Interior Designer Nadia Watts Looks To The Past To Create A Bright & Colorful Future
Good design touches all the senses and truly helps us live more inspired lives. This year, experts are elevating our senses with bold textiles in cheerful hues, oversized art and bespoke furniture—all coming together to showcase poignant individualism. And there’s one Denver interior designer who is celebrating these trends by taking a cue from her ancestors, who paved the way for her and others to create textiles for a new generation.
Nearly two centuries ago, Denver interior designer Nadia Watts’ great-great-grandfather, Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933), founded the iconic stained-glass Tiffany Studios in New York City. He was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, who in 1837 founded Tiffany & Company, the American luxury retailer renowned for its extraordinary silver and jewelry designs. In 1880, Louis began creating inventive sheets of multicolored glass for stained-glass windows and creating highly artistic glass vases. Gorgeous glass jewels and gems were also used in an array of shapes, sizes and colors that were incorporated into windows, mosaics and lamps.
Louis, like his father, pursued the business of art. At a young age, he was exposed to the finest craftsmen and designers who conceived and fabricated luxury objects in gold and silver for Tiffany & Company. In 1902, when Charles died, Louis became the company’s first design director for the family business.
Watts is a descendant of not only Louis Comfort and Louise Tiffany, but also of Richard Watson and Helen deKay Gilder. All four were at the heart of the art world. “Granny [Helena] grew up in the Tiffany Mansion residence complex designed by (architects) McKim, Mead and White at 72nd and Madison Avenue, New York,” Watts explains. “She summered with Grandpa Tiffany at the Laurelton Hall estate in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The turn of the 20th century was such a different world then, so opulent and over-the-top.”
Although Watts started her own interior design firm in Denver in 2009, it wasn’t until 2017 that she first visited the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Archival Glass. She was invited there by Ellen Kravet, of the fifth-generation American textile company Kravet Inc., to join a select group of interior designers from the New York area for a day at the Neustadt.
Starting March 1st, Nadia Watts will be opening a Curated Pop-Up at the previous Gallery of Ginny Williams at 299 Fillmore Street in Cherry Creek. This unique opportunity will celebrate the Kravet fabric line by Nadia Watts – The Gem Collection with the fabrics on treasured upholstered pieces and pillows you can take home, and will also include a curated collection of furnishing, accessories, collectibles, rugs, and artwork on display and for sale.
That day, after being greeted by Lindsy Parrott, the curator and executive director of the collection, and Cynthia Williams, board president, Watts embarked on a breathtaking tour of the archive, starting with the wooden vertical catalogues of glass organized by color, size and type. In the center of the room were large tables covered in different types of glass. Watts was immediately drawn to the colors and textures—in particular, the ripples in the thick sheets of blues and greens that showcase a variety of techniques Tiffany Studios developed for its windows, lamps and mosaics.
The following day, Watts brought her mother, Julia, and son to see the breathtaking collection. “They [Parrott and Williams] gave me a large envelope full of family photos from leading Tiffany expert Paul Doros. Some I had seen in our family albums, and others were new to me; I became overwhelmed with a wave of emotions,” says Watts. They spent four hours looking through the glass archive with Parrott and sharing family stories. “I was spellbound by the piles of iridescent glass pieces, thinking of my great-great-grandfather and all he created,” Watts says.
After being surrounded by the vibrant colors and objects, she knew she wanted to find a way to incorporate her forebear’s should this be plural? Are we talking about both her great grandfather and grandfather here? design elements into a different medium—fabric—to honor his work.
On her flight back to Denver after that 2017 trip, she brainstormed ways to interpret the glass on fabric. “When I got home, I started playing around with watercolors to re-create the colors of glass that stood out to me most. Next, I focused on the shapes and created unique patterns using the jewels and smaller pieces of glass. I sketched with pencils the combination of shapes into patterns using groups of colors that my eye was drawn to.”
As Watts applied color to the patterns, she realized she needed to use a medium that was more consistent than watercolor. “I spent a few hours at a local art store and found markers that closely emulated the colors of the glass to create patterns and show how they would be applied to different types of fabrics.” Once she had created a range of designs and colors, she had a variety of textured fabrics printed in the patterns. Ready to present a concept, she reached out to Kravet to share her fabric ideas inspired by Tiffany glass.
Fast-forward to summer 2022 and the launch of the Nadia Watts Gem Collection from Kravet, inspired by the colors and textures of Tiffany glass jewels . “I love that I can take my great-great-grandfather’s Tiffany glass from over 140 years ago and have it be the foundation for a fabric collection that can be used today for furniture, draperies, pillows, headboards and more,” Watts says.
On a personal level, working on this collection gave Watts the opportunity to tap into a deep innate creativity through color, shapes and texture. “The collection fulfilled a creative piece of me; to have that be a part of our family history feels very natural and authentic during this moment.” Watts says that while looking at the Tiffany glass and jewels in 2017she felt an immediate connection. “To think that Louis had worked with this glass, this beautiful timeless glass that transcends media—and that I was able to reinterpret these elements into something tangible—it’s beyond my wildest dreams.”
Nadia Watts graduated from Hollins University and the New York School of Interior Design. She is a trustee of the Neustadt Collection, a professional member and an advisory board member of the Institute of Classical Art & Architecture Rocky Mountain Chapter, an associate ASID member, an advisory board member of the Heritage School of Interior Design, and a professional member of Design Leadership Network, an international collaborative of design professionals.
Nadia Watts Interior Design