Interior designer Dawn Totty says what sets her apart is that she works really hard to create one-of-a-kind designs, down to the tiniest of details.
Those details are reflected in her recently completed farmhouse in Jasper Highlands — and in her standing on the design website Houzz. Totty is rated No. 1 out of 158 Chattanooga-area designers.
A New York City native, Totty started a fashion and image consulting business in her early 20s that she ran for about a decade. After training in interior design several years ago, she changed the focus of her business, Dawn Totty Designs. A Nashville client encouraged her to create a profile on Houzz.
"Honestly, I didn't want to get on at first," Totty says.
A few months later she got an email saying she had been rated the top local designer on the website. "I'm still very humbled by that, and a bit surprised. Super-grateful."
Upon entering her home for this interview, Totty's attention to detail was immediately apparent, from the way she designed the home to best take advantage of the natural light, to the vintage dress she was wearing as she offered a drink served garnished with a slice of starfruit.
Totty designed the home's steel-and-wood staircase, the cabinetry and open shelving, all-white flooring, farmhouse steel beams, and the living room's hot-pink couch and black-and-white patterned chairs. That room can be expanded into an outdoor space via its retractable doors, but also helping to light the space are overhead light fixtures that could easily pass for some you'd find at top design stores. You'd never know they were just a couple of orbs she found on the ground while bargain hunting. Her husband Kirby — whom Totty calls "my secret weapon" — transformed them into the stunning light fixtures they are today. His touch extends to the dining room table Totty purchased from a friend's quirky shop in Tullahoma, Tennessee. It was too big, so Kirby cut it off and wrapped it in steel.
The farmhouse reflects many of what Totty predicts will be trends in 2018 — plus the next 15 or 20 years. She explains that while fads have a very temporary shelf life of two to three years, trends — like wallpaper, and mixing warm and cool metallic elements — "dig their heels in and stay." Everything in fashion and design moves in cycles, she says, pointing out that many of the trends we're seeing now (and in her home) came from the '60s: oversized light fixtures, brass and warm tones, saturated colors. Totty says she has an uncanny ability to pick what's next.
Click the photo gallery above for some insider intuition.