Meet Funnyman Interior Designer Andrew Howard
Interior expert Andrew Howard is a breath of ocean air in an often uptight industry.
Andrew Howard wasn’t his father’s first choice to join the family business. Despite growing up around his father and stepmother’s design and furniture store and spending childhood “vacations” sweating through the antique shops of Charleston, a career in homes was never on Jacksonville-based interior designer Andrew Howard’s radar. But as he considered his job prospects upon graduating college, he turned to the family business. “We had this powwow where I sat down with my dad and he kind of explained to me that I was bringing nothing to the table as far as design ability; I had a business degree from Florida,” Howard recalls amusedly. “And he was right, by the way.”
His father offered $10 an hour, assuring Howard he had a shot at making a little more if he could prove himself useful. Howard began choosing paint colors and pairing fabrics together, things he had never done before, and quickly discovered he had a knack for it.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to decorate my friends’ rooms,” he laughs. “We grew up playing football in the backyard. But when I started doing that, it actually came pretty naturally to me. And so I kind of just figured it out over probably a decade of working with my parents. After a while, it became second-nature.” He eventually set out on his own and became a design titan in his own right, over time forging an impressive portfolio of homes from coast to coast.
We had this powwow where I sat down with my dad and he kind of explained to me that I was bringing nothing to the table as far as design ability. And he was right, by the way.
— Andrew Howard
Today, that humility is part of Howard’s appeal: he designs for his clients, not his portfolio. “I feel like I’ve succeeded on a project when the client feels like we achieved their vision,” Howard explains. “I don’t ever try to interject specific design ideas and force an aesthetic on somebody. I try to listen to what they want and really, more importantly, how they live, and try and design something that fits their lifestyle.”
Still, he’s sought out for the elegant-yet-lighthearted spaces that seem to be his signature. His design aesthetic is a subdued maximalism that’s soothing, not overwhelming; his work exudes both timelessness and modern verve. There’s a formality to his interiors that is complemented, rather than compromised, by the playful whimsy he tends to embrace (there’s a latticed ceiling in his own master bedroom, for example, and he’s not afraid to incorporate a multicolor wallpaper dotted with parakeets).
Approachable, jovial, down-to-earth—Howard’s personality translates seamlessly into his work, as displayed on his Instagram account, where his ridiculously funny captions could convince you he’s a comedian if they weren’t paired with unrelated images of the beautiful rooms he’s crafted. He’s both a capable designer and the kind of person I imagine to be on many a backyard-BBQ guest list. Howard has been featured in countless national publications, designed high-end homes from Hawaii to the Hamptons to the Bahamas, yet he shies away from praise, insisting he’s come to his style simply by figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Howard delivers what the market lacks and is the kind of unpretentious guy people like to work with—a trait he attributes to the Southern hospitality and social graces in which he grew up.
Howard, age 42, designs nationwide, but he’s right at home on a beach in Florida. His Sunshine State roots have imbued in him an appreciation for the breezy, easygoing beauty of coastlines, and those coastal sensibilities underpin his approach to crafting inviting spaces: he has fond memories of a family beach house where one could enter salt-crusted and sandy and never feel out of place. But while Howard may have the coastal look on lock, he defies categorization.
You might not guess at first glance, due to their elegant detail and rich layers, but Howard’s homes are abundantly livable—exquisite, sure, but also sensible. Without sacrificing the artistry of a beautiful home, Howard designs for everyday life, evidenced by what he fashioned for his own family of four, a home they’ve dubbed Magnolia House.
“It was our first real house and one we have really enjoyed living in,” Howard shares. “It’s been home to many Nerf wars, indoor basketball games, and juice box and pizza spills, and is still going strong.”
To achieve this, Howard brought in outdoor fabrics and avoided the temptation to over-accessorize. “I don’t want my kids to feel like they can’t have a bunch of friends over and run around the house and do whatever they want to do,” he says. “I think kids have to live in their houses and feel like they’re at home, not like they’re walking around some sort of museum where they can’t touch anything.” Unsurprisingly, close-knit families are his main demographic.
Another element of Howard’s charisma—one that is reflected in the sundry textures, colors, and patterns characteristic of his work—is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously (rare among the design set). Perhaps that’s his default, or perhaps it’s thanks to his two sons, ages 8 and 11, who never miss an opportunity to keep Dad humble.
“When I got the cover of Traditional Home, I proudly brought it home to show the kids and asked what they thought,” Howard says. “Jack, who was learning Spanish in school at the time, said ‘No me gusta.’ Henry, who was three, punched the magazine away from him because he didn’t like magazines about houses. Such a proud dad moment!”
Between his self-effacing sense of humor and a demeanor as unstuffy as his designs, Howard is the kind of designer you’d consider hiring not only for his technical skill but for the sheer pleasure of being around him.