Designer Spotlight: Ryland Witt Interior Design

by Courtenay Palmer

If there is one designer who most embodies Dalton Bain’s mission to bring quality, beautiful antiques and furniture to the everyday client, it may just be Richmond-based interior design star Ryland Witt. Known for her keen eye and ability to combine old and new, Ryland’s role as a design assistant blossomed into her own celebrated interior design firm in record time, and now with Dalton Bain, she is able to bring her vision and design expertise to a whole new reach of people.

Originally founded in 2006, Ryland Witt Interior Design has expanded to two offices—one in Richmond and one in Charleston, South Carolina—which comprise six employees and two designers on staff; however there are a slew of other successful accomplishments under Ryland’s belt. While running her booming interior design business, Ryland has simultaneously starred in a popular television design show, Fix it and Finish it; launched her own designer furniture line; and most recently, earned the title of House Beautiful’s Next Wave Designer. The latter is something that fills Ryland with great joy. “To go from being a humble reader to being recognized by [House Beautiful’s] editors as someone whose work they think is good is an absolutely incredible feeling,” she says. “I have sacrificed so much personally in the name of my business because I believe in it so much. House Beautiful validating my hard work has been indescribable.” She said the honor is doubly rewarding, as it not only recognizes her past work but gives her inspiration to keep going. Ryland says, “Chasing after your dreams is tough work, so when others recognize it along the way, it helps fan the flame”.

Ryland’s recognition by one of the top decorating magazines in the country could not come at a better time, as she is busy launching what she calls her current professional passion, her new furniture line for Belle & Burl. The new pieces are designed by Ryland and beautifully crafted in South Carolina to fit into a variety of spaces, and to last generations. Known for her ability to mix antique and the latest trend, Ryland took this vision to her furniture line, filling a void in the market for lasting, upbeat pieces that will not go out of style. “A room should not look like it’s straight out of a catalog,” Ryland says of her decorating philosophy. “A room should look like it belongs to the rest of the house, with the client’s personal style in it. You should love every aspect: from the color on the walls (or wallpaper, which is my favorite!) to the design on the sofa. A room should be somewhere you want to stop and stay for awhile.”

Sometimes finding a balance between contemporary and classic can be problematic, but there are two tricks Ryland likes to suggest to clients to bring a personal touch to their rooms. One of her favorites is using wallpaper to make an impact in an otherwise neutral space, such as placing bold pattern behind bookcases. It adds a splash of color and design without being overpowering, and adds a thumbprint you won’t find in everyone else’s house. Here Ryland adds a pop of orange with Katie Ridder’s iconic Leaf wallpaper.

“Filling your bookcases with personal artifacts is a great way to distinguish your design,” Ryland says. She herself loves to hunt for the perfect piece for her own home, or for a design job. “Live with pieces you love. If you love it, it will always make sense in a space,” she often reminds her clients. Some of her favorite go-to treasure hunts are local to Ryland, including Dalton Bain dealer Kenny Ball Antiques in Charlottesville. She can usually count on him to help her score a marble horse head or an amazing pair of antique bookends, which blend with trendier pieces to make a special space. But knickknacks aren’t the only thing that can help make a room stand out. “One of my favorite things to go on a hunt for is antique lighting. I always have an idea in my head and when I finally find it I swear I have the same feeling Howard Carter must have had when he discovered King Tut's tomb: you know it exists, and you can't rest until you find it because you know that the piece that will make the room shine. In this case literally!” I know it sounds a little over the top....but that is what keeps it interesting.” Below Ryland mixes one such piece of antique lighting with fresh fabrics and a comfortable configuration to make a room that anyone would love to spend some time in.

