Wendy Callahan values collaboration; that’s why she opened the South Shore Design Center.
Wendy Hall Callahan is an artist. It says so on her bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University, it also says so on her master’s diploma from Ball State University. There are paintings hanging on plenty of walls across the region that also confirm her natural gift and rite of creation. But paint on a canvas is not where her artistry begins, and it most certainly is not where it ends. Wendy, principal and founder of the South Shore Design Center, expresses her art everyday as she guides her clients in a multitude of design projects. At her Duxbury showroom, four other designers rent space at the South Shore Design Center to join in the collaborative work environment and access furniture sources and samples. All the designers own and run their own companies but enjoy the exchanging of ideas that is not often found in the interior design industry. Design suggestions, sensibilities and scenarios make up the daily exchange of ideas, connections and anecdotes between the creative women.
“For me, I found that I don’t like to design in a vacuum,” Wendy explains. “Some people keep their ideas very close to the vest, but that isn’t me. So, I decided to open a business that was a resource for others, who like myself, like to network and collaborate. I mean for us, we could talk about design all day.”
The center caters primarily to the trade where designers who have enacted membership are able to source custom furniture, lighting, wallcovering, floorcoverings and artwork, all under the mantle of the South Shore Design Center. The benefits of established vetted accounts, regular interaction with representatives from countless vendors, and the real-life interaction with other designers who can share first-hand experiences are an invaluable resource for designers who might be navigating the industry on their own.
Wendy’s oil paintings also make a cameo appearance throughout the chic and stylish showroom that joins several other businesses at the new Millbrook Station enclave in quaint Duxbury. Bright sunlight streams in the large glass windows of the showroom and settle into puddles around Max, Wendy’s docile beagle who greets all who stop by. Over-stuffed couches and armchairs in shades of neutral, natural fabrics, beckon anyone to settle in and get comfortable. The ever-changing lineup of pillows in various solids and stripes can quickly transform the neutral palette of the furniture into a variety of moods for most any occasion.
Hanging above the various vignettes, Wendy’s ethereal paintings in soothing shades of blue, green and sand, feel like the image one has while swimming underwater, turning toward the surface and seeing the sun’s rays softly poking through the depths of the ocean. “I tend to work with those blues and soft greens because I want the paintings to elicit a calm response for anyone who experiences them,” she says. When designing interiors, Wendy describes her clients’ desire for a home that is a stressless retreat. “Family-friendly, pet-friendly fabrics, low-maintenance, but high-quality furniture and carpets, that’s what people are looking for today. I think clients who have worked with me would describe my natural style as creating a calm, neutral environment with pops of pattern and pillow. Truthfully, I’m comfortable creating any style for my clients, because it has to reflect who they are; it all involves the same design and artistic principles.
“And when I present the final design to a client, I focus on one room at a time, but it is the whole room I present everything to them, down to the trim, and the welt, and the flooring and the fixtures. I can imagine what their home can be, it’s my job to paint the picture so they can see it as well.”
Wendy says she always starts by trying to truly understand her clients. “I ask them to collect images on a Pinterest board, I examine how they dress to determine what makes them feel comfortable, we discuss color and texture a lot. Then all of that input informs how I can help them relax and live their best life.”
Wendy’s future is bright and exciting; one where she envisions returning to a time when designer events and networking are a part of our daily life. “I used to have ‘Designer Coffee Get-Togethers’ on Thursdays before COVID, and I would love to start those again soon,” she says. “I would also love to open additional Design Centers with additional designers for even more collaboration, and I have one in mind already.”
Whether she is painting or pinning swatches to a mood board, whether she is chatting happily with fellow designers and members of the trade or longtime clients, whether she is dreaming of the next big project or dreamily imagining how the light at Duxbury Beach would translate on her next canvas; Wendy Callahan is one designing woman, and like a pied piper, there is a crowd ready to follow.
Julie Craven Wagner is the editor of Cape Cod HOME.