Katia Bates’ closet is closed to the public. “I have photographs of the rest of my home, but not my closet. Nobody ever sees my closet.”
When she gives me a tour of her house, though, I get a quick look inside. It feels more like a small room than a closet. Shelving and storage line every inch of wall space, and a marble-topped island of drawers stands in the center. I am left speechless by the amount of color and texture, charmed by the small Venetian chandelier.
“When you are born in Italy, fashion is in your blood,” Bates says. President and creative director of Innovative Creations, Bates was born and raised in Venice. “It gave me a love for fashion that I’ve carried throughout my entire life.”
Her talent for design isn’t entirely due to her Italian background, though. She studied fashion merchandising at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and later, business at Nova Southeastern University.
“I had always wanted to have a business degree,” she says, “as a safety net for the future.” Of course, a business degree would have been helpful in any field, but her fashion background has been particularly helpful in the interior design business. “The fact that I understand fashion, fabrics, how colors work together, without being traditional, has been crucial.”
Bates’ views on fashion and interior design have grown side by side for years. She’s always looking for timeless items, but she wouldn’t describe her style as “classic.” She has no fear of venturing into the unconventional. “People say ‘Oh, don’t put the red with orange because they don’t go together.’ That’s not true,” she says, critical of a mindset she finds too common. “I think nowadays people should not be afraid.
“Sometimes I recommend the uncommon because it can be a conversation piece. When you go to fashion shows, you see unconventional combinations all the time, so why not in interior design?” Even in her most “classicist” designs, she has to have that “wild card.” In the case of the billiard room, it is the glass-topped coffee table, built from a Maserati engine. There is nothing else like it in a room with leather couches, gilded lights and a marble fireplace.
When it comes to her clothes, Katia attempts to purchase items that are both fashionable and timeless. “When I buy a piece of clothing, I never buy it with the intention of wearing it one time only.” There are items, like the “special couture dresses” she bought when she was 18, which will always remain in her wardrobe. Others, the “everyday working clothes” that were either too trendy to last or damaged at construction or installation sites, are only temporary guests in her closet. “I clean out the junk.”
Bates keeps a patchwork quilt of memories in her closet. “One of my favorite things in my closet is my wedding gown. I think that was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever worn.” Along with the couture dresses and white wedding gown, Bates has kept countless other items in her collection such as her wedding shoes and two Valentino chinchilla coats. “I couldn’t pick one favorite thing in my closet. I couldn’t even pick just ten.”
Similarly, the Bates’ home houses a diverse collection of design elements, some of which are deemed timeless and go unchanged, and others that frequently morph into new shapes. “This house is like the history of our family life. We’ve built up, built down and built up countless times.” Her family rooms, her children’s rooms and the guest rooms all undergo redesign with time.
The rooms that see the most change? Her children’s rooms. “They grow, and I update. Certain elements will remain, but others, which are ‘fashionable’ or ‘trendy,’ disappear. It’s a revolving door.” She doesn’t plan on ever redecorating the billiard room, however, and the colorful antique Venetian chandeliers in the living room will never be cycled out.
While designing a closet seems to involve more practical concerns than curating a wardrobe or a home, Katia maintains that it is still a space to be personalized. “I think that when it comes to organizing a closet, you really have to have a grip on the client’s personality. It wouldn’t be great if I created a shelf or space for a bag and only allowed for a height of 12 inches and then the client has 30 bags that are all 14 inches tall.”
So she typically asks to know the specifics of what a closet will hold and designs accordingly. The work is more elaborate than extravagant. “Some clients just never throw things out, and there’s a lot of planning that goes into organizing all of their things into a single closet.”
After a quick look around her closet, I ask Bates, “And you know where everything is?”
“Everything,” she replies. She can’t have a mess or else she’ll loose time. And to help her husband do the same, she built his closet in “sections that would be easy for a man to search through.”