Meet our team: All About Cat!

With the 19 Hours Design Conference right around the corner (TODAY!!) and Cat as a featured panelist, there was just no better time for us to share this post. It’s been in the queue for quite awhile, but there have been so many exciting things happening around here that it’s taken a backseat to other projects. But now we know it was all for the best, as this week is the perfect opportunity to tell you more about Cat- our fearless leader, CEO, design mastermind, and all-around incredible lady. From a kid with a room chock full of sketchbooks, she has been drawing, designing, and dreaming her way to what has become an incredible, thriving business, built from the ground up.

Cat French headshot in CFD's first studio - Catherine French Design

Designer in the Making

As an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, Cat found and fell in love with studio art. Always a lover of color and a creator, the academic aspect of painting and welding fueled her passion for making beautiful things.  She had already been working in the photography business for years, and immersing herself in the world of academic art helped build the foundation for what would become a lifelong creative passion.  Pursing an opportunity to broaden her knowledge, she spent time studying in Spain and traveling throughout Europe. Absorbing and learning from the architecture, history, and expression of so many diverse cultures set the stage for her graduate academic work, and her future in the global design industry.  She went on to obtain a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a terminal degree in the design world. She taught design at the undergraduate level and helped launch the Center for Community-Engaged Design at UNCG. She had opportunities to continue a career teaching at the post-graduate level, but as the ink was drying on that diploma Cat knew it was time to spread her wings. Drawing on years of academic training, knowledge, experience, and a whole lot of sweat equity, Catherine French Design, LLC was born.

Cat French presenting for her Master of Fine Arts from the Interior Architecture program at UNCG - Catherine French Design
Cat presenting at her graduate thesis defense, the final step to completing her Master of Fine Arts from the Interior Architecture program at UNCG.

Dream Big

It’s true that Cat is no stranger to building up an incredibly designed space from nothing more than an idea.  But one special niche she also has is restoring older spaces to their former glory, often weaving in a modern twist. And in fact, much of her graduate research was focused on this very thing. One of her notable early projects was a large-scale renovation of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Kenan Institute. She’s not scared of big dreams or hard work, and by taking on (and nailing!) such a huge project straight out of the gate, she launched herself full force into the design world.

UNCSA Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts Creative Community Lab Project - Cat French Design
UNCSA Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts Creative Community Lab

Keep Moving Forward

Beautiful space after beautiful space, and client by client, Cat built a reputation as someone who cares deeply about the quality of her work- and her clients wasted no time in spreading the word. She’s now been featured in multiple publications such as Chapel Hill Magazine, Triangle Home Design and Decor Magazine, the Briar Chapel Newsletter, and the Winston-Salem Monthly. In 2018 she took another huge step forward, moving her growing team and company from their first office to a brand new location at Southern Village, in the heart of Chapel Hill. Giving back has also continued to be an important part of Cat’s career. She believes in investing in the design profession through teaching, mentoring, and connecting with other designers. She was featured in Luanna Nigara’s A Well-Designed Business Podcast, discussing how other great designers have impacted her, helping her to grow her own business. Now she works hard to pave the way for others, and is speaking as an expert panelist this week at the 19 Hours Virtual Design Conference.  

The CFD Family

What started as a one-woman operation out of her home has now grown into a bustling 6-person Full-Service Interior Design Firm taking on projects all over the country, with Cat steady at the helm. One thing that clients comment on most about CFD is the team dynamic.  It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach and a group of professionals that genuinely enjoys working together, and that’s something that makes a huge difference to clients.  From day one, Cat has set a standard of positivity in the office and amongst the team. She creates an atmosphere of support that fosters communication, collaboration, and hard work. This is the magic formula that brings creativity to life- and, keeps them busting out a staggering volume of incredible designs- each one FULLY custom to every client. Cat loves to say “everyone has a superpower”- and it’s clear that she truly believes in the potential of others. CFD team member Ryan says, “We laugh a lot, we care about each other, and we are family oriented. Cat especially- she has people’s backs. She facilitates growth by drawing on the strengths of her diverse team, where everyone is encouraged to contribute.”

Where it Counts

It’s inspiring to work with someone who is not only hugely talented, but is also humble and believes in valuing those around her. Cat listens to her team the same way she listens to her clients- by tuning in and paying attention to how she can help them best. Even as an experienced business woman, she goes into all her interactions with an uncommon authenticity that builds lifelong relationships. Taking so much pride in her work, Cat herself gives the kind of personal attention that sets her apart.   With a business philosophy like that, it’s no wonder why clients are thrilled with the results and come back to work with her again and again. Cat brings heart and soul to every client, every project, every creation. That’s the CFD way, y’all- and we wouldn’t have it any differently.  

Cat French posing in front of a large screen porch addition - Catherine French Design
Cat Wilborne Photography

For more of the latest happenings and goings-on of this busy lady, follow us on Instagram @catfrenchdesign. Want to see more CFD projects? Check out our Portfolio Page for more beautiful CFD creations.