5 Questions for: Interior Designer Casey Keasler

Photograph by Nicole Munson.

“I HAVE A REASON BEHIND EVERY SPACE I CREATE, EVERY PIECE OF FURNITURE I SELECT, EVERY LIGHT FIXTURE I PRESENT,” says Casey Keasler, interior designer and founder of Portland-based design studio Casework, whose projects span both residential and commercial spaces.

Recently, Keasler was tapped to design shop-in-shops at multiple Nordstrom locations—including the downtown Seattle flagship—for LA-based non-toxic nail salon Base Coat. The biggest challenge? Casework had a mere six weeks to get it all done, including client approval, Nordstrom approval, consulting with ergonomics experts to maximize nail tech comfort, and installation. The final result is a ‘70s-inspired shop with deep green, brass, and pale pink accents. Read on for more about Keasler’s work, her morning routine, and why face-to-face meetings with clients make all the difference.

Why choose a career in design?

In design, you can have an impact on your own environment as well as others! Nothing is more exciting than seeing a project go from idea to completion. The initial iterations a project undergoes evolve so much from start to finish. [These changes are] something I never get tired of seeing. At Casework, design bridges the gap between art and architecture. From clients to artist, architects, builders, engineers, graphic designers, fabricators, furniture designers… it’s inspiring to bring them all together.

Casework
Base Coat shop-in-shop inside Nordstrom's downtown Seattle location. Photograph by Ellie Lillstrom.

What was the design inspiration behind the Base Coat shop-in-shop at Nordstrom?

Seventies, modern, and chic were the vision’s guiding principles. My first call with the founders Tran Wills and Sarah Simon was incredibly exciting. The pace was fast, which I enjoy, but rarely have the opportunity to work in that way. So often, design projects take years and we had the chance to make an impact in a matter of weeks! We had six weeks to go from idea, internal approval, Nordstrom approval, to installation (all of which Casework did ) to the grand opening. Timing was the biggest constraint. Most of the fixtures we sourced had to be readily available. We were able to collaborate with local, women artists to add unique pieces, including an Attalie Dexter wall hanging at The Grove in Los Angeles; a Becca Fuhrman drawing and a wall hanging from Jessica Salazar of Vida + Luz in Seattle; and in Chicago’s Oakbrook location, a Bethany Mabee painting. Creating a chic and relaxing environment was a big priority. Not only for clients, but also for the nail techs. It wouldn’t make sense to design a beautiful space if the techs were uncomfortable doing their job all day. We consulted with an ergonomics expert to make sure we were on track, designing custom-height legs for off-the-shelf chairs. This made the lounge chairs the ideal height for guests but also for the techs providing the service.

What are you doing less of in design? And what’s inspiring you the most right now?

The answer to both questions is not trusting my instincts. I’m most inspired by face-to-face meetings with my clients. At this moment, I have the opportunity to ask the questions to understand their pain points and the nuances of how they work and live. This conversation usually sparks an idea or a problem that needs a solution.

Describe your typical morning routine.

I’m usually up by 7 am. I shower, get dressed and I walk my dog, Winston. I’m in the studio by 8:30 am. There, I spend 30 minutes opening up the space, making coffee, and getting caught up on emails from the night before. By 9 am, it’s time for team meetings, client meetings, calls, site visits, or working on my own to-do list. Each day is a little different and I like it that way!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

In design, you don’t have to know everything, but you do have to know what you want. A mentor from a past architecture firm told me something along those lines when I was stressing out about how to respond to a contractor question. He said you have to know what you want so you can ask the right questions to get you the results you want. That was monumental in helping me grow as a designer. Be intentional as a designer. Basically, I have a reason behind every space I create, every piece of furniture I select, every light fixture I present. Cool or cute doesn’t count. Cool won’t hold up 10 years from now.

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