Interior designer Natalie Papier’s art-filled, vintage-inspired home is the backdrop for a stay-at-home fashion fantasy.
photography + direction: Chris Edwards | styling + production: Whitley Adkins | words: Cathy Martin | hair + makeup: Elizabeth Tolley | model: Liza Lavengood represented by Directions USA Model and Artist Management | floral arrangements by Shelly St. Laurent, Foxglove Fine Flowers
Natalie Papier’s passion for color is evident as soon as you cross the threshold of her SouthPark-area home. From the electric-blue credenza to the rainbow-patchwork piano by local artist Frankie Zombie to the large abstract painting by Chicago artist Michael Hedges, it’s clear she has a fondness for art, whimsy and vintage objects — and that’s just the foyer.
“Curated chaos. Maybe that should be the name of my book,” Papier wrote in a recent post on Instagram (@home_ec_op) where the artist-turned-interior designer has a whopping 75,000 followers and counting.
Papier, who generously opened her home to SouthPark for this daylong photo shoot, moved from the Chicago area earlier this year, and in the time it took the rest of us to binge Selling Sunset, learn to bake sourdough or grow a handful of tomatoes, she has utterly transformed the 90s-era house, which she playfully refers to on Instagram as #thecharlottechateau. Gone are any traces of the “all-beige-everything” home Papier, her husband and two children moved into back in March.
With a background in art, the lifelong Midwesterner fell into design after she and her young family moved from downtown Chicago to a Victorian with “very traditional bones” in suburban Oak Park.
“I just started really playing with that as my canvas, and it got noticed by some friends and other people that wanted help,” she says. “It just spiraled — it was very much word of mouth.” She teamed with a fellow vintage-loving friend to launch Home Ec., an interior-design business, in 2016.
Papier moved Home Ec. to Charlotte when her family relocated here, and it didn’t take long for potential clients to seek her out; in fact, she’s been so busy she’s already had to turn business away.
“I’m meeting people now that I’m finding are ready to stop doing all the boring and beige. We’re hip, and we’re young, and we have kids, so why can’t our houses reflect that kind of fun attitude as well, and just have more life and color?” the designer says.
Being stuck at home for much of the year also has inspired many homeowners to update their living areas.
“I’m finding that people right now, they want just happier spaces,” says Papier, 41.
“Unconventional” might be one way to describe Papier’s style, “but I try to do it in a way that’s still refined and not just messy. Because there is a balance, once you start getting, you know, a 6-foot fiberglass ostrich, in our house. How do you balance that to look refined?”
Papier takes an art-forward approach to interior design, with a passion for supporting local and emerging artists. “Especially in interiors, I think people are so quick to just make the art not a priority. Then they buy art somewhere like HomeGoods, and there’s no soul in that, or story.” She also aims to debunk the common misconception that original art is only for the very wealthy. That goes for fine furniture, too.
“I think what’s surprising is some people think it’s all high-end,” when they see her home, she says. “But it’s not. They’re all thrifted and found pieces, and it’s curated over time. You can find more interesting pieces that way and not break the bank.”
Sourcing vintage finds locally has been a bit more challenging than in Chicago, which Papier describes as a “mecca” for estate sales, flea markets and antiques. Local favorites include Slate Interiors and Sleepy Poet Antique Mall, and she also continues to source many pieces online.
Fortunately, the internet also has made it easier for Papier to connect with local artists and creators, especially during the pandemic. She and Zombie are collaborating on an upcoming design project for a client in Oklahoma.
“There is a thriving art scene [in Charlotte], and it’s really cool. I love how every neighborhood has different pockets of cool artistic things happening, whether it’s the architecture in Myers Park or the murals in NoDa. … I feel like there is that traditional Southerness, but it’s got this kind of urban, grittiness coming in, so it’s like two worlds melding. And for me, it’s unexpectedly fun to be a part of.” SP
featured image: Joseph trousers, $595, Joseph blouse, $405, Loeffler Randall booties, $450, all Shop Showroom, SHOPSHOWROOM.COM, Jill Seale Dotty Peacock silk charmeuse wrap, $180, JillSeale.com