Five Questions: Kate Ferguson of Palomino Bazaar

Text by Robert Kiener Photography by Laura Moss

1. How did you become an interior designer?
My career as an interior designer evolved organically. I’ve always been passionate about antiques and items with interesting provenance and character, and I’ve always collected pieces from thrift stores and antique shops and auctions. I’m not afraid to climb into a dumpster, either—I found an amazing pair of Donghia chairs in one in New Canaan! What started out as a hobby grew into a business when I began selling furniture and accessories from a booth at the Fairfield County Antique and Design Center. People who bought things would ask for advice on how to style them, so I started offering my services as a designer, and now Palomino Bazaar is a full-service interior design firm.

2. Do you still spend time searching for perfect pieces?
Definitely. Part of the attraction is the thrill of the hunt! Many of my clients enjoy coming along, too, especially to auctions. I’m there to offer my expertise, and they enjoy the excitement of bidding. I use Westport Auction house often, and I always look at catalogs and take note of pieces that might work for certain clients or are “must haves” because I think they will work for someone down the road. I guess I am kind of a hoarder! I also scour websites such as 1stdibs.com or chairish.com. I just found a dining table from São Paulo, Brazil, on 1st Dibs. I like to go to the Stamford Antiques Center, or even to thrift stores, looking for pieces that have potential. I also have great local resources, including dealers I have established relationships with. I can pick up the phone and call to ask if they have a certain item, either in their shop or their warehouse. Clients often like to go with me, so they can touch and feel items.

3. What does your own home look like?
My own home is kind of a laboratory, constantly evolving, and I often sell things in my home to clients. My husband says, “Everything is for sale, except the children.” I also have a storage unit. Over the holidays I opened a pop-up shop. It was a great way to purge—and it gave me the opportunity to collect more! I love anything that has an Asian influence, and I love English-designed furniture. A George III wingback chair will always be comfortable, stylish, and useful. I tend toward a lot of global influences—I think that goes back to my background as an anthropology major in college. And I love textiles.

4. How do you define great design?
Great design is about being brave. It’s not necessarily rooted in what something costs. If you have a good eye, you can even find things at Goodwill. I like eclectic design. Every room might have a mix of high and low pieces. I’m not against including something from Target or even Ikea. I may suggest investing in more expensive fabric on a couch or chair that will last longer, and maybe keep the budget down on things that will be replaced more often, such as a lamp. I think for me it’s more about being scrappy and seeing the potential of something that can be altered or modified or reworked. For example, I just took a client’s painting and had its gold frame painted a matte chalky white that gave it a new life. Instead of having to go out and buy another expensive piece, we made what she had work. I try to be respectful of the fact that everyone has a budget and comfort zone of what they want to spend.

5. What are some of your tips for avoiding a “cookie cutter” look?
Original art. It needn’t be expensive. There are some great artists out there doing unusual and different things that make a statement but aren’t expensive. Artists are also designing small-batch textiles that can add a unique touch. Also, I like to find things that are personal. I have a client who grew up summering on the Cape, so I collected vintage and antique books at a local library book sale that reference the region. | Palomino Bazaar, New Canaan, palominobazaar.com

Palomino Bazaar, New Canaan, CT, palominobazaar.com

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