Julie Ann Witt tries on a lot of shoes. The face behind Julian Design approaches home décor projects by keenly understanding how clients function and circulate within their homes. “They know better how they live than I do,” she says. “You have to slip into their shoes.” Once a foundation is established, her design team builds a fresh approach. “We’re trying to create a feeling, not necessarily a look,” Witt explains.
Throughout her career, Witt has seen a lot of “looks.” Perhaps her roots in northern Minnesota established her commitment to creating workable and relatable spaces in homes by bringing what she calls “intelligence to the floorplan without breaking the bank.” After running a design store in outstate Minnesota for several years, in 2000, she opened Wayzata’s Julian Home Couture before it folded into Julian Design in 2012.
The team, including Witt’s daughter, Billie Marie Tharldson as co-lead designer, tends to customers’ needs for design, accessories, area rugs, fine art, flooring, furniture, kitchen cabinetry, lighting, wall finishes and window coverings. Past projects have featured dwellings from cozy cabins to extravagant homes in locales from the Lake Minnetonka area to Palm Desert, California. Julian Design caters to a wide scope of design sensibilities and budgets. “We think alike,” Witt says of the seven-member team. “We feed off each other.” Witt says a common thread runs through the firm—shaping the art of living. She’s also a skilled problem-solver. “I love finding the problem and solving it, and seeing [clients] so excited,” she says. While her success has a lot to do with her design acumen and technical skill, it’s also about her attention to detail and the relationships she forms with customers. “At the end of the day, it’s about the great friendships.”
Client Nicole Stone appreciates the firm’s individualized attention. After the Stones rebuilt their Wayzata lakeside home, they were left a little underwhelmed by the end product. “I was afraid to commit to things,” Stone says. “We needed help with the finishing touches.” Witt visited the home and was able to understand the tenor of the family—their art, color and style preferences, as well as how everyone (including four children) used their spaces.
“It started off with a piece of art, and it just went from there,” Stone says. Starting with an original painting as the home’s design centerpiece, the team used the jade, moss and tangerine hues found in the piece as reference points to personalize what had previously been a “builder’s beige” aesthetic. “She helped us feel comfortable about a color palette,” Stone says. Julian Design tended to the Stones’ open living space (including the kitchen, dining space and great room), and while there are plans to continue throughout the rest of the home, Stone feels the most important design element is finally in place. “Now, it’s our home,” she says.
Home Design Tips from Julie Ann Witt
- See the big picture. Witt cautions against basing design decisions on a master checklist of features. Your home’s spaces should blend naturally.
- Use built-ins sparingly. An abundance of built-in cabinetry runs the risk of feeling like “storage mode.”
- Be enlightened. If a home’s furnishings are its wardrobe collection, lighting fixtures are jewelry, and accessorizing is pivotal. “I think lighting is magic,” Witt says.