When Rachel Kapner graduated in 1990 from Roger Williams University with a major in Fine Arts, she was poised to be a fashion designer. Her affinity for fabrics and textiles, and her artful sense of style, had her contemplating attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. She had a change of heart.

Rachel joined the team at her mother, Dorothy Goldberg’s successful wallcoverings and design business, which she began with two partners 15 years earlier.

After all, she would still be employing her creative talents, and through the media of fabric, textile and color, transforming spaces into special places, turning rooms into refuges.

Now Chief Designer and President of Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors, Rachel has helped to create one of the premier design firms on the east coast, serving clients from New Jersey to Florida.

With 14 talented employees, including a team of award-winning designers, the New Providence, NJ-based, full-service interior design firm handles everything from custom window treatments and handcrafted custom upholstered furniture to lighting, and of course, designer wallcoverings. In fact, Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors boasts one of the largest libraries of fabrics and wallcoverings in the state.

After all these years, Creative Wallcoverings is still a family affair. Rachel’s husband, Gary Kapner, joined the firm 12 years ago as Vice President/General Manager, and Rachel’s mother — who started it all — continues to work part-time.

We recently sat down with Rachel to chat about the design business.

What advice do you offer to clients when you start work on a project?
Rachel: One of the things I do is ask clients to clip photos of interiors they don’t like.

That’s interesting. The advice is usually to clip out photos of things you do like . . .
Rachel: That’s helpful, but it’s also good to know what a client has a strong reaction against – for example, birds on pillows, particular colors or prints. From there we can work on what they do like. Another important consideration is to discuss the budget right away. This way, we can create a look that will work for the client’s pocketbook. What’s great is that in the last five years, manufacturers have been producing lines at different price points, so people can get the look they want for less.

Has that created more flexibility for you as a design showroom?
Rachel: Well, it certainly gives people more options. We have an extremely talented group of designers here. We love what we do! Our clients may not be moving, but they’re definitely updating their interiors.

Sounds like you’re busy . . .
Rachel: (chuckles) I have boundless energy. Today I was up at 4:30 a.m. and did some paperwork and got organized for the day. Now I’m on my way to Sea Girt to meet with a client. And then I’m back in the office. I have three client appointments in the evening, and then I’m checking on orders. I’ll be done at about 10 or 11 tonight.

Yikes . . .
Rachel: My husband Gary, our VP and General Manager, is a huge support. We balance each other perfectly. He’s developed a successful ‘organizational team strategy’, that focuses on service  and attention to detail  from the  onset of a project to its completion. Actually, it’s quite comforting for our clients, and me!

Are you seeing any design trends lately?
Rachel: For a while, the interiors in magazines and in fashion were a bit drab and somber, but now the look is trending brighter, bolder and more colorful. Another trend is that people are getting away from very formal rooms, which were popular in the eighties and nineties. Now, the rooms are still beautiful and elegant, but they’re more relaxed and less fussy. But trends aside, what matters to us at Creative Wallcoverings is our clients’ needs and desires.

Who has inspired your design philosophy?
Rachel: Certainly Mario Buatta, the King of Chintz. He’s notable for employing multiple fabrics in a room, for color, classicism, and comfort – but I’ve edited the look for a more transitional feel. However, my real inspiration comes from my clients.
The process is collaborative. I learn about how they live in their homes and include them in every step of the design work. In fact, I pack away the fabrics I use on a job for a few years. My clients often know one another, so it’s important.
We don’t just do one “look.” At Creative Wallcoverings, we pride ourselves on our versatility.

Do you have a favorite room to design?
Rachel: For me, it’s not about whether it’s a powder room or a family room. It’s about seeing a job through to completion, from A to Z. It’s about seeing the room perfectly executed and installed and looking great. I love that!

If you could live in any house, in any place, where would it be?
Rachel: Definitely Arizona. We’ve vacationed here, and I love it. I just love to be outside, and I love the heat. I’d have walls of windows so I could look out at the mountains and the beautiful terrain. I think we will end up there one day.

Luckily for us, Rachel Kapner is still here.

Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors
560 Central Ave., New Providence, NJ 07974

This article was originally published in ASPIRE NJ Magazine September 2011