Designer Spotlight: Claire Thomas
Claire Thomas is a multi-hyphenate in the making. Starting out as an assistant food stylist and personal chef, Claire eventually started the popular blog Kitchy Kitchen to share her love for all things food and design. Fast forward to 2020, and she can now add director, writer, TV host, and designer to her resume. Discover all of Claire's favorite Fireclay Tile projects and get her design tips for creating a space that's truly you on today's Designer Spotlight!
What made you choose the 8 colors in your palette? What do you like about these glazes?
I didn’t realize I had a specific color palette until I started working with Fireclay. I found myself gravitating toward the same tones, ones that had a lot of richness, depth, and that had a vintage feel—as if it came from a different time. Everything is based on telling a story, feeling transported, and colored tiles are an easy way to achieve that.
I love that about color: you put different tones together and you know where you are and why you’re there. A great example of this is the bathroom at the Sweet Laurel Cottage. I really leaned into the richest color possible and the emerald just makes you think “Wow, this is a really special place.”
Tile Shown: 6" Hexagons in Evergreen
Why do you love tile? How do you like to use tile in your designs?
I love tile for so many reasons. I’m an incredibly aesthetics-first person and tiles are not only super aesthetically interesting, but durable. They’re really fun to play with and there are so many unexpected ways to utilize them other than on the usual bathroom floor or kitchen backsplash. The back patio at Oeste really exemplifies that.
I was inspired by a rooftop deck in Marrakesh that I wanted to transport to the desert through an ocean of sunset toned tile. To expand on that, I measured the angle of my dad’s Eames Lounge chair—which is objectively the world’s most comfortable chair—and designed the floor to replicate that. Despite people’s doubts on how that would work with tile, Fireclay has never not worked and the sunset tones are so gorgeous. Anyone can go for something minimal, but I like to creates paces that take you on a ride of color and are a vacation for your eyes.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you got your start in design?
My grandfather and father both worked in production, so I grew up wanting to be a director. I’ve always loved storytelling and grew up with a deep obsession of the Hollywood Golden Age movie era. I was attentive to sets and how set and production design would inform a story. Once I started directing and working with production design to figure out who the characters were and where they lived--I always had to build a home. Design became much more of a focus when we moved into our first house. It was a real renovation project, which I was comfortable with because my mom had been really into that.
I decided to try my hand more purposefully and that’s how the Kitchy Cabin came to be. It was the first time I reached out to Fireclay and I just threw everything I had into the cabin and it had such a positive response and a lot of press. It made me realize I might have something special. People are responding to my POV in design work.
After the Kitchy Cabin, I started working with close friends who’ve entrusted me to follow my vision of telling a very specific story in a space.
How would you describe your style?
My style is exactly like my personality, which is that I love too many things. You’re never going to see the same thing over and over again in my work. One of my biggest challenges of my entire career has been staying in one corner because I find so many things exciting and curious and I just go where my mind takes me. There’s always a new story to tell.
When I work with clients, that’s the first thing I ask—“What story are we trying to tell?” When you figure that out, it’s easier to understand if a piece belongs in there or not.
What inspires you? Where do you look for design inspiration?
I’ve always been inspired by storytelling, which stems from my background in production. I especially love the classic Hollywood Golden Age Era and all of the amazing set designs. I really look to the past, which explains my lean toward vintage-inspired tones.
What are your four best design tips?
1. Always think of spaces holistically.
Define the context before defining the space—meaning, don’t focus too much on loving individual things that may not work or harmonize in the story you’re trying to tell.
Here's her Zuhause project, where Claire used our tile in both bathrooms and the kitchen:
Brick Shown: Elk
Brick Shown: Elk
2. Don’t be afraid to use color and have fun with patterns.
This is clear when you look at all of Claire's projects!
3. Find unexpected ways to use things.
Like my tile example—backsplash and bathroom floors are great and make sense, but find unique, yet practical ways to use other materials.
Image: Stephanie Todaro Photography
4. Look to the past.
I promise, it’s a very exciting space.
Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on with us?
They’re all like my children—I love them equally, but differently. But if I had to go with one right now, it’d be Oeste. It was the biggest pain-in-the-ass, but it gave me free rein so it was really a full expression of myself because I got to do whatever I wanted with it. Oeste is a shooting location, rental home, event space, and so much more, so it was really intended to be a visual vacation and it shows in the vibrancy of it.
When I was starting to think about the patio, I got so many confused looks from contractors when I told them I wanted to transform the gray concrete and other base materials into a clean sweep of sunset tone tiles. But I pushed that vision and it looks great. It’s this gorgeous ride of color that makes you feel transported.
How has your business changed in 2020? How has your design process changed? How have you been staying inspired?
I’m still finding a lot of inspiration in watching old movies. It’s something I loved doing with my dad growing up. My design assistant, Emily, also shares a love for the Golden Age movie era, so I’ll end up taking photos of my TV screen and sending them over to her as reference.
Brick Shown: Olympic
I’m also really into online auctions, which are a great way to lose your money quickly. I dig through those to find items I love and then can later research and find elsewhere. And of course, Pinterest is a bottomless pit of references.
Tile Shown: 4x4 Tiles in Tusk
Inspired by Claire's colorful style? Order your very own sample pack. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.