Design 360° Award Winner: Natalie Papier

Meet Our First-Ever Design 360° Award Winner
Natalie Papier is taking on the industry with her radiant spirit and social media savvy 

The winner of our Design 360° Award, Natalie Papier, is breaking barriers in the design world, and we're embracing her adventurous style and delightful spirit. And we're not the only ones! Natalie has a loyal following of over 70k followers on Instagram, and it's not hard to see why. We caught up with her to hear about her journey and thoughts on running a successful 360° interior design business. You won't want to miss her refreshing insight.

Natalie  shares tips on business, social media, and the power of reaching out

Embrace your community — “People are willing to help you.” 

Natalie moved from Chicago to Charlotte, right before COVID hit. In the middle of this big move, a global pandemic, and running around as a busy mother of two, she managed to design the jaw-dropping kitchen that landed her the title of our first-ever Design 360° Award winner. Simultaneously, she was expanding her client base by tons of people because of what she says is one of the most important parts of running a business — community. 

She was nervous about finding new clients in Charlotte at first but says confidence is another important aspect of success. “The scariest part is putting yourself out there, but every time you tell yourself, ‘Oh, I don't know if I can do this,' you just have to keep doing it. And it's amazing when you push yourself to find out what you're really capable of.”

To put herself out there, Natalie began posting pictures of her new home on Instagram and soon attracted a local audience. Since Instagram helped launch her business initially, she wasn't surprised that it came to the rescue again. “I started posting pictures of what I was doing in my home [in Charlotte], and it started to gain traction with a local audience. I got business so quickly and so fast that I'm having to turn clients down at the moment.”

Natalie also made sure to visit local shops, once she could, and connected with local shop owners and artists on Instagram. According to Natalie, community is crucial to running a successful business. She recommends connecting to your local community “1,000%.” She says, “Get to know people and ask people for help. People are willing to help you.”

Natalie, of course, couldn't forget about Angela, a fellow Charlotte-based designer, who actually submitted the photo of the kitchen to DSA. Natalie enlisted Angela's help to oversee the renovation of her new kitchen while she was still living in Chicago and says Angela helped introduce her to local vendors, source materials, and complete CAD drawings according to Natalie's vision. “It truly does take a team to have a successful renovation.  And it was amazing to have another talented designer's eye on the project!”
Natalie Papier left  /  Angela Knight right   
photographer/ Megan Easterday

Dare to be yourself – “Staying true to [an] authentic style.”

We were intrigued from the start by Natalie's creative use of space, so it came as no surprise that she has a vast background in art. From taking art lessons at an early age to getting a visual arts scholarship, Natalie has always been captivated by the lure of the arts. 

She describes herself as “art-addicted” and says she treats every room like a blank canvas. This actually led to the organic development of her passion for design. “After marriage, as a stay at home mother to my two kids, our home became my new canvas. It got the attention of friends and I began helping others transform their own homes.”  

Natalie describes her style as “bold, vintage-inspired, and whimsical.” She says, “I love how art and whimsy can make a home feel joyful.” Incorporated in all of her designs are collected and curated eclectic pieces that tell a story. Natalie says it's not just about doing beautiful work. “There are many designers doing beautiful work, but I think what has helped me to run my business successfully has been staying true to my own authentic style.”

Natalie's authentic style is certainly getting attention, as she has been featured in HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Apartment Therapy. 

The power of social media — “The most instrumental part of running my business is actually Instagram.”

While one can find countless articles on the internet about strategic Instagram use, hashtag formulas, and how to present yourself in the public eye, Natalie has one rule for Instagram. Yes, you guessed it: be authentic. 
Natalie's personality shines through her lively Instagram photos and honest, heartfelt captions. She says Instagram is her business tool of choice. “As far as software goes, I don't really stay on top of having all this kind of software. I feel like the most instrumental part of running my business is actually Instagram. It's a place where I can connect with like-minded clients, other creatives, businesses, and friends.  It also gives me a place where I can market my business for free. That is how I have gotten so many clients and opportunities.”

An essential component of Natalie's social media presence is her honesty. She strives to be upfront about life's imperfections so that her followers and clients know that they can relate to her. “In a time where everybody's dressed to the nines or posed doing something amazing in their perfectly styled home, it's just like where is the authenticity there? How can you relate to that? I mean, I can't.” 

Another special feature of Natalie's Instagram is her support of the arts through “art giveaways.” These giveaways showcase the work of fellow artists and even made an incredible difference for one of Natalie's artist friends during the height of COVID. Natalie was overjoyed that she was able to help. “He sold 30 paintings within the first week and had all these commissions for more. And I feel like I did something to help, and I am supporting local artists and the art community. And it's fulfilling for me because I love art.” 
Photographer / Megan Easterday

The true path to success — “Stay true to yourself, work hard, and be nice.”

Natalie is full of gratitude for her journey and the lives she has been able to change with her personal and joyful designs. When it comes to clients, Natalie believes in honesty, simplicity, and trust. “On a client basis, communication and approachability are SO important. It's such a personal process to work with something as intimate as someone's home and there is a level of respect and trust that has to be there between yourself and your client.” 

In Natalie's opinion, a 360° business model is a balance between being dedicated, being recognized, and communicating with your clients and the public. She also says it's about being whoever you want to be and staying confident in that.

For new designers, Natalie offers this insight, “Continue to put yourself out there. That consistency and determination pay off, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's about staying true to yourself, but also working really hard at it. Start to build a portfolio of work you have done in your own home or mood boards you have designed.  Offer to help friends at a reduced rate for the experience.  Ask seasoned designers for advice or find an opportunity to intern for one.  Start an Instagram feed and start showcasing your work.” 

Above all else, she says, “Stay true to yourself, work hard, and be nice.”

We encourage other designers who are creating their own success like Natalie to join us for next year's Design 360° contest.

For more information about Natalie Papier, visit her website HOME EC.

Interviewed By Nicole Riley