Podcast, Ep. 58: designer Kevin Isbell

Interior designer Kevin Isbell joins the Ballard Designs podcast to talk coastal decorating, color palettes, and why he loves roll arm chairs

Kevin Isbell joins us today for a round of Would You Rather? — Decorating Edition. We also chat about adding texture and soul into a modern home, Kevin’s superpower of using strong color in subtle ways, decorating pet peeves, and his recent Nantucket cottage project featured in House Beautiful. It is apparent that Kevin loves what he does, and is deeply passionate about the craft behind design.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Why a large enough rug is crucial for a well balanced feel within a room
  • Kevin’s fondness for antique and vintage pieces that have a story to tell and that add texture and warmth to the room
  • Why Kevin would never do away with accessories and little trinkets that we pick up along the way of experiences and travel
  • The little accessories that push home design from “nice” to the “wow” factor
  • Why even the ugliest of chairs have the possibility to be beautiful
  • How Kevin got into design, playing around with the late 80’s trends of color blocking
  • How a background in business and business management helps set you up for running a successful career in interior design. Kevin combined the desire from his parents for him to get a business background, and his own love of architecture and design
  • The difference of furnishing vs decorating a home
  • Kevin’s cross country adventure from San Francisco to New York in 2001
  • Kevin’s house in Nantucket recently featured in House Beautiful, and how he maintained the basic structure in the house while completely changing the decor
  • Facts on Nantucket’s global industry that inspired Kevin’s choices when picking decor and accents
  • How he combines his old-soul and craftsman mentality with modern day social media. Kevin’s time lapse videos on Instagram are works of art themselves, and give another personal touch to his projects.
  • How Kevin revamped a timeless Greenwich, Connecticut home, and made it approachable and livable with the beauty of a showhome
  • The balance of high, low and knowing when to invest compared to when to hold back and save money
  • Kevin’s use of strong color in a subtle ways and how he mixes several colors in one room, and how Kevin changes color usage depending on geographic location and setting
  • The real commitment needed to really go all in on a pop of color, and why accent rooms shouldn’t be just one colorful piece in a neutral room
  • Kevin’s choice of Ballard’s Original Office Collection for his workspace

Decorating Dilemmas

I’ve attached some photos of our new living room that has wooden paneling. The paneling doesn’t bother me, but it is most definitely a design challenge! I’m trying to figure out how to make it feel fresh and modern. The recliner is my husband’s non-negotiable, but pretty much everything else I’m up for changing. I want two upholstered chairs to flank the fireplace, and I’ve thought about a navy cheetah print for those. I’ve also thought about Ballard’s Toulouse Tall Bookcase for the left of the fireplace (we desperately need more book storage), but I’m worried about the room looking too busy. What are your thoughts? I’d also love suggestions for what to do with the mantle (maybe one big piece of art?), what to do for side tables and lamps, and just generally what, if anything, I should hang on the walls.  Thanks so much!


It’s a beautiful room, and we think you should embrace the cozy library feel. Kevin recommends painting the ceiling and the wall in a color closer to the woodwork to bring a cohesive feel to the room. We also agree to change out the fan with a lighting fixture, painting the brick and mantle to match the fireplace, and putting something over it to make it more of a focal point. Two chairs by the fireplace, a bookshelf and storage options would help it feel less cluttered. Move the furniture closer to each other, and add some lamps!

Show Notes

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.