MY DESIGN story
Interior design has always been a passion of mine. As early as I can remember, I would become enamored in a beautiful space, looking around wide eyed commenting on all the pretty things. Like most designers seem to have experienced, I rearranged my room incessantly as a kid. And I have always been that girl who picks a restaurant because of its ambience rather than its food. Its just been one of those things I was deeply affected by, and also something I was very interested in understanding. Like why did this gorgeous space in a magazine look so beautiful? What were the principles they were following? And how could I learn to create something so beautiful. To me, design is fascinating because we are creating something out of nothing, imagined in our mind, and then putting it together in the real world. Getting it right, which for me, means creating an end product that is just what you envisioned, is so creatively fulfilling and something that keeps me going and loving what I do.
So as described above, I had all this sort of untapped passion for interior design, but no real experience with it practically. It wasn't until I saw real designers in action, like Genevieve Gorder on Trading Spaces and Grace on Will and Grace, that I started to see what it might look like as a career. Once that happened, I started to become very confident it was what I was supposed to do (of course finding out later that Trading Spaces was very far from the work of a true interior designer!)
I was in my 2nd year of college living in San Diego and was at that pivotal point where I had to pick a major. Interior design was up there on the list, as it had been for a couple years, but I was also interested in psychology or becoming a midwife. I wanted to be extra sure about my choice, so I spent about a week going over the pros and cons of each profession, and finally landed on interior design which I felt would be the best fit for me long-term.
My next big decision was choosing a school to attend. My first option was to stay in San Diego — a place I felt safe and comfortable as I had moved there after high school with a few close friends. If I stayed there, I would need to attend an accredited, private design school, that came with a BIG price tag. My second option was to finish up my last general-ed semester in Florence, Italy and after, move to Sacramento to attend a less expensive, but also highly accredited design program at a California State school. As hard as it was to admit, I knew the second option was the smartest choice, and would push me outside of my comfort zone — and out of the Southern California bubble I’d been in all my life. So, that’s what I did. I spent 6 months in Italy and after, moved off to Sacramento to dive into my studies in interior design and architecture.
Fast forward 3 or so years to 2006 — I graduated from Sacramento State with my degree in Interior Design and, as I had intended since the beginning of design school, moved out to NYC to work for an architectural firm. It was a really small firm with really big projects, which meant I was wearing multiple hats. I was managing and designing all kinds of projects, including: restaurants, Madison Ave. and Soho retail boutiques, mansions in the Hamptons and Park Ave. homes. It was a dream job for someone just starting out and I was so happy - I was loving NYC and loving the work.
Then, in 2010, due to the Great Recession, I was laid off from my job and simultaneously, broke up with my boyfriend who I was living with at the time. All at once I had to find a new job and a new place to live - and mend a broken heart. It felt like everything was caving in and my confidence took a nose-dive.
I spent months sending out resumes with not one response. I remember speaking to someone who said they were seeing about 200 resumes per position. I started losing hope and began thinking about moving back to California, but something in me couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t leave NY on that kind of note, feeling like I’d failed. I started going with a friend each week to a guided meditation group which had the most amazing lecturer afterward who spoke on buddhist teachings. The whole experience brought me out of my own head and I started to regain my confidence and perspective. I decided to give it one last go in NY, and for me that meant starting my own design business — something I never thought I was cut out for. But something in me pushed me forward — maybe it was the buddhist stuff, or maybe it was the need to eat and pay my rent, I don’t know! But it all came together one afternoon on the subway where I strategized my entire business plan on a napkin.
The business was called Room To Improve, and its focus was on budget-conscious clients with Craigslist as the center piece. At the time, Craigslist was very popular in NYC and I had had great success using it to furnish my new apartment. I turned to it as a source for quality, used furniture for my clients, and even looked to it to advertise my design services. To me, Craigslist was what set me apart in a sea of designers, and also enhanced the eco-friendly and sustainable components of my business as the re-use of furniture was no longer going to the landfill.
I began spending my days and nights riding the subway all over NYC in search of good looking, used furniture for sale and scheduling Craigslist movers for pick-up and delivery, which I had to tag along for. What an experience that was!
As you may be thinking, I was not just your ordinary interior designer here – I hung blinds, artwork, shelves and even made trips to IKEA (now you think I’m crazy!). I rented cars to drive out to Long Island and Jersey to pick up custom artwork via Etsy, or used furniture that was too good to pass up. On the flip side, I was having lots of hiccups and lessons learned. A towed vehicle, parking tickets and $800 cash stolen out of my purse at IKEA — wiping out my entire profit on my very first project! It was grueling and I was charging hardly anything, but I believed in what I was doing and knew it would all pay off one day.
And it did! As my client inquiries grew, I eventually moved up and out of the Craigslist world and onto higher-end projects. In the midst of all of this, I met my now husband through my business. He was a client whose project I coined as the “Bachelor Pad." After the project was finished, we began dating, got married, and started a family back in Northern California where I continued to grow my business.
It was definitely a journey with highs and lows, but I’m so grateful for every “failure” and every hiccup. Yes, all of it has led me to where I am now, which is a place I am so happy to be, but its also given me such a valuable perspective that I take with me into my present mindset...and one I can’t wait to teach my girls…