Meet the Designer: Jennifer Hunter
The designer talks wallpaper, table setting, and holiday décor.
“One of my favorite things as a child was to go on job sites with my grandfather and see construction in process and all the details that go into a building,” says interior designer Jennifer Hunter, who comes from a development and real estate family in Washington, D.C. “I knew at a young age that this was something I was interested in and wanted to do,” says Hunter, which led her to attend a five-year architecture program at the University of Texas in Austin. During her summers, she was lucky enough to intern for the late and great Albert Hadley.
“It was my second summer with him and I asked his advice,” she says. Since she already had everything she needed from an architecture standpoint plus an eye for design, he said, she needed the historical knowledge of decorative art. Hunter completed her masters in Fine and Decorative Arts at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. From there, Hunter helped Harry Heissmann open his design office, then started a firm with a business partner, before opening Jennifer Hunter Design four years ago.
How did interning with Albert Hadley inspire your work?
His design is rooted in a traditional aesthetic, so there’s definitely that vein running throughout my projects. I’d say my style is a little bit more relaxed. It’s using the foundation he gave me but seeing it through a fresh lens.
What’s your favorite room to design?
A nursery or a kid’s bedroom. Clients, even the ones who are a little bit more afraid of color, are willing to take more risks here. They almost separate a child’s room from the rest of the home’s aesthetic, and they are willing to go bolder with colors or patterns. If you can’t push them to do wallpaper anywhere else in the home, they are always going to say “yes” to wallpaper in a nursery or kid’s room.
Since so many of your clients are young families with children, how does form meet function in your designs?
I always say: “A home’s meant to be lived in. Live in it.” If you get a scratch on something, who cares? It adds character. Of course, we do take that into consideration, and we use a lot of performance fabrics and durable materials—but you know, it’s not a museum. Nothing’s too precious.
Why do you think clients are more likely to take risks in a kids’ room?
Maybe they just view it as a fun, joyful space. They can live with it in doses. And maybe they think kids will grow out of their rooms, so it’s something that feels less permanent in their minds.
How do you approach clients who are afraid to go bolder with color or patterns?
We do try and push clients out of their comfort zones. When clients come to me with inspiration, whether its subconsciously or not, they always do have wallpaper in their inspiration photos. But then they will say something like “well, I don’t know. This seems a little bold.” So I’ll try and push them if I’m able to. But if I can’t get them to do wallpaper, per se, maybe it’s doing a textural wallcovering and bringing in a bolder pattern on something more digestible like pillows or an accent chair. They still get that pop, but it’s not too much. It’s a careful balance.
What’s your favorite color to use?
Right now, I’m really into green. For a while, I had a blue era. But I’m really feeling green and bringing the outdoors in for my inspiration and color palette.
Go-to shade of green?
I really love Duck Green from Farrow & Ball. It’s kind of like the perfect not-too-dark, not-too-light, super rich, and dimensional.
I love anything Sister Parish. You can make it modern if you want, but it’s also so traditional. You can kind of use it in any project.
Favorite location to do a project?
Palm Beach is always fun. It’s not every day that you are able to design a whole home in pink and green and all the wonderful regency old Palm Beach glamour. It’s always fun to go a little bit out of the norm.
Do you have a favorite project you’ve worked on?
My personal home. We are building a country home in Washington, Connecticut. It’s been the hardest and easiest project at the same time. Ever since I’ve started in this field, I’ve collected all these samples. You can’t just use everything you want in one project. We’re building it from the ground up, so I have that creative freedom.
What are you excited about in your new home?
I’m doing a lot of collaborations with other companies and designing my own hardware, so it’s really getting into product design and that sort of thing—which is a dream of mine.
With the holidays approaching, what is your best seasonal decorating advice?
We always tell clients to go in their own cabinets and pull things out. A lot of clients have never taken out their wedding china or maybe some heirloom pieces that have been passed down.
What about table setting?
We really think about it like a room. You want a mix of patterns and textures and decorative objects. We love mixing different china patterns, linens, and adding in objects from your home. I always walk around a client’s living room and take things off their shelves and make a little tablescape with it. We don’t want to be too kitsch-y and you want it to be personal. But I’m all about the mix and taking out things that you don’t use every day.
Go-to brands for table setting?
We love Mrs. Alice. We do a lot of client shopping from her line. Also, Julia Amory. We love mixing in block prints. It doesn’t have to be your typical red and green. Going raspberry and green or any of the jewel tones are always cozy that time of year.