Project Spotlight: Hilton Carter
Interior stylist, artist, and author, Hilton Carter, found himself on his path through what now seems to be a fated visit to a garden cafe that sparked his appreciation of curated spaces. Today, with projects like a collection with Target, a trio of books, and a ton of happy clients, Carter helps people liven up their homes and lives with beautiful plants.
Hilton recently collaborated with Fireclay to transform the sunroom of his Baltimore home into a lifesize terrarium of verdant plant life, plus a picture-perfect powder room. We caught up with Hilton to talk about his career and this project that's as close to home as they come.
Bring Hilton's palette into your home by sampling his favorite tile colors!
First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do? When did you become passionate about plants?
For me, it happened in 2011, while visiting Terrain, a garden cafe in Glen Mills Pennsylvania, and it had this beautiful, curated space. I had never seen anything like that, that sort of attention to detail regarding greenery and I felt something that was missing in my life. I felt this sense of clearness, a sense of relaxation and openness that I hadn't had in my home, and I wanted to bottle up that sort of energy, that feeling I had, and bring it home. In 2014, when I moved to New Orleans, that's when I started to bring plants into my space. At that point in time, I was only considered (in my opinion) a filmmaker and an artist and now, with all I do with plants, I am now a plant stylist and an interior stylist, but also an artist and an author.
How did you get into interior design and styling?
Interior design was something that I got excited about and started thinking more about through my profession as a filmmaker and in filmmaking. The production design was something I really honed in on and thought about during the process of building up a space in a movie, a music video, or a set.
Each space has to tell the story of who the individuals are and who live in it, so I like to think about the details that would add to a scene or a space and how a particular chair, lamp, rug, or artwork says something about that character. And this made me start thinking about my own space and what type of story would it tell.
It wasn't until around 2010 when I really started to think about my space in an adult way and brought in forever pieces and thought more about color and texture and about the lines that are created in a space and what types of patterns work better with other patterns and how these individual pieces would come together as a collection and what they would then say about me. It wasn't until 2016 when I decided I made the transition to working as an interior stylist on the side and finding my way to where I am today.
Now, let's talk about your house! Is there a story behind it you'd like to share? Was this a remodel or renovation?
It took us a while to find this house, we were looking for about a year. There were certain houses that we liked, but then the pandemic hit and we kind of slowed down on the search. Around June of 2020, we felt a bit more comfortable looking, so we started looking in areas that had good school districts and around the area where my wife has her dental practice and came across the house we bought. And the things that excited me about it were the facade and it also has this really beautiful shared private park behind it. For me, someone who loves plants, a lot of decisions are based on light. The south side of the house faces this park, which is an open field, so that means a lot of light is going to come into the south side of our home and it just so happened that the sunroom was on that side of the home.
I knew I wanted to move certain things that would make the house feel more ours and make it flow a bit better so we kind of overlooked some of the minor issues the home had because we had a vision for the future. Down the road, we're going to start remodeling the second and third floors for but for now, the focus was the first floor.
'We opened up the sunroom to give it more space. We brought in all new windows throughout the home, because of course, light is very important. We moved the kitchen to where the dining room was so it would face the park. We wanted the kitchen to be the highlight of the home where people could come and gather and it would get a lot of light and you could face the sunroom.We also moved the powder room over to make the flow between spaces a bit better, and just really focused on the colors the detail, and the patterns, and how they would all work together.
What was your vision for your home? What were your points of inspiration?
The vision of our home was to make sure that it felt modern but also allow the old charm of the home to shine in certain areas. For the parts of the home we renovated, we wanted to have a really easy flow. All of these seamless transitions really take a part in what our goals were. The overall vision was to create a space that you felt alive in, that allowed that blurred the lines between outdoor indoor. We wanted to open it up.
Can you tell me about your design process? What phase do you enjoy most?
