Women Who MAKE: Natalie Bowen Designs

November 30, 2015

It’s been a fabulous year of Women Who MAKE! I can’t believe this will be the last feature for 2015. To say this has been a year of personal and professional growth would be a major understatement. This personal project, interviewing women who inspire me and create beauty, has been a tremendous part of that. Thank you, thank you for reading along!

There is no way to pick favorites among this years talented alum, but Natalie Bowen has definitely stolen my heart. I saw her from across the room at a styling conference, and just knew she was my type of lady! Of course, she happened to live in San Francisco (where I lived right out of college and wanted to stay forever) and she happened to design the most stunning florals and tabletops I’d ever seen (plus she’s a Virgo, i.e. we understand each other’s crazy).

Natalie graciously hosted photographer, Carolina Mariana and I during our recent San Francisco adventure. Natalie has been chugging away as a creative small business owner for years. Her sage advice is not to be taken lightly! My favorite morsel, “Do good work and put it out there. The world is ready to support you.” I whole-heartedly agree. Here’s the interview:


Inspiration board in Natalie’s Studio

Name: Natalie Bowen Brookshire

Age: 36

Current title/company name: Owner/Creative Director

Years in operation: 12

What is your first memory of making [art]?

I remember hosting my first floral arranging party in the second grade. It was for Valentine’s Day and I invited friends over after school. My mom provided the flowers from our garden. I have always liked to make things and I love sharing the experience with others. I’m not a sit at home and doodle kind of girl.

natalie bowen designs

I’m sure the second grade table looked this good : ) photos by Anna Wu

How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?

Growing a business is an education all in itself. I never went to graduate school but feel as if I am currently getting a degree in business. I am constantly learning through making mistakes and then reflecting on how to become better. I am pretty good at self reflecting, however that is when the really deep stuff comes out. I notice that so many of my struggles in my business reflect the larger struggles I have in life.

natalie bowen designs

Talking about the deep stuff in the backyard studio

Tell us about the process of launching your own business, Natalie Bowen Designs. Best parts? Biggest challenge?

I do not think of ever launching since I slowly grew from the day I got my first client. The best part of having my own business is the satisfaction I get from my accomplishments. It’s hard to separate myself from my business, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it is great when I reach goals and have high moments as I feel as if I really did that! The other best part is getting more than two weeks off a year and never having to submit a time off request to someone else. I work long days and almost six days a week, so I never feel guilty about traveling.
The biggest challenge is managing other people. I really struggle with how to communicate in a way that is mutually supportive. I really want to be everyone’s friend so being the one in charge can be hard for me when something isn’t going the way I want it to.

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Stunning wedding florals at the Fairmont Hotel, photos by Kate Webber

What is your favorite part of the creative process? What inspires you and why?

My favorite part is the moment when I can see the vision and the moment after it is all done and I feel as if we accomplished what we set out to. I also like being in a line of work that is all about the conceptual vision and not specifically knowing what the outcome will be. I am a virgo control freak, yet somehow I always trust that it will come together event if I cannot see the end result initially.

natalie bowen designs

Meeting table at Natalie’s Studio

What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs/artists?

Learn to trust yourself, even if that is a lifelong process. Make supportive relationships with other women who you admire. Face the hard stuff and move through it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, the most growth can be in that space. Make friends with women of all ages, as there is something to learn from everyone.


Backyard details in San Francisco

Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?

Someone once said to me, “do good work and put it out there.” I will never forget that advice. I think the part that resonates with me the most is the putting it out there part. If a person is always waiting to perfect the end product, they may never share it with the world. And, the world is ready to support you.

Imagine Natalie Bowen Designs five years, how would you like to grow?

This past year I have been much more mindful about taking on work. In the past, I have overcommitted myself and I have tried to not do that as much this year. The choice was originally based in trying to create space for a family, as my husband and I have been trying to have a baby for four years. The result of this shift has been that I feel I have been doing better work and enjoying it even more. In five years, I hope that this will continue to be the case, I will be doing larger projects with larger budgets and also doing more creative projects just for fun. And, I’ll have a kid of course.

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Lemon trees and humming birds made the yard feel quite magical

Do you have a most popular item or service?

I find that people give me trust the most when our visions align and they are attracted to my natural, purposeful and fresh approach.

What do you enjoy most about the creative community in San Francisco?

I love the creative community in San Francisco and feel so grateful to be part of it! I feel as if I am living the life I always wanted to live and SF is part of me and I am part of it. I have lived her eighteen years and I just love meeting new people that are doing, making and expressing themselves in different ways.

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Enjoying that sunshine and conversation!

Centered by Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

My design process helps me feel centered or grounded because it sees a project from beginning to end. From the first email or idea to the final product, I take a lot of satisfaction in seeing it all the way through. Setting up an event on the day of is always such a rush! Seeing all components come together is my ultimate idea of accomplishment.


Happy plants enjoying the sunshine in studio

Natalie’s San Francisco Favorites:

  • Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture: Coup de Etat


It was a treat to spend a sunny morning in San Francisco with Natalie! For more of Natalie’s business advice, check out her interview with well-known design blogger, Caitlin Flemming of Sacramento Street. View more of Natalie’s gorgeous work on her web site http://nataliebowendesigns.com

Lot’s more amazing #womenwhomake coming for 2016


natalie bowen designs

  1. Holly says:

    Thanks for sharing this interview Claire, I love Natalie’s advice to “do good work & put it out there”.
    I am also a Virgo, creativity is our thing.

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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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