DESIGN SCHOOL: Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell

DESIGN SCHOOL: INTERVIEW WITH KEVIN O’GARA

Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell blog and Kevin Francis Design hails from Atlanta but is currently an undergraduate student at Cornell University. I love getting to know areas of the country better through following design bloggers in different states and Kevin makes the south look very, very good! This emerging designer named his blog Thou Swell after an old jazz standard by the same name. He focuses on showcasing an avant-garde mix of modern and traditional design.

He has also just launched his first product collection! A gorgeous series of rugs called LABYRINTH made of wool and bamboo at different pile heights. They are quite chic and I can see them working very well in a variety of interiors from traditional to eclectic to modern. Here’s more from this talented college student, who I think we will be hearing much more from!

The most difficult aspect of my job: The balance between being a college student, having a social life, and running a blog and design business with plans to expand into product this year is my biggest challenge! Something more specific to being in the design blogosphere is really finding unique projects and inspiration beyond what circulates through social media and press.

My secret styling trick: I once heard that every room should have something red in it, and since I often work more with cooler colors, the addition of something red can have a surprisingly powerful effect! It brings a lot of vibrancy and personality to a vignette even if it’s as small as the spine of a book.

My dream collaboration would include: Serenbe, a beautiful sustainable community outside of Atlanta… and it’s happening right now! I’m so grateful for the chance to design for this inspiring place at the Serenbe Inn.

If I could design anyone’s home it’d be: Marie Antoinette, because it would be a complete fantasy.

The one design that makes me cringe now: Farmhouse-everything.

You’d be surprised to know I: Used to only share those Scandinavian all-white interiors on Pinterest and my blog. My style has evolved to embrace much more color and pattern since then!

My favorite part of a project is: The beginning, where the inspiration that drives the whole direction for a project could be anywhere, and I just need to open my mind!

The biggest thing that frustrates me: When people don’t think they deserve or can afford good design in their life.
You can spot this in all of my projects: Natural inspiration, whether that’s a floral print or a piece of art with a natural subject.

My favorite person to follow on Instagram: Luke Edward Hall – young, brilliant, and very British!

The brand you’ll find in all of my projects: Accents from Target’s reliable home section!

My least favorite part of the design process: The middle, when a couple pieces have started to arrive but it feels so incomplete and you start to lose hope that it will all come together!

The source you’d be surprised to know I use: My mom – she is my go-to for brainstorming and developing design ideas.

I always encourage clients to get rid of: Carpeting and ceiling fans.

The website most visited on my computer: My blog’s WordPress dashboard.

The future of interior design will most certainly include: Technology! VR and AR combined with much faster rendering technology are completely transforming how clients are interacting with the design process. That being said, I believe there will always be a part of the market that wants a more traditional process where they purchase more slowly and want to see and feel their purchases.


I always tell clients that if you invest in one thing, it should be: Lined curtains that touch the floor. Drapery can really make or break a room!

The project I’m most proud of is: My latest venture, which is a collection of five asymmetrical rug designs based on labyrinth patterns. They feature a raised bamboo silk pattern on wool and come in five colors. I am working hard to launch them this summer!In 10 years I’ll be: Designing home decor, fashion, and interiors while raising my kids in a city with warm, sunny weather… with a countryside escape in Italy.

Thanks so much to Kevin for participating in our Design School series! Follow along on our design adventures with @centered_by_design on Instagram and catch who is up for our next month’s interview!

XO – CLAIRE