Designing Woman

This Irish transplant brings an education in philosophy and interior architecture and design to her work

by Anne Averyt

redmond-leadFrom her office off the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Cecilia Redmond runs Redmond Interior Design, specializing in high-end residential and small to medium commercial projects.

Life took Cecilia Redmond from a 10th-century seaside town in Ireland to Burlington, Vt. A bad economy transformed her life.

“Getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me,” muses the 46-year old interior designer. The year was 2010 and the recession was redesigning the economy. Redmond was working with the design firm of TruexCullins when she got news of staff layoffs.

“I sat and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ for about five minutes and then the phone started ringing,” she recalls. “It was clients and contacts that I’d made over the years, and the phone, frankly, hasn’t stopped ringing.” She launched Redmond Interior Design, just off the Church Street Marketplace, which specializes in high-end residential and small to medium commercial and hospitality work.

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Step-by-step with Redmond

Redmond begins a job by sitting down with her client “to get an understanding of their vision for the project.” On a “new build,” she also meets with the architect and considers in detail the spaces and how they flow.

“I like to look at a building from the inside out so I can visualize myself walking through the space. I can identify areas where often I’ll ask to have a door moved or a window raised to facilitate a better use of the space and a better ability to furnish it in the way clients wish to live in it.”

The next step involves the style of the doors and windows and trim. Then come the flooring materials, lighting, and built-ins — all the cabinetry, including kitchens, bathroom vanities, and walk-in closets. “Once all that is in place,” she says, “I start to look at the finishes, such as what are the different cabinets going to made of; the countertops; is there going to be any tile; and so forth.”

Then there are bathroom and plumbing fixtures as well as tile and carpets — “It goes on and on and on,” Redmond says — the wall coverings and paint and the furnishing plans to show where pieces of furniture will be situated, as well as those that need to be purchased.

Once the client decides, Redmond puts together a budget. When she gets the go-ahead she starts placing orders, overseeing deliveries, and arranging the warehousing of items. On the day of “install,” she organizes the delivery and puts everything into place. “And then,” she says, “the client gets to move in!”

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“She is amazing, extremely knowledgeable,” says client Linda Gundel of Shelburne. “We had picked the house design out of a book and I wish instead that we’d had her from the start. She comes in and respects your tastes, she clicks in, she listens and encourages you. I just wish I’d worked with her sooner,”

Redmond’s design projects range from ski houses to the presidents’ residences at St. Michael’s and Dartmouth colleges. She’s also done the interior design of the executive office suites, conference room, and some classrooms at St Michael’s. As a result of the interior design work she did for the president of Dartmouth College, she was referred to work on a house of a Dartmouth professor and one of the college’s trustees. A recent project was the University of Vermont’s recent renovation of Englesby House.

As part of a complete upgrade of a classroom at St Mike’s, “Cecilia did all the design, color schemes, furniture, and fabrics,” explains Bill Anderson, chief information officer at the college. “It’s great,” he adds. “The rooms are fresh and interesting, highly desirable for teaching. It looks good and works well.”

Decorating an interior is not just walking into a space and envisioning how it can be transformed into a wonderful space. It’s a complicated process that turns on execution. “You can have all the ideas in the world,” Redmond says, “but if you can’t execute them they’re pie in the sky. You’ve got to be able to turn your idea for a beautiful kitchen into a set of drawings that can be executed.”

Redmond has full design capabilities within her office and works with the architects from the time a project is conceived through the final installation — “down to the teaspoons,” she says. It’s turnkey design, which means, “Pretty much I do soup to nuts” on a project.

Redmond’s ability to work well with architects is a plus. “She’s very good listener, very talented,” says Norwich architect Bryon Haynes, who has worked with her on numerous projects over the last three years. “She quickly understands what our clients’ goals are, then adjusts creatively to the constraints of the project and the budget.”

“She has an excellent eye,” he explains, and “really pushes at the edges. She is constantly thinking of other creative ideas that will work and comes up with ideas that wouldn’t come to an architect. With Cecilia it’s about the client’s goals. She doesn’t approach a project with a personal agenda. She is collaborative and open, and a lot of fun to work with.”

A typical project for a “new build” usually lasts about a year, and Redmond works on five or six projects at a time, often a mix of four large ones and two or three smaller ones. Currently, she is designing interiors at residences in the Adirondacks, Hanover, N.H., and Waitsfield as well as several in the greater Burlington area.

Redmond has come a long way, literally, to get where she is now. Her travels have taken her from Ireland to England and Germany, then back to Ireland before moving with her husband, James Byrne, to Burlington in 2000.

Redmond grew up in Wexford on Ireland’s southeast coast. She attended university in Dublin where she studied philosophy — and met Byrne, a student in religious studies. They were married in 1989, then moved to Germany for a year. Back in Dublin, Redmond attended Limperts Academy and graduated with a diploma in interior architecture and design.

She and Byrne then spent six years in London where she landed her first kitchen design job. When her husband was offered a position in the department of religion at St. Michael’s College, they relocated to Vermont. It took Redmond three years to get her work permit but a job followed a week later with TruexCullins. Her first interior design assignment was the Trapp Family Villas. “It was a lot of fun,” she recalls,” because I had traveled a lot in Austria, and I spoke German and knew the aesthetic very well.”

There are, she admits, challenges when starting a business, but says that, for the most part, “it’s been all about the pluses. Basically I have complete design freedom to work with my clients, which I love as well. The autonomy is wonderful, and I’m the parent of a small child, so having the freedom to work my schedule around his needs has been phenomenal.” Her son, Ronan, 5, is now in kindergarten.

Redmond says she would like to “continue to build the brand so that when anyone thinks of high-end design for their home or office or small inn, I would be one of the first they would think of. I’d like to keep building this business, but to keep it under control.”

The good news is that the economy is improving, she says. “But that is going to be the challenge — how to keep a lid on it, getting to work on projects I really want to work on without overcommitting.”

Asked what she does in her rare spare moment, Redmond replies with a smile, “What do I do for fun? I have a 5-year-old son. What do you think?” She and her family like to explore Vermont, hiking in the summer and sledding and snowshoeing in the winter. Travel is a spare-time priority, both to warmer southern climes and home to Ireland at least once or twice a year.

And what does the interior designer’s house look like? It’s the story, she says, of the cobblers’ children. “I don’t have my clients’ budget, but my style is ‘warm contemporary.’ The color scheme now is autumnal, but I’m ready for a change. I’m really loving some warm grays with pops of color. There’s a lovely persimmon red that I’m crazy about, also lovely citrine green — but I have to negotiate with my husband about that.”

She adds, wistfully, “That’s the problem when I do my own house. I have to negotiate with my husband. When it’s my clients, they just say yes.”