Houses + Horses with Equestrian Interior Designer Lindsay Hunter

Houses + Horses with Equestrian Interior Designer Lindsay Hunter

First, tell us a little about yourself

I am a California-native currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee with my husband and two young children. I have been a horse lover since the age of 5 and remember my first obsession over Nick-at-Nite reruns of “Mr. Ed.” I loved that his owner was an architect and had a drafting table in the barn so he could converse with his palomino while he worked. I am still trying to recreate this life-long dream. I’ve had the palomino in my backyard, traded in my drafting table for an iMac, and am still looking for a horse that talks back.

How long have you been a designer? What Inspired you to start?

I had the makings of a designer from a young age and the right environment to nurture the leaning, reading my dad’s Architectural Digests and constantly rearranging my dollhouse furniture. I loved to tag along when my dad visited his real estate investment renovation sites. One time when I was about nine, we went to look at a house he was looking to buy. In one of the rooms he asked me what I would do to improve it, and I began mentally gutting it. I detailed how I would start by removing the green shag carpet, popcorn ceiling, and definitely the dated wall paneling. 

His realtor informed him later that the woman who lived there had been listening to our conversation on the intercom and would never sell her beloved house to a little girl who was going to rip it apart. I announced to my family then that I would be an interior designer and have never considered any other profession (although when I was fifteen I did want to be a horse vet for about a minute until I realized you don’t get to just play with horses and ride all day).   

 After receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History & Architecture and a Professional Degree in Interior Design, I worked for several interior designers and architects for eight years before starting Hunter Design in 2010.  I love creating classic and timeless spaces with a nod to historical styles and a flair for equestrian.  In 2021, I created Modern Equestrian Shop in order to share some of my favorite equestrian-style home decor products.

And of course.. tell us about your journey with horses

There are two kinds of horse people: those who enjoy taking lessons on a Saturday and those who love horses to the core. As in, it’s 10 degrees outside and they put on five layers of clothing just to go break ice in a water bucket, pick rock-hard mud out of a hoof, all for the chance of getting one little nuzzle with frozen whiskers. I am, obviously, the latter.  

 I’ve been in the saddle since I was five and it was evident early on that it was not just a weekend hobby. I played polo through high school in the summers and in the winters turned my Argentinian polo pony (Alice) into a fox hunter.  Alice went to college with me and we played polo competitively at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Our team was fortunate enough to have thirty horses donated to us and full use of the facilities at the Santa Barbara Polo Club during the winter months when it was vacant. We played six days a week, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and palm trees. It was heaven on earth. 

 After college, Alice and I continued to fox hunt for many years until I retired her to trailblazer status. I rode her until the day before she died. We had twenty amazing years together, from 16 to 36, and she was a guiding light during my formative years.

What led you to combine your love for horses and interior design?

My first job in high school was working for Ralph Lauren as a gift-wrapper at Christmas. I loved that a retail store had authentic tack throughout the store- polo mallets hung on the walls, old saddles on wall-mounted racks dividing clothing sections. Ralph has a way of not just creating a beautiful space but a lifestyle with horses at its foundation. 

I kept thinking, if Ralph can do it (and he had never even been to a polo game when he started the brand!) then surely I can bring something to the arena. I embody the brand and the lifestyle, it’s not a façade, it’s who I am to the core. I have honed in on my equestrian niche and it feels really natural and predestined to be working with mediums and clients who exemplify the lifestyle. 

 Growing up around polo and fox hunting exposed me to so many amazing equestrian homes and properties. I spent several months in Wellington, FL working at the International Polo Club during the high-goal season. I saw some of the equestrian world’s most beautiful multi-million dollar equestrian facilities. 

The lounge rooms in these barns had mahogany wall paneling, equestrian oil paintings, leather armchairs with cashmere tartan throw blankets, cigar humidors, bar carts filled with crystal glasses and the finest bourbon. And that was just the barns… the homes were to-die for.  

 When I design, I try to capture the essence of decadent equestrian culture while still making it livable and palatable for our current lifestyles. And it must function!

Do you have any 'go-tos' for incorporating equestrian elements into interior design that you could share? 

Tartan is my go-to. It’s steeped in traditional British hunt country culture. Tartan wool blankets draped across a leather wingback chair is undeniably equestrian. I love using leather elements as well that emulate the feel of a well-loved saddle. Antique silver trophies and used boots and tack add a layer of patina and sense of history of the people who live there.

You recently unveiled your equestrian-inspired space. What was that initial design process like? 

Somehow as equestrians we tend to accumulate way more tack than we’ll ever need. The amount of tack I have from twenty years with one horse, you’d think I had a large enough string of polo ponies to play the US Open. I was always “gifting” her things like a leather halter with a nameplate, new reins with a better grip, more polo wraps and saddle pads just so she could have outfit options. 

We had tack for polo, tack for fox hunting, tack for trail riding… when she left this earth, I was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of equipment I’d accumulated specifically for her. So I started bringing it into my house, trying to find places to memorialize her. I sorted through everything I had and analyzed the characteristics of the options; the materials, shapes, colors and function. 

I wanted to mix different materials to make it feel like the room had layers - the metal stirrups, bamboo mallets, leather reins, glass trophy bowl, silver picture frame. I looked at which items could be wall-mounted vs. table display.  

Being my own client was not easy! I changed my mind so many times because, unfortunately, I know how many options are available to me. But in the end I focused on pieces that I loved and it all came together.

You highlighted several different disciplines in your bedroom - is this something you pull inspiration from often?

I am most often drawn to fox hunting and polo themes because that’s what Alice and I did together for so many years. Again, it goes back to my love of British culture and the rich heritage. But also it feels personal to me because I have lived that life. My actual polo mallets that I competed with hang above my bed and my various hunt coats still hang in my closet to this day. It’s part of my history and upbringing; I will always love hunt and polo scenes.

Do you have any favorite client equestrian projects you could tell us about?

In 2019, an equine journalist reached out to interview me for an article she was writing about tack room design for Horse Illustrated. I invited her out to my barn where I board my horse to show her the lounge room I redecorated. 

The room is filled with ribbons, trophies and the owner’s memorabilia. I wanted to showcase some of her ribbons in a shadowbox next to a framed photo of a very special horse and a halter she won in a competition. 

While photographing the room, the owner’s horse D’Lorean popped his head in to see what all the fuss was about and it created a really special, natural moment. This shot ended up being the as the leading photo in Horse Illustrated’s April 2020 issue.

If you could offer some words of advice to any fellow equestrians re-decorating their interiors - what would they be?

Surround yourself with items you treasure that help tell the story of who you are and what your life with horses means to you. I love to honor the memory of horses I have loved in my life and the gifts they have given me. 

Layer multiple elements and textures to create interest while incorporating trinkets and treasures that remind you of your equestrian life outside of your home.

To wrap up, what is a dream equestrian project that you have in mind?

I have designed homes for equestrians, and I have redecorated tack rooms and barn lounges. My dream project would be to build an equestrian property from the ground up, designing and decorating every inch of the equestrian’s home and barn. I love a modern take on traditional English hunt country aesthetic with a modern Southern farmhouse twist.

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