May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24
By Steven Feldman
Renowned designer Khristian A. Howell is getting into the flooring business. Howell, a color and pattern expert who has been featured in Elle Decor, Real Simple and HGTV magazine,” is in the process of choosing a complementary partner to launch an area rug collection that fuses her eclectic range of styles into bold designs for product and spaces.
She classifies her personal style as modern and clean with a feminine edge under the moniker Fearlessly Chic Living. “The fearless piece is having the courage to forget about trend and be unapologetically you. My philosophy is no one has to live in the space except you, so it should be filled entirely with things you love.”
Howell loves the interplay between hard and soft, light and dark, and feminine and masculine, to create depth and interest in her designs. It is the mastery of this push-plus-pull that creates ease and balance in the work. She aims to deliver color-focused, modern work with a touch of romance and edge.
“I love big, bold color as much as I love clean gallery white,” she explained. “I love a hard-lined caramel leather chair as much as I love a pretty patterned throw pillow. In fact, the more all of these things are mixed up in the right balance, the better. My philosophy is—as with all things in life—it really is all about balance.”
While many designers have come and gone in the flooring industry, Howell’s background positions her for success. “Working in house in product development has given me an important edge that many artists lack,” she said. “I know the product must be beautiful and sellable. I understand how to create work that is both aspirational and accessible. My edge is leading with my gift of instinct. I know which trends will soar and which ones will flop. I keep my pulse on the real consumer, and very carefully and gently push her creative comfort zone. This keeps the work exciting but still digestible and very marketable.”
Howell knows what she wants in a manufacturer partner, particularly one that shares her vision. For example, she said the perfect partner will be willing to experiment and challenge, but not alienate the consumer. “That company will have interest in innovation in design, concept and color, and marketing is very important to me as well. The perfect partner will have an empathetic world view and want to create interesting product that makes people feel something.”
Howell’s design career began as a colorist on the product development team at Nordstrom. She very quickly transitioned to a textile designer while maintaining her role as a colorist. “I worked on every piece of development—and creating color palettes, print and pattern development, working with a wide range of embellishments, and communicating with factories in Hong Kong and India.
Howell left in the summer of 2008 to start her business. A 2011 spread in Better Homes and Gardens led to a contributing editor role. She left in 2015 and since then has continued to be pulled into interiors space. She has appeared with Nate Berkus as a judge on his “American Dream Builders” TV show, on “The Today Show” and HLN as a style expert, as well as other media outlets in Atlanta and Chicago. “I complete a handful of interior styling and color consulting projects a year and see this growing in the future.”