Shannon Kaye can walk into your living room and instantly understand your lifestyle. Then, she can create any feeling you want to live, through color. She is the founder of Plein Heir, a home color and style coaching business. We talked in her Bernal Heights home about the twists and turns of her business and her favorite passion project to date; creating a home with her partner Ray Beldner.
How did you get into color and style coaching for homes?
Shannon: About seventeen years ago I worked for an artist who called herself a decorative painter, but hated decorative painting. She was a landscape painter at heart and decorative painting supported that. We worked together on beautiful homes, but on weekends she taught classes in “Plein Heir” painting. That’s the French term for sitting outside and painting what you see in plain air, whether it’s landscapes, cityscapes or even skyscapes. She brought this beautiful subtle aesthetic to decorative painting that I had never seen and it made me happy.
Clients would constantly ask me to suggest paint colors for rooms. Then they’d want my opinion on things like bedding. So I started advising people and calling it color and style coaching. I help people find their personal style at home. Usually, a designer has their own aesthetic and particular flare that comes through even when they listen to the client. But I take my clients taste and guide them to develop their own. Then they can continue without me, or I’m happy to do it all.
Plein Heir is spelled heir like heirloom because my work relates to redoing homes and inherited furniture. Everything I do is about history and family. I love redesigning antiques for the next generation.
Tell me about the DIY Paint Show you hosted for three years?
Shannon: Fresh Coat aired on the DIY Network, it’s a sister channel to HGTV. Around 2006 I had been style coaching for eight years. My jobs were big and included construction sites with teams of artists on 7 to 8000 square foot homes.
One day my big sister called. She had been picked for a home makeover show called “Weekend Warrior.” These shows were new back then. A crew was coming over to transform her husband’s shed into an office. The guy doing it was an actor who knew nothing about home makeovers. So she said, “Come over tomorrow and bring your portfolio. I’m going to tell the producer about you because you could totally host this show.”
I did what my big sister told me. The next day I went over with my portfolio and saw what was happening.
A week later I got an email from the producer telling me that the DIY Channel wanted a paint makeover show. He wanted me to send him my “stuff.” Being a painter and an artist I had no idea what he was talking about and said “what stuff?”
So I put together a video of me walking and talking in my Mom’s backyard. I met with the production team with my portfolio and said, “Here’s what I do. This is why I’m good. I’m an artist who loves interiors so I can create paint projects and teach people how to do them.” I got an audition but didn’t get the job.
They hired a Welsh guy who wore Hawaiian shirts because he was “unusual” and “had a different kind of voice.” That’s true, I can’t be a Welsh guy, I thought. I was disappointed for a day or two.
A year later the same producer called. That host didn’t work out and within two weeks we were filming a pilot. The production house bought three seasons. It was an exciting and cool job.
Since it was DIY, I showed homeowners how to do it all while doing it with them. I paired things I did in my business down to two or three steps. Here’s how you paint a wall, a ceiling or a piece of furniture. I learned what a regular person needs. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.
Your partner Ray was telling me how you painted the living room and DIY’d the curtains.
Shannon: When you move in with someone you want the space to feel like you both live here. You’re merging. Our living room is fun because of the size. It can feel crowded, with so many activities happening in a small space with high ceilings. I wanted to organize the room visually, so I first figured out the stations. In the living area you watch TV or sit with friends. The eating area needed storage for dishes since the kitchen is tiny. Ray and I both have beloved art collections, and I wanted to combine those. We wanted it all up but we both wanted the space to feel homey and cozy.
The dark walls were a bold choice, so I waited until he was out of town to paint. It took him a few minutes to adjust to it, but now he loves it. If the walls looked like a Sol LeWitt installation, our art would look amazing on it. Sol LeWitt does beautiful walls that are all line work that just fills the space. I chose painters drop cloths for curtains because they were simple, and they fit into our aesthetic.
What kind of projects are you working on now?
Shannon: I’m working with private clients on special projects. Anything from choosing the paint colors for a house to working on art pieces and furniture. I love helping people tap into their intuition for their home. I can tell people what to do to get the feeling they want. Then they are far more confident executing the next idea by themselves.
I also love turning paintings into bedspreads or pillows. I make paintings that work on linen for one-of-a-kind tablecloths or absolutely unique window treatments. I’m obsessed with putting beautiful art on everyday objects. It makes standard things more reflective of who were are. That feels so good at home.
What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?
People can call me at call me at 650-787-7405 or find me online. I do consultations to see how I can help make your house feel more like home.
Jen Baxter is a writer, photographer and San Francisco native. She tells stories encouraging people to be more independent, aware and creative. You can find more work at JenBaxter.com or follow her on Instagram @JenBaxterSF