We had the good fortune of connecting with Caitlin Whelan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Caitlin, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk-taking is not only important but it is something that makes my job as an interior designer exciting and rewarding. If I never stepped out of my comfort zone and learned to take risks, my job would be a lot less thrilling. It is so important to take risks when you’re a creative professional, and as designers we are constantly working on new projects with different objectives, so each new project means pushing yourself to come up with something fresh and creative. It’s important to us that we are always aiming to reinvent the wheel rather than use a formulaic approach or simply reuse the same ideas. Although risk-taking can be terrifying, it’s one fundamental component of my creative drive, and it’s also part of how I value myself as a type of artist. It is essential in moving me forward and keeping me on my toes. The challenge to be truly innovative and original is a welcome one. I’ve become a huge advocate of taking risks and ever since I started my career in interior design, I’ve been rewarded by the risks I’ve taken. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t turn out, but we have to be willing to take risks and to persuade our clients to be bold, too – that’s what allows us to truly transform their living spaces.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I didn’t get to where I am today because of planning or forecasting where I’d be in ten years. I’ve never had any idea who I wanted to be, and that hasn’t changed. I have fallen completely in love with design, but I still indulge in daydreams about other creative expertise I could be nurturing instead. I suppose it’s the curse of the artist to be perpetually unsatisfied, though at times that dissatisfaction works in my favor. A dose of self doubt can transform a complacent mind into a reflective one, and I find that I’m often reaching deeper and asking myself questions about how I can be better, more effective, more boundary-breaking. The thrill of design is, for me, that those reflections never reach a dead end. There is always some uncharted territory you can go to with your creativity. My biggest challenge has been working with people. I love people – I have a robust extroverted side and I enjoy connecting and being with other people. However, the intertwining of my art and the approval of others has been especially difficult. As an artist, you must learn to face rejection, even when you think you’ve come up with something gold – and I’m still working on accepting the disappointment that comes when other people don’t connect with your vision. I’ve created a lot of things that have never come to fruition. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to this. I have always been somewhat of a hopeless romantic, and I enjoy the process of putting my heart and soul inside four walls. The beautiful drama that happens when everything comes together at the end of a project – it never gets old. I’ve arrived at a place in my career where I’ve settled into being a little dissatisfied, a little restless, and a bit questioning. I’m deeply passionate about rejecting the formula and reinventing the wheel every time, so there will continue to be many unanswered questions. I’m most proud of my willingness to reject the formulas and start over every time.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My first thought anytime someone comes into town to visit is all of the amazing museums that I want to show them throughout Los Angeles. I love that they’re not only filled with beautiful works of art and exhibitions, but the museums themselves offer such diverse architecture. The first spot I would take an out of town guest is The Getty Museum. Everything about The Getty is so symbolic and embodying of Los Angeles. With the building site perched on the Santa Monica mountains, you can see the vast expansion of the city – from the mountains to the ocean. You’ll watch some of the best sunset views from the veranda, and while inside you’re offered some of the best works of art at any museum. I also love that the Getty showcases incredible modern architecture, which is something a lot of people see as iconic of Los Angeles. I would also be sure to stop by LACMA and the Broad Museum – I’ve been to both of them countless times and love that they showcase the unique opportunity LA has to take advantage of amazing outdoor spaces. The food scene in LA is exploding with some of the best and most diverse variety of food I’ve ever had! My first culinary stop with an out of town guest would be the Mariscos Jalisco taco truck in Boyle Heights. It’s in a neighborhood that a lot of people don’t hear about when someone tells them about LA, but there is a lot of very specifically Los Angeles character to find in Boyle Heights. The tacos trucks in our city are essential landmarks, and Mariscos Jalisco is standalone the best Mexican seafood and the best seafood tacos I’ve had. Additionally, I would never neglect to take a guest to all of the incredible restaurants in downtown LA. Some people don’t realize that Los Angeles has some underground jazz clubs, some beaux-arts buildings with expansive and glamorous restaurants on the first floor – but that is downtown LA. My favorite places are the Mignon wine bar, Lasa in Chinatown, Peking Tavern, and Otium. L.A. offers the whole gamut – everything from casual-chic restaurant experiences to luxurious expensive dining. I would finish the day of hosting my guest by taking a trip to the Echo Plex in Echo Park – it’s my favorite place in the world to dance. On Saturday nights they host “funky sole night” which is a vinyl-only dance party of 60’s and 70’s music that you may or may not have heard already. If I’m taking someone out for a night of fun, this is definitely where you’ll find me.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my immense gratitude to my mother. She is my mentor, my colleague, and my friend. No other person has trusted me so unconditionally, and I owe a considerable portion of my happiness and success to that unique trust. Her patience in teaching me this trade has been unparalleled. A lot of people are surprised that I’m able to work so seamlessly alongside my mom, and I’m always a little surprised by that, because to me, it’s so natural. I’ve realized that working with her is a gift and a privilege, and I’m so lucky that it’s my everyday reality.
Whelan Design House