But sometimes a treasure hunt doesn’t yield the results you’re seeking, so Ryland decided that there were some pieces she would simply have to create herself. Her collaboration with Belle & Burl has yielded unique and exceptional furniture, and aim to help elevate spaces for her clients, and hopefully other people’s clients as well. “My furniture line is starting to get orders from household name designers—which is so thrilling for me. I was overwhelmed with emotion when those orders went through; it was so validating to know that my designs are good enough for other well-known designers to take notice of.” But while Ryland is ecstatic to have other designer’s admiring and ordering her furniture, she is still committed to helping her own clients’ achieve their dream space. She has a knack for telling her clients the best place to focus their money, and loves mixing in their personal belongings in with newer pieces and artwork. “An antique in a modern setting gives a sense of worldliness and warmth to the home or space, and makes it feel complete,” she says, remaining dedicated to mixing it up. “I love adding antique family pieces into the home because of the sentimental value.” For instance, a table she acquired from Richmond-based dealer Kim Faison magnifies a home office and makes it exceptional. By mixing the 200-year-old faux bamboo Regency table in with a funky upholstered footstool and bold striped curtains, she is able to create a room that “looks warm and bright even on the cloudiest of days.” This is the goal for all of her projects, and repeat clients and referrals remind her that she is for the most part hitting her mark.

Ryland says the key to a successful relationship with her clients is the ability to work together. “I like to think of designing a space as a complete thought, and I love clients who feel the same way as I do.” It’s easiest when clients trust that she has their best interests at heart, and communication is key to getting things done on time and within budget. In fact, poor communication is what derails this process most frequently, according to Ryland. “Clients (couples, especially) who do not communicate with each other are impossible to work with. It puts a lot of unnecessary stress on everyone. When I am designing, it is so nice to have everyone on board.” A great way to get to know Ryland’s style and approach is through social media, she says. “I love Instagram because it can be such a positive outlet! It helps my potential clients get a sense of who we are without leaving the comfort of their home. Sometimes they want to be able to anonymously “stalk” Instagram and look at my work to determine whether I am the best designer for them.” Below is a master bedroom that came together seamlessly as everyone involved shared a similar vision, and Ryland could implement her trademark antique lighting, layered textiles and wallpaper with a few fine antiques to create a cohesive, calm but anything-but-boring resting space.

Ryland splits her time between Richmond and Charleston, and when not designing, loves nothing more than spending time with her children, Carrington and Bo. In addition to Dalton Bain, you can find Ryland’s furniture and portfolio on RylandWitt.com, or follow her on Instagram at @rylandwittinteriordesign and @belleandburl.

Quick quiz

Favorite paint color: Dark Harbor (Benjamin Moore)

Favorite fabric designer: Donghia

Favorite decorator: Jeffrey Bilhuber

Favorite season: Spring

Favorite flower: Orchid

Favorite city: New York

Favorite room to decorate: Living room

Trend worth trying: Painting walls of the room and trim the same (preferably dark) color

I'd be happy if I never saw another: Reproduction artwork

Paint or wallpaper?: Wallpaper!

Porch or patio?: Porch

Pattern on pattern: more is more, or keep it simple?: Depends on the client

Trendy and traditional: mix it up or keep it consistent?: Mix it up

Design or decorating pet peeve?: Clients rushing to get things done, not thinking about the final outcome.

“A room that has many different authentic layers to it draws you in. It makes you stop and look again. You wonder, ‘where that secretary is from—is it a family piece? Who is the art by? Is the mirror old?’ You want to sit and take it all in, and it doesn't feel off limits.”

“I love it when everything comes together. In this case, we had so many white pieces and just needed that splash of color—and the turquoise milk glass were just there waiting for me. I walked in and knew exactly where they were going.”

“When I stand back and look at all of the pieces found along the way from all over the country, and from different periods of time, that seamlessly work together to create a beautiful back drop, I am always amazed.

The antique chairs from Kim Faison were one of the first pieces we decided on, the mantle was found by my client while vacationing in Maine, and the antique lighting appeared much later—but each element couldn't be as good without the others, and that's what I love about the process.”

“Black accents ground a room and give it a boldness that no other color can. It is both elegant and modern— and if done right, it lets the other pieces stand out against it as the perfect sophisticated backdrop.”

“Blue and white, stripes, and Chippendale patterns make me think of casual, sophisticated fun. This pool house exudes the All-American weekend getaway lifestyle. Classic and traditional never goes out of style.”

Named the Next Wave Designer by House Beautiful, Ryland is seen here inside an airstream trailer she decorated. The Hampsted Table is one of her new designs for Belle & Burl.

Photos by: Gordon Greggory