To the uninformed observer, Hingham resident Cecilia Walker would seem to be something of an overnight success in the highly competitive Boston-area design field.
It was in 2006, after volunteering to help a friend with her interior design project, that Walker entered the profession full time. In short order, she secured multiple projects in Wellesley, Boston and other metro-Boston suburbs. Like most “overnight successes” can attest to, Walker’s path to her achievements involved a lifetime of experiences, study and elbow grease in a variety of industry-related positions.
A California native, Walker spent much of her childhood tagging along with her mother, an interior designer, while on the hunt for fabrics and antique treasures and meetings with her clients. “I learned a lot from my mom just by osmosis—I would say that design is definitely in my bones,” says Walker. “My mother is my mentor and inspiration.”
Despite her natural affinity for interior design, Walker attended Boston College, graduating with dual degrees in economics and art history before moving to New York City to pursue fashion design. She spent 14 years in the fashion industry, working with giants like Laura Ashley, Ann Taylor and Keds, and holding a variety of positions ranging from merchandising product development to manufacturing. These experiences gave Walker multifaceted knowledge in home furnishings, apparel, footwear and accessories—a background that she considers an invaluable foundation in her current position.
“I would never trade my time in fashion for anything else because I learned about style and trends in the industry in a way that informs my interior design aesthetic,” says Walker. “In the fashion world, my eye was trained on the details—stitching, buttons, the gauge of knits and different types of fabrics and washes. All of this translates to the details of your upholstery, cabinet design, hardware and the feel of all the finishes in your home.”
Walker is an associate member of American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and is credentialed at a professional level many local decorators and designers are not—an important distinction when it comes to designing her clients’ homes. “There are many self-taught decorators out there,” says Walker. “But clients should understand that there aren’t any restrictions on one’s qualifications to become a decorator and most of them will often deal just in the finishes in your home, such as fabric choice and wall color,” says Walker. However, ASID designers, Walker explains, look at a space from a holistic perspective and are able to draw floor plans and think about the structure of a house. “We are trained to look at the bigger picture and consider behavioral science to create functional spaces. It’s not simply, which stone countertop would look best? It’s more like, before we start picking out your countertops, let’s discuss whether moving a wall will create a much better flow in your kitchen.”
A Dream Fulfilled
While in college, Walker kept a book where she sketched out designs reminiscent of her California childhood. With encouragement from her mother, Walker recently unearthed these designs and launched her line of textiles, marking the fulfillment of a childhood dream of seeing her designs come to fruition in tangible form. “I named one of the fabric and wallpaper patterns ‘Calisole’ because it is inspired by the pattern on the bottom of Vans sneakers which are such a part of the California skate culture,” notes Walker. “Another, ‘Halfpipe,’ reminds me of all the time my brother spent skateboarding and is shaped like the halfpipes you see in skate parks.”
When it came time to print the fabrics for this collection, Walker once again drew upon her experience in the fashion industry to make an informed decision on where to produce them. She chose Griswold Textile Print, Inc. in Rhode Island, a fabric mill that has been hand screening fabric with virtually the same methods for over a century.
The designer was able to put her own textiles on display at the 2016 Junior League of Boston Showhouse in the Nathaniel Allen House in West Newton where she was invited to transform a former butler’s pantry into a bar. Walker teamed up with Tracy Foley of Water and Main to revamp the space, using a mix of antiques, high gloss teal paint and modern accents to create a rich, layered look. Her own “Calisole” wallcovering graces the walls and even the ceiling of the room. Walker says that the small space is a good representation of her design sensibilities. “I believe that your home is your sanctuary and that it should be simple, yet striking. It should be filled with unique items and things that you love, not bound by formalities. I like calm, uncomplicated interiors grounded in classic pieces with clean lines integrating natural textures and a juxtaposition of rustic and modern. “It’s an extension of my style, California surf meets New York black,” she says.