Karen Graveline, Owner, Design Distillery
In 1998, designer Karen Graveline set out to find mid-century modern furniture to complement her urban Baltimore rowhome. This search quickly became a career, and Graveline created a one-stop-shop for all things home decor and home renovation. More than 20 years later, she’s still going strong. From a quaint storefront on Charles Street to a stellar showroom near the Inner Harbor, Design Distillery continues to bring eclectic tastes to the community.
Q How did you get into this line of work?
A: After moving into a rowhouse, I discovered what a challenge it is to furnish a home that’s only 12 feet wide. Even with my interior design degree from the University of Maryland, it was difficult to find furniture that fit the rooms and my style. When I showed a coworker a set of vintage teak dining chairs from Denmark that I found on eBay, he told me that I could find more stuff like that for cheap at local auctions. So, I started bidding, buying, cleaning and fixing furniture from the 1950s and ’60s, which fit in our house perfectly. The hunt became an obsession, so I rented a space at the Antique Center of Federal Hill and the pieces sold themselves.
Q. You seem to have a keen eye for mid-century modern-design style. How did you know this style would be so popular?
A: The informal free-form style of mid-century modern furniture just resonated with me. I viewed pieces from that era as simply well-designed objects that would be fun to live with and deserved more attention. I figured there had to be other fans in Baltimore, so I took the “build it and they will come” approach when I opened my first storefront in 2001.
Q. What have been some of your favorite pieces over the years?
A: My all-time favorite would be the Womb lounge chair. Eero Saarinen designed it in 1948 for architect Florence Knoll, who wanted a chair that she could really curl up in. The organic design is so inviting; you feel protected like a cradled baby.
Q. How do you stay current and fresh in your designs?
A: Our team is passionate about modern interiors, so we always have our design radar on. We scan and share what we find from Instagram, blogs, magazines and places we travel. Manufacturers of modern furniture from all over the world also send us their catalogs and new releases to consider. We regularly attend trade shows in New York and High Point, North Carolina to distill the best pieces from all the latest collections and trends. Instead of jumping from one trend to another, our goal is to seek out good, lasting designs.