Truly an amazing designer, Paula took the time she needed to get to know me, understand what I wanted even though I couldn't put it into ‘designer speak.’ She... designed a home I had only been able to see in my dreams.
View Cortese Home
Working with Paula Grace made a world of difference… Throughout the process we were impressed by Paula Grace's attention to detail, her careful listening to our priorities, her artistic choices balanced with comfortable and effective use of space.
View Bethesda Renovation
Paula was very patient dealing with a couple of decorating novices. She educated us on key design principles and coaxed us out of our comfort zone to achieve a dramatic transformation.
View Tietjen Home
When working with clients – first as a psychotherapist, and now as an interior designer – I strive to be evocative, to help my clients define and draw out what’s inside and reveal it to the world. I act as a change agent in my clients’ lives, evoking emotions and insights that help you grow and see new possibilities – until together, we create a new living environment that’s perfectly suited to your needs and desires.
Others have said that “Inspiration is everywhere, you just have to be observant.” I agree. There are five main sources of inspiration that help fuel my work in interior design. The first is music; the second, the principles and elements of all art, including design; third, my clients; fourth, my upbringing; and fifth, my commitment to giving back.
First, I have always been influenced by music – the lyrics, melody, rhythm, harmony…Music regularly takes me on a journey into the three-dimensional realm. When I develop new furnishings or interior designs for homes, music always serves as an essential creative force. As that great Dobie Gray song, “Drift Away,” says:
Thanks for the joy that you’ve given me
I want you to know I believe in your song
And rhythm and rhyme and harmony
You’ve help me along
Makin’ me strong
My second source of inspiration comes from the principles and elements of quality design. Earlier in my career, when I worked as a psychotherapist, I operated in a field informed and organized by theoretical frameworks. I used theory to help organize information, guide an assessment, inform an interpretation, and implement an intervention. No matter the theoretical orientation, whether psychodynamic, ego psychology, or Gestalt, the goal was the same – a happier, healthier person.
When I went back to school to study interior design, I learned the principles and elements of quality design, a theoretical framework that applies to all forms of art. After developing an intimate understanding of these essential building blocks, I found the guiding theory for my work as an interior designer. I use this theory the same way I used theory before – to organize information, guide an assessment, inform an interpretation, and implement an interior design. The goal remains the same – a happier and healthier person.
And that brings me to my third source of inspiration – you, my client. What inspires you, what makes you happy, what gives you a sense of well-being; who you are; how you’ve evolved over time – where you came from and where you want to go; what you want to reveal to the world through your home – all these things help to inspire the interior design I create just for you.
What is amazing to me is how these three inspirations come together to create a cohesive whole. Rhythm and rhyme and harmony from music = rhythm and balance and harmony in the principles and elements of design = your pulse and equilibrium and what’s pleasing to your psyche. It’s an equation with you as the variable. You make the difference. Your home. Your life. Your design.
My parents serve as my fourth great source of inspiration – their sheer courage, their belief in the power of education, their quest for truth and beauty, and their unflagging generosity towards others.
My father, Bogdan Halewski, fled Poland at 17 when the Nazis invaded, made his way to England and fought in World War II in the Polish division of the English army. After the war, he couldn’t return to his native country for threat of death or imprisonment by the party in power. So he studied hard and eventually came to the US, where he attained undergraduate and graduate degrees in business at NYU. Then, as a rising corporate executive, he suffered a debilitating stroke, and had to go out on long-term disability.
My mother, Bianca Atala Halewski, was born into a large family in Chile. Her mother died when she was two, and she and her siblings were raised by different families – until they grew older and were able to reunite. As a young woman, she worked as a successful interior decorator for a furniture store before coming to the US to study interior design. She met my father while at NYU, married, and became a stay-at-home mom. Then, when money got tight, my mother opened a private Spanish language school to augment my father’s disability income. All her life she had longed to become an interior designer, but had to put her personal dreams on hold to serve the needs of our family.
After my father became disabled – through all the tough times – my mother always did volunteer work, of all kinds. She still does. As far as she’s concerned, it’s just the right thing to do.
And that brings me to my fifth major source of inspiration: the opportunity to give back. For me, volunteering and raising money for worthy causes is not, cannot ever be, a promotional gimmick. It’s simply a way of life, an integral part of how I choose to do business. As I see it, all those in positions of prominence who actively give back to the less fortunate – whether they’re leading interior designers, successful musicians and other artists, or corporate moguls – they’re all true heroes. Just like my parents. And I’m committed to following their example.
Here are some of the charities I’ve actively supported: Child Advocacy Center, Loudoun County; Exxon’s National Math and Science initiative; Loudoun Arts Council; Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter; Loudoun Hospital; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Save the Music; and Smashing Walnuts.