Kim Eastburn doesn’t like the word “should,” as in, a home should follow a certain style. Instead, she wants a home to be an authentic representation of the people who live in it. Take her own home, for example. Though it would thematically fall along English Country lines, she has contemporary art on the walls (including some by her son). The house has small bedrooms, but an epic kitchen and comfortable gathering places for friends. Visitors sense a calm and ordered energy in the space.
Over lunch on her expansive screened porch, Eastburn is explaining the motivation behind transforming her role as an interior designer earlier this year after nearly three decades in the business. “I was sick of what I was seeing in the design industry, that it was becoming more about the designer than the design,” she says. On top of that, the economic collapse highlighted a common misperception: “People had bought so much stuff in hopes that it would enrich their lives and it just became a burden.”
Eastburn is a longtime believer that the state of a home mirrors the state of the owner’s mind, that a person’s home is both a reflection of, and metaphor for, his or her life. But as she was looking hard at her field last winter, she realized that most people need guidance, help and gentle nudging to understand— and, more importantly, implement— that credo. So, in March Eastburn created The Interior Design Shrink blog (http://www.interiordesignshrink.com), a place where she philosophizes about how to find beauty and balance in our lives by restoring it in the home.
Throughout her career, Eastburn says, people have tended to call her when their homes just don’t feel right anymore. Digging deeper, she’d invariably find that those people were in transition— their children had moved away from home, or a spouse had died. Eastburn began to see that clients weren’t simply coming to her for new drapes and rugs. They needed someone to help sort out their lives and, conversely, for their lives to be more authentically reflected in their homes. “You can’t underestimate the impact of a physical environment on your well-being,” she says. “If it’s stagnant and stuck, chances are you are, too.”
Homes can be rife with emotional baggage, like the ex-husband’s living room sectional left behind, or the hand-me-down antiques bestowed by a well-meaning relative that aren’t to the owner’s taste. Eastburn helps her clients unearth this baggage then–literally and physically–clears it away. “It’s using design therapeutically,” she says. As she writes in her blog, “Why do so many of us have a deathly fear of checking in to see if our surroundings, our possessions, and maybe even our beliefs, still fit our lives? Are we fearful of what we might discover about ourselves?”
Caroline Griffin, an attorney and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission, sought out Eastburn 15 years ago when she was recently divorced and recovering from a serious illness. After talking with Griffin and presenting three vignettes, Eastburn identified the things Griffin loves: birds, for example, and colors like yellow, warm coral and earthy green.
“My life had been turned upside down and she helped me create this beautiful sanctuary,” says Griffin. “All my friends and family started calling it ‘the happy house.’”
Six years later, when Griffin remarried, she moved into her new husband’s rambling Victorian, a home he’d painstakingly designed but was not to Griffin’s taste. When Griffin asked Eastburn to help her redecorate her home office, Eastburn started moving furnishings around in the entire house.
“Kim came in and immediately understood my discomfiture in the house,” Griffin recalls. “She managed to blend together two disparate styles and make us both happy. My husband has gone from being skeptical to relying on [Eastburn] for every major decision in the house.”
Eastburn practices yoga, meditation and pilates, which perhaps hones her trademark intuition. When she first coined the idea of the Design Shrink she envisioned herself as the Tony Robbins of design with a thriving lecture schedule. She’s chosen instead to work one-on-one with select clients and families, occasionally holding workshops. The blog lets her spread the gospel to the masses, while allowing her to stay balanced in her own life.
“I don’t care if you rent a room or have a 10,000-square-foot house—it’s so critical for humans to be mindful of their physical space,” she says. “If the individual is mindful, the family is in harmony. If families are in harmony, so is the community. And so it grows.”