Street Style: Kate Hougen

I first met Kate Hougen over a decade ago when we both worked at The Nature Conservancy. She is one of the most delightful and genuine people I know. What you see is what you get with Kate and I admire that. Even on her worst days she breathes life into a room. Her optimism is contagious and her passion for what she does is inspiring. It was her dream to start her own line of textiles so it was with her eternal optimism, a little hope, and a lot of support from her family that she left TNC to do just that.

Red Barn Mercantile is so pleased to be the Northern Virginia showroom for Mira Jean Designs, Kate’s beautiful line of eco-friendly fabrics. Every design begins with one of Kate’s original watercolor paintings. Inspired by the coast and by nature, her designs are colorful and fun, and, just like Kate, they breathe fresh air into any room.

Available by the yard, her fabrics can be used for window treatments, pillows, bedding, poufs, and even clothing.  Really, the sky’s the limit for you, and I believe for Kate.  After reading about her I think you’ll agree that she’s created something special.



How do you spend your time? Balancing work + kids, meeting with clients, designing textiles, pursuing a dream.

What would surprise people about you? When I was growing up, my family and I had an aviary and raised birds. Cockatiels, lovebirds, African Greys, Senegal parrots…we had them all! Maybe it’s no wonder I’m drawn to bright colors and all things tropical.

You’re a superhero: what’s your superpower? To heal.

Favorite cocktail: Bloody Mary (extra olives, please).

Last book read or movie seen: The Magnolia Story (Give me a book about hard work, entrepreneurship, creative spirit, and I’m hooked).

Guilty Pleasure: Artisan Confections’ caramel sea salt chocolates.

Phrase you overuse: I’m so excited! (But isn’t it important to celebrate life’s positive moments?)

Facebook or Instagram? Instagram! But honestly, I still use both. Many friends and family members across the country are still on FB so it’s a great way to connect.

Latest binge-watch: It’s a tie: “Fixer Upper” and “Game of Thrones.”

Bucket list travel destination: Seaside, Florida. My happy place.

If you only could have one for the rest of your life: wine or coffee? Easy: coffee!!




Define your style in three words or less: Comfortable, colorful, feminine.

Favorite current trend: My thirteen-year-old daughter wishes I knew more about fashion trends. I’m too busy admiring interiors and dreaming up new textile designs.

Favorite fragrance: A classic, Chanel No. 5



Antiques, modern, or a mix? Definitely a mix! I love a home where pieces have been added, over time. I read once, “If you love it, buy it — you’ll find a place for it later.” So true.

Last item bought for your home: An abstract painting by local artist and interior designer Kristin Try. (You can see it here! It’s the one on the lower right, the perfect mix of my favorite coastal colors.) We also recently re-upholstered our living room furniture. I love being able to “refresh” a space via working with talented upholsterers to renew what you already own.

Next planned purchase: We are scheming about a new backsplash for the kitchen, and have plans to repaint the entire main level of our house. I am always amazed at how something as simple as a fresh coat of paint can transform a room.

Favorite way to entertain: Theme parties! Think Kentucky Derby kick-off happy hour or Oktoberfest. Who doesn’t enjoy an excuse to dress up?

Clutter-free or well-lived in? Definitely well lived in. With a big Bernese Mountain Dog pup and two kids, this is a must. (That’s why all of my textiles are machine washable).

Wallpaper — yes, totally modern or no, so dated: Yes, Absolutely!! Check out my new wallpaper line! It includes our new Pup collection, a collaboration with Alexandria-based illustrator Emily Dere. How fun would these Corgis be in a hallway or mud room? I keep waiting for Queen Elizabeth to call me). 🙂



Your go-to work-out: Walking my Berner pup every day.

Most fun way to exercise: Running on the trail with my girlfriends…it’s my therapy! I’m also a huge fan of the annual GW Parkway Classic; can’t beat the views.

Fitness goal: See below…

Proudest fitness achievement: (and goal) Wilson Bridge Half marathon … I did it! Check.




Favorite spot in Alexandria: My in laws’, who live in an historic farmhouse near Mount Vernon.

Last purchase in Alexandria: Cards and Sydney Hale candles at Red Barn Mercantile.

Best coffee / happy hour / date night spot: Evening Star

Favorite annual Alexandria event: St. Patrick’s Day parade love all the costumes and colors.


Photos: Sarah Marcella

  • The latest from Amy
Owner Amy Rutherford started Red Barn because she wanted to deliver a service — to provide both old and new in one place. No longer will busy shoppers be limited to reproductions or forced to shop multiple flea markets for the look or gifts they want. The trick in blending old and new, vintage and modern, classic and quirky, is balance. And Amy’s knack for mixing rustic antiques with urban chic has created a look that is both fresh and familiar.

Red Barn Mercantile opened its doors in September 2007 with a single vision in mind: providing old and new to offer our customers signature whole-room designs at great prices.

We’re more than a furniture boutique and provide more personalized service than a big box retailer. We work hard to bring you the highest quality furniture and gifts, the most unique conversation starters, wall hangings and accent pieces, whether they come from off-the-beaten-track flea markets, or the latest designers.

1117 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


1 Comment

  1. […] to announce that Kate Hougen of Mira Jean Designs has joined our Design Collective! I have known Kate since our days at The Nature Conservancy more than 17 years ago. We both had babies one right after […]

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