Meet elaine burns, interior designer

Give us a little cliff notes version about yourself! Where you're from, what got you into design, your favorite hobbies, etc.

I grew up in an environment that encouraged a love of art. I was always working on a craft or helping with a home decor project (comes with the territory of growing up in a craftsman-era house!) and as both of my parents are artists, I was lucky to be exposed to the option of “art-as-a-career” early on. I then went to college in upstate New York, and moved down to NYC right after graduation. I studied both business and studio art in college and sought work in the fashion industry to combine both skill sets. I worked for big brands - Ralph Lauren, JCrew - then ventured into the beauty industry, but always had Pistachio Designs as my “side hustle”. I loved that I had created a business of my own that melded my creative side with the analytical, business-focused part of my brain. Eventually I was getting to the point where I was telling potential clients “no” because I didn’t have the time to manage my day job + my design business, and realized that interior design was where I wanted to focus my time and energy. That was about 3 years ago!

What has been one of your favorite projects this past year?

I really loved working on this Hoboken, NJ duplex. My clients and I completed it remotely as most of the work took place during the summer of 2020 when lockdown protocols were very much still in place. This couple was so fun to work with - open to new ideas, loved bright saturated colors, provided helpful feedback throughout the process - and I felt that they gave me space for so much creative freedom. I’m still in awe of how this project all came together so smoothly (including two bathroom gut renos!).

We were totally hit by COVID in various ways....what a whirlwind it has been. How did the pandemic affect your business? How were you able to continue taking on projects from afar?

Since COVID-19, I’ve definitely pivoted to taking on more and more work in a remote capacity. I feel more confident managing projects where I cannot physically swing by the job site (I think the key is consistent communication!) and am fortunate to have such patient and understanding clients.

Tell us more about your needlepoint projects....we're obsessing over your tray with the cheetahs drinking champagne! How long do they tend to take you? Have you been doing this type of work for awhile? I feel like it must be so therapeutic!

Needlepointing IS super therapeutic! I treasure that I have a job that allows me to flex my creative muscles, but I missed having a hobby that allowed me to create work with my hands and that forced me to slow down. I’ve had a lot of fun diving into this world and learning about different designers, new stitches, and finishing ideas (the tray you mentioned is one of my all-time favorites) for a couple of years now. I’m now dabbling in painting my own canvases and this Scalamandre zebra was one of my first finished pieces!
I am one of those people that always has multiple projects going at once (I never want to be bored!), but I’d say on average, it takes me about 4-6 weeks to stitch most projects.

This is one of our favorite questions...if you could host or attend a dinner party with ANY three people who would they be? What would you serve them for dinner, and what would be your cocktail of choice?

I love this question too! Coming together over a meal is one of my favorite ways to spend downtime and I truly love the process of planning a gathering and decorating it (of course!).
Off the top of my head, three guests that I would LOVE to sit down with would be: one of my interior design heroes, Beata Heuman, the founder and CEO of one of my favorite brands, Hill House Home, Nell Diamond, and author Mary H.K. Choi - I’ve been devouring her books lately.
We’d have a simple family-style meal (maybe potluck style?!) and I’d serve refreshing palma-fizzes (with cute swizzle sticks!).

We love that you are between Charleston and New York! Two of our all-time favorite cities. What are some of the go-to spots in both places that are absolute musts for a visitor?

The world-class museums in New York are one of my favorite things about living here. I’m so fortunate that the Met is a short walk from my apartment - I can’t wait to see the Alice Neel exhibit. I lived in Brooklyn for many years and love spending time at Prospect Park, grabbing a drink at Ramona or Elsa, and dinner at Lilia.
Let’s see...in Charleston I love The Gin Joint for drinks, Leon’s or Chubby Fish for a meal, Fritz Porter for shopping, and I tell everyone to take a walking or carriage tour to get the lay of the land and learn more about the city’s complex history. The Historic Charleston Foundation has a great (free!) self-guided tour.

How long have you been in the interior design world? Are there any obstacles that you come across frequently?

I’ve been working exclusively in the interior design industry for about 2.5 years now and I’d say the biggest challenge I come across is managing timing expectations. One of my favorite parts of any project is the beginning - between the anticipation of what’s to come, brainstorming, and the outpouring of creative ideas - there’s such excitement in the air. But then maintaining that energy throughout the project, since good design and good pieces don’t come together instantly, can be a challenge and educating clients on lead times and project timelines is so, so important.

Last question :) What advice would you have for young women trying to break into the industry? How do you stay motivated and confident?

I’ve found it’s all about making connections and networking. Most people are willing to help if you tell them what you need and ask thoughtful questions. Keep in touch with your contacts, don’t forget to thank them for their help, and pay it forward when you can!