Bettye Muller is a bit of a homebody.
That’s not to say the women’s footwear designer doesn’t like to socialize. In fact, she is often found making the rounds at trade shows and parties to promote her eponymous label, but her favorite hobby centers on her own abode.
“I love interior design,” Muller said. And she has plenty of opportunities to put her passion into action. In addition to their Manhattan apartment, the designer and her husband own a 1790s farmhouse in South Salem, N.Y., which she first let Footwear News tour in 2006.
Since then, Muller has been constantly redecorating the house. “It’s like a sanctuary,” she added.
Favorite projects have included turning the master bedroom into a sunken, ski chalet-inspired haven, complete with a pitched ceiling and a bed with a carved pine headboard. The designer said the ambience harkens back to her teen years as a competitive ice skater.
Other rooms in the house are influenced by two of Muller’s favorite eras: 1950s America and late-1700s France. A Japanese-inspired bathroom renovation and a guest room done in shades of gray and black are also in the works. “My taste is very eclectic, and I don’t like anything that looks too ‘done,’” Muller said. “I have to mix it up, but it all works together.”
A penchant for textiles and furniture is at the core of this hobby. “I have always loved fabric,” said Muller. “If I hadn’t done shoe design, I would have gone into fabric design.” For the best finds, she scours flea markets and antique stores in the U.S. and Europe, including merchants on London’s famed Portobello Road. “You can take something vintage and make it look really fabulous in a room if you have good taste.”
But this avocation is nothing new. Muller recalls that in her childhood, she decorated her own bedroom and insisted on color-coordinating all her belongings, right down to her bicycle. “I’ve always been detail-oriented,” she said.
Home decor also plays into Muller’s footwear designs, which incorporate a variety of textures and patterns. A hand-painted silk wallpaper chosen for a sunroom in her house has served as the springboard for several shoe styles throughout the seasons. And brocade, which can be found on many of Muller’s bridal exclusives for retailer BHLDN, is a playful nod to her fascination with baroque furniture. In addition, she takes color-palette inspiration from textiles featured in the catalog for Danish furniture company Fritz Hansen.
“I order fabric swatches [for footwear] like I’m ordering them for [upholstery],” Muller said. “[Designing a shoe] feels like I am decorating [an interior], but it’s not just taking something like a tassel and putting it right onto a shoe. Sometimes I take a shoe and I feel like I am creating a chair, for example. It requires comfort and style, and I have to think about the fabrication.”
However, she admitted, designing footwear offers a slightly bigger creative challenge for her. “A shoe is a bit smaller of a surface,” Muller said. “Sometimes it’s very hard to get all my ideas on one little shoe.”
For spring ’13, she pulled it off with a print that packs a punch: high-definition silk florals inspired by photographs. “People are starting to get [how interior design influences can make for fashionable shoes],” Muller said. “I’ve seen some really chic and sophisticated things out there, and I think they are ready for it.”