The design process is really going through and figuring out what type of colors, textures, imagery, and movement is going into the scene. It's kind of like an orchestra. All of the little details are playing their own parts and hitting certain notes and it is when those notes all come together that the perfect music is created. For me, it's lining out, how all of those little details are going to come together and what the little moments are going to be.
I place all of the details on a vision board and move things in and out and have everything sorted before we present anything to our contractors. For me, this is the part I enjoy the most. I enjoy trying to figure out how these pieces will vibrate together and what will really connect to us for years and years and years to come, not just something for the moment, but what will make it so that 10-20 years from now we still feel like those were great choices.
Let's talk about the sunroom first. What were your goals for this space?
The goal was to make it the lushest space in the home, given that it is a sunroom and would have the most windows and the most light. We wanted to bring in a lot of warm tones that would complement the tones of the plants or the wood in the furniture, as well as the gold in some of the lamps and details. When it came to figuring out the space we wanted to make sure that we built up the space in a way that really complimented that idea of indoor-outdoor.
For the ceiling, we went with red oak slats for both the sunroom and the kitchen to pair with the white walls and black-framed windows and so then we decided to go with a tile floor.
What made you decide to tile the floor?
Since it's the sunroom where the majority of the plants would be, what better way to make sure you're not damaging a surface than tile in a space that is possibly going to get more moisture than any other room in the home?
How did you land on the Hexite shape in this color scheme?
We decided to go with the Hexite shape based on looking at different looks that were on the Fireclay site and scrolling through the Instagram hashtag and just trying to figure out what would create a great pattern but also a pattern that wasn't too demanding on the eye.
Then it was about lining up the colors that we were pushing out in other areas in the home and again balancing that out with natural tones. Those neutral tones reflect back to nature. It really just felt a bit more muted and wasn't something that didn't scream out for attention but fell perfectly in place with all of the tones, decor, and texture that we placed in the sunroom.
Now, the powder room! What aesthetic were you going for here?
The powder room was a reflection of what was going on throughout the first floor. The powder room to me is kind of like the cousin of the sunroom. The colors that we used and the tile are somewhat similar, just with a brighter punch here and there.
Powder Room Before
Desert Bloom was a brighter pink but the pink kind of leans more towards terracotta, which we knew would work really well with the wooden slats on the ceiling. And then the whites and grays would play really well with the concrete wall and vanity.
There was a dance of sorts going on in the space of how to you make sure each room is its own but also could sing in harmony with the other rooms we were pulling together.
What made you go for the randomized triangle pattern?
Tile Shown: Daisy, Peacock, Morning Thaw, Sunflower, Sea Glass, Hunter Green in 4" Triangle // Design: Studio Banaa // Image: Mikiko Kikuyama
I believe it was from a cafe I saw on Fireclay's site and I thought that it was a look that was easy on the eye. I liked that it feels abstract, that it feels not finished almost, and that odd sense of seeing different things later as you spend time with them. There are many times where I have been in bathrooms or rooms that have tile and the more time you spend in those rooms the more images you notice, the more shapes come together and patterns align.
Any tips learned from working with handmade tile that you'd like to share?
I didn't lay it myself, but something I noticed is that the shape and texture aren't going to be exact. And to expect that and know that is only going to add to the aesthetic and appeal of a handmade tile. Honestly, anyone who is dealing with anything that is handmade should expect that no single piece will be the same, that's not how handmade pieces are put together and that is actually what you're going for when you're choosing something that is handmade.
You want that uniqueness in every single tile but also a hope that they'll all come together at the finish, but if you look at each individually, they have their own little moment of goodness.
Lastly, any tiles you would love to use in any future projects?
Don't even get me started with future projects. We have the main bathroom upstairs, but I haven't really dug in to see what exactly we'll do there. I've always liked The one that looks like scales on a fish.
Tile Shown: Ogee Drop
We always get compliments on the tile when people walk into our home so we are truly thankful to get to work with a company like Fireclay.