A few words...[prologue]...
I'm fairly certain Caryn's designs are 1/10 of the imagination that she thumbs through in her mind. I'm also fairly certain she is a textile fairy. Deeply studied, highly playful and experimental, while rooted in practical functionality, Caryn's interior and textile designs evoke referential wonder. I met Caryn at a show a few years back in Union Market's Dock 5. It was hard not to want all of her luxurious pillows wrapped in her unique textile designs.
Unafraid of challenges and complexity, Caryn's curiosities have taken her around the world and also across disciplines. Not only is she an interior designer but she also holds a law degree, and is a dancer.
Most recently, I visited DC Design House with a few friends. An annual design showcase for charity featuring a select set of local interior designers, Caryn's design of the guestroom was one of our favorites. Her bold uses of color, fabric covered walls, and hair-lined furniture pieces sang harmoniously in an ode to history, culture, color and motif. In addition, Caryn manufactures all of her products in a sustainable and ethical manner.
I'm so happy to share her interview and images that we captured on a chilly fall day in downtown DC. I hope you enjoy learning more about her and find inspiration to dabble with texture, take on a lingering curiosity, or go on more tech-free walks/hike around your neighborhood.
What are your favorite shapes, colors, materials currently?
What is quote you come back to time and time again?
Tell us about your textile collection and your design/manufacturing process.
Each collection I do has a strong identity behind both the patterns and the colorways. For the Egizio collection, the patterns are based on my sketches at the Egizio Museum in Turin, Italy. I found myself fascinated with shendyt kilts - I saw them in hieroglyphics, sculptures, everywhere! So I just kept abstracting them in my sketchbook and then painted them into the patterns they’ve become in my fabric collection. The Inca colorway is based on Peruvian weaving, Swiss is from the colors of mountain chalets and skiing villages, and Canyon is inspired by Lake Powell’s red earth and teal water.
I manufacture in the most sustainable way possible. I import Belgian linen that is certified to have no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and also no water pollution in its processing. I only print on linen for this reason, rather than cotton, as linen is amazingly resistant to insects naturally and is a fast-growing/easily replenishable species. I print using the lowest-chemical digital printing technique available, it’s called pigment dye digital printing, and it uses water-soluable inks and, unlike silk screen printing, has no water washes to remove excess dye, so there’s no wasted water or any dyes or chemicals released into the water stream.
Who is a force in your life (positive or negative) and why?
Avital Ronell is one of the most inspiring professors, thinkers, and women I have ever known. I studied under her while pursuing my first master's degree in critical theory at NYU. The mental gymnastics we did, and the way she helped me understand Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in ways that blew my mind - I will never forget and am forever grateful.
When faced with a challenging situation, what is the first thing you do? What is the second thing?
The first thing that comes to mind here is a renovation situation - like there’s a stud in the wall right where I wanted to center some plumbing pipes. Eek! I find contractors like to just say “we can’t do it,” or they think of only one solution to the issue. I am the exact opposite: I like to think of at least 3 solutions, preferably 5, and then weigh them based on time, cost, and aesthetics. My favorite solution is probably going to be the one with the best look to the design (admittedly) but I like to get the client’s priorities accounted for, and then we move forward. My dad always used to say to me, “there’s nothing more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one you’ve got.” Better to have three….
What rituals do you practice in your life?
Dog walking is my most important ritual - I do all my best thinking! And it’s important to be present for little Chester and make him feel like the focus of that time, rather than pulling out my phone every 7 seconds… So it’s a pretty strict 'No-Technology-Time' for me too. Just dogs, nature, and movement! The other ritual I practice is that I clean my whole house every morning before my employee, Marine, comes to work. I cannot stand having things out of place or dog hair lying around… I like a clean home and office. I’m a you-could-eat-off-the-kitchen-floor kind of clean person. But still, the piles on my desk persist somehow…. Nobody’s perfect.
When you are at your most alive/powerful, you __________________.
dance or hike. With dance, I like being in a studio, working at a piece with other dancers and a choreographer/instructor. For many years I practiced West African dance - we rehearsed with live drummers in the studio! Gosh that was powerful, the intensity of the sound and the pounding leg movements. Both dance and hiking are about giving yourself up to something bigger - music, choreography, nature, landscape, earth... It is both empowering and restorative.
What do you love about yourself?
I love my silliness, playfulness, and my insatiable curiosity. I’m not sure clients get to see the silly side as much, but gosh you should see me with my brother. And we get some laughter in at the office too.
OOTD: Her Own // Make-up: Her Own // Earrings: Pom Threaders (Blush, Black, Bordeaux)
Make sure you're following us on Instagram to see more posts and highlights from her story this week.
Stay tuned for our next week's feature, spotlighting culture consultant and beloved human, Amira El-Gawly
Caryn Cramer lives and designs with curiosity, depth, and passion for detail. A native of Washington D.C., Caryn holds an English literature degree from Carleton College, a law degree from Vanderbilt University, and a master’s of interior design from the Corcoran College of Art & Design. A trained painter and dancer, Caryn sharpened her visual-spatial ability from an early age and continues to create compositions in both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional formats. Caryn’s interior design firm creates bespoke spaces with an infusion of history, art, concept, and complexity. In addition to interior design services, Caryn Cramer LLC produces printed products in the form of upholstery fabric and wood veneer wallcoverings. Her textile collections juxtapose memories, wanderings, and scholarly curiosities across bold patterns and colorways. Caryn enjoys mixing practicality with the visionary and welcomes any creative challenge.