie says. “If it came easy, I wonder if I would have had the same outcome.”
And when Bathie needs an escape from the work, she has her business as a jewelry designer, which she operates under the Nicola Bathie Designs LLC banner. These projects, says the entrepreneur, allow her creative mind to change directions.
Interior design, however, will always be her passion, says Bathie, who continues to embrace the challenges of the business. “Setbacks make me want to succeed,” she says. “I love being challenged.”
By Tricia Lynn Silva
Photography by Martin Waddy
This story was originally published in the March/April 2017 issue of San Antonio Woman magazine and SanAntonioWoman.com.