A legend in her own time, Beth Claybourn is the award-winning proprietor of the elegant Beth Claybourn Interiors in Baton Rouge. For the past 40 years, she has transformed residences throughout America ranging from grand estates to sprawling beachfront properties, luxurious mountain manses, five-bedroom yachts, historic Louisiana homes, cozy contemporary dwellings, and charming European-inspired châteaus. The sought-after designer works closely with her clients to create environments that are at once elegant, yet comfortable and inviting.
Claybourn’s nationally acclaimed, eponymous shop showcases exceptional antiques and art, accessories and lighting. Her firm provides a full range of design services including custom designed furniture, draperies, and accessories.
Unmatched in her field for her enthusiasm, meticulous standards, creativity, and commitment to her clients, Claybourn has amassed a following due to her passion for creating exceptional interiors and her devotion to personal service. Some of Claybourn’s earlier projects in her career included the $152 million complex for Swaggart Ministries. She has also provided design services for Plantation Management, which owns and operates the largest chain of retirement and nursing home facilities in Louisiana.
Claybourn’s masterpiece is her own home in Baton Rouge, which she lovingly refers to as “Ma Maison.” She and her husband, Garrett, built the stately residence filled with art and antiques with the purpose of showcasing her lifelong passion for interior design. The initial concept of the residence was inspired by homes Claybourn saw in Bath, England, and during various European travels. Claybourn’s upcoming 200-page book, Ma Maison, which is filled with gorgeous color photography, takes readers on a journey of the Claybourn home. Room by room, the book details Claybourn’s amazing collections and décor while showcasing her finely tuned vision for creating sumptuous environments that can inspire others.
As a woman, Claybourn has met various challenges during her career in a male-dominated field. I asked her to share aspects of her journey with our readers.
What makes a good designer?
I think it is the ability to build on rejection from clients, and then to please the client in the end, and go beyond their expectations. It is like being a Hollywood producer. You get better with each job by demanding more out of yourself and the people who work with you.
What has been the most hurtful thing to happen to you in your career?
Being called bad names. One of the consequences of demanding perfection is being regarded as hard to deal with. But in the end, I am respected greatly. If I had been a man in business, people would only say that I was hard, demanding, and tough. But ultimately, the business community would respect such a man. However, as a woman, I’ve had a much harder road to travel in order to earn that same respect from my peers in the business world. It has never been easy to strive to be the best at what I do, but it has been the most important aspect of my career. You don’t make a lot of friends this way, but the joy and satisfaction you bring to your clients and the people helping you are worth it.
What are some of the most interesting projects you have worked on and why?
Working on Swaggart Ministries for seven years was a tremendous experience for me. The opportunity to design and specify such a huge commercial project forced me to grow as a designer. The level of detail was so great, and I had to learn about so many areas of building construction that were unfamiliar to me. From that experience, I was able to tackle residential jobs from 15,000 to 35,000 square feet with a lot more knowledge and confidence. I’ll always be grateful to Brother and Mrs. Swaggart for giving me the chance to be a part of their team.
How do you think the field of interior design has evolved in recent years?
Unfortunately, over the last several years, I’ve seen a growing number of unlicensed, unqualified people entering the interior design field. Louisiana law limits the title of interior designer to those like me who have the proper education and meet the licensing requirements. Amateurs and contractors are allowed to join ASID as allied members, but this is misleading to the general public. I compare it to being like someone in the medical field. A surgical nurse is qualified to be in the operating room and may know the instruments, but he or she is certainly not qualified to be a surgeon. It is the responsibility of the interior designers in our state to pull together and to educate our clients about what we do. The fact that unlicensed, unqualified people are practicing in our field is deceptive; it undermines the integrity of the design community.
What is your favorite thing about designing interiors for people in Louisiana?
People in Louisiana are more casual in their lifestyle. A big part of their lives is their love of cooking and entertaining in their homes. The Baton Rouge community prides itself on living in the capital city while keeping the feel of a small town. They like certain touches of formality to make a statement, but mostly, they want their houses to be warm, comfortable places that can truly be lived in by their families.
Of all the homes you have designed throughout your 40-year career, what would you say is your greatest masterpiece?
My personal home is the accomplishment I am most proud of. All of the furnishings, artwork, and antiques are a collection I have spent my entire life completing. Rather than focusing on one style, I’ve acquired pieces from different periods which all have a fine, grand quality that unifies the house. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have had opportunities to travel internationally and experience some of the most beautiful places in the world. I have brought back many special pieces, and in my book, Ma Maison, I finally have the chance to share them with everyone.