From shaping homes in-person or virtually, Zoe C. Barnholdt is bringing her transparent style of interior design to the north country.
Ms. Barnholdt has owned Holdt House, an interior design business she operates out of Riverside Drive, for two years. She grew up in South Carolina but has lived in Clayton for roughly eight years.
She went from selling handcrafted decor pieces to designing commercial businesses and even a seven-room farmhouse.
Her career actually started in teaching. She studied psychology and health science at SUNY Oswego before getting a masters degree in primary and secondary education. That led to her teaching at an autism program in Syracuse, which she said she loved. Her passion, though, had always been interior design. She would go on to open Flowers For Zoe – an ode to her namesake, Zoe Kravitz. She sold hand-crafted plates, cutting boards, mason jars and more. From there, she decided she wanted to transition into designing entire homes.
She would end up designing her mother’s home, and then she landed Rooted, a juice bar in Clayton she designed entirely.
All throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Barnholdt worked at an interior design business at which her clients were exclusively digital. She could take on a client from California or Idaho. They would meet via Zoom calls, her clients would send her the measurements of their home and then she’ll design their house on an online program. Ms. Barnholdt would then order the necessary furniture and decor and have it mailed to her client’s home.
She still works with digital clients, but now she’s focusing full-time on the Holdt House, her in-person business. Right now she’s designing the seven-room house in Skaneateles, which is her largest project yet.
In general, clients come to her for guidance. They might have a plan or none at all. They might just want consultation. Above all, Ms. Barnholdt prioritizes transparency and starting with what plan would best help her client’s home function for them. Do they have pets? Do they have children? And then of course, there’s style. What scheme do they want to go with? Do they want Ms. Barnholdt to have total creative freedom?
“I think I take pride in the same way a tattoo artist might with their canvas,” Ms. Barnholdt said. “I really want to deliver a certain quality of work. I absolutely love doing things that are different and funky and I love opening the client’s eyes. However, not every client is a good fit, same like every canvas isn’t a good fit for every tattoo artist.”
She’s inspired by Kelly Wearstler, an acclaimed interior designer who notably designed the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Ms. Wearstler has a different edge to her, just like Ms. Barnholdt. Trendy themes right now are rustic barn houses or magnolias, which Ms. Barnholdt likes and has done for clients. She just tends to gravitate toward more colors in her home, as well as different textures and organic shapes and woods.
“A lot of people have something to start with,” Ms. Barnholdt said. “I don’t often work with a client that has absolutely no furniture and no idea what they want to do. I have done that, but for the most part people usually say ‘I just have no idea how to do this. Design is not my field. It’s not my world and I just need help; however I know that I somewhat like neutral colors.’”
Even if a client just wants to put finishing touches on an already-furnished home, Ms. Barnholdt can do that. It’s just her vision for the Holdt House is much more extensive.
“That’s usually the client that might not get the most out of Holdt House,” Ms. Barnholdt said. “The whole thing is an experience. It’s all about taking it from the beginning and working our way through the process. That’s what I think my clients really value.”
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