6 Designers Share Their Best Furniture Steals

6 Designers Share Their Best Furniture Steals

October is Money Month at Apartment Therapy! That means we’re sharing stories about saving money to buy a home, hacks to help you stick to your budget, and more all month. Head over here to see them all!

It’s no secret designers are total pros at sourcing amazing furniture, artwork, and decorative accents. And some of those finds are just so good, they’ll always rank as number one. To live vicariously through a few decorator friends in this regard, I asked them for the story of their best furniture steals ever: where they found their item, how they knew it was the real deal, and what they’ve used it for since. Read on and prepare to be jealous of these scores — I know I am!

An authentic Eero Saarinen piece

“One time while browsing for office furniture online, I came upon an original Eero Saarinen office chair for $50, and it was a local classified add via Craigslist. I was in luck! I knew it was real deal, as it was stamped underneath with “IBM” and a serial number. Of course, being made in the ‘60s, it needed new upholstery, but I didn’t mind, as I had the perfect use for it. It would be paired in an eclectic-style office with an executive baroque white-washed desk and mid-century lamp. Winning!” —Designer Jodi Janzen of Janzen Design in San Rafael, California

“My best furniture find was a Bergère-style chair that I found online at a very inexpensive price, but it needed a lot of work to breathe some life into it. I decided to go bold with it and had the frame painted in gold and reupholstered in a bold floral fabric on the back and black-and-white color blocking on the front. I used it in an office space, and it makes such a strong statement.” Designer Veronica Solomon of Casa Vilora Interiors by Veronica Solomon in Katy, Texas

A deeply discounted Anthropologie table

“My dining room table (which I also use as an entry table) was a great find from the Anthropologie outlet called Final Cut in Augusta, GA. It’s a few hours from Atlanta but was worth the drive for this piece, which was 85 percent off — with just a few scratches!” —Designer Kevin O’Gara of Thou Swell in Atlanta, Georgia

A stunning vintage secretary

“We’ve been to many estate sales, where people pass right by a glorious piece of furniture because its potential is hiding under layers of dust. My partner, Casey, had been looking for a vintage secretary for a while. She snatched up a late 1800s serpentine-front mahogany stunner that was being completely ignored because it was dingy and had a few scratches. We spruced it up to reveal its rich and glossy finish — she knew to look past the cobwebs!” —Designers Sharon Derry and Casey Stallings of Lime Tree Home in St. Louis, Missouri

“I found this antique French birdcage at Halsey Street Vintage shop in downtown Newark, NJ, for $40. Similar ones can be found for $1,600.” — Designer Djalna McSween of Djalna McSween Interiors in Newark, New Jersey

A dazzling chest of drawers

“We found this incredible chest of drawers at Vintage Garage Sale, an amazing urban flea market in Chicago. It was sort of hiding in a back corner of the parking garage, and between the poor lighting and the layer of dust, it didn’t seem like anything much — which is probably why the seller was willing to part with it at such a bargain. But the construction is so sturdy and the patina is so perfect, [so] we had to have it.” —Designer Nicole Alexander of Siren Betty Design in Chicago, Illinois

7 Lighting Trends You’re Going to Be Obsessed with in 2022

7 Lighting Trends You’re Going to Be Obsessed with in 2022

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

Each fall and winter, I love looking ahead to the design trends that will make waves in the coming year. Right now, I’m all about figuring out what lighting styles will shine in 2022. I spoke with seven designers who each weighed in on the lighting trends you can expect to see in the next few months.

If you’re an avid secondhand shopper like I am — or if you love a good DIY — you’re in luck! Many of these trends are available on the vintage market or have a do it yourself aspect as well. Get ready to be obsessed with some of these bright, on trend lighting ideas now and going into the new year.

Neutral lovers, this one is for you, particularly if you’re drawn to pieces with a bit of an antique look. “I’m predicting that we’re going to see alabaster light fixtures everywhere,” designer Heather DiSabella states. “They come in beautiful organic shapes that aren’t achievable with traditional light fixture materials, which can really set off your space. They also provide that soft, warm light that everyone is craving these days.”

Designer Cameron Jones foresees consumers going the secondhand route when it comes to lighting. “Due to rise in demand and prices thanks to COVID-19, more and more people are turning to vintage because of the uniqueness, affordability, and timely access,” she explains.

Embracing yesterday’s styles and finishes is the name of the game here. “With the rise in popularity of fabric shades with patterns and colors, I think we are going to see more vintage lighting options or new fixtures with a throwback feel as well as found pieces turned into lamps and cool fixtures,” Jones adds.

Designer Cynthia Vallance expressed similar sentiments, “I see old antique lighting fixtures making a comeback with an updated look through a fabulous treatment,” she adds. “I love having a story to tell about pieces I curate, and hopefully, we’ll see a trend in this type of lighting next year. ”

Designer Nishi Donovan believes 2022 will be a time to go bold with lighting choices. “Because of the pandemic and a sensationalized hyper-focus on the spaces we come into contact with every day, unique lighting pieces are something to look out for,” she noted. “Lighting that’s larger-than-life and possesses that custom, handmade appeal are some of the pieces I gravitate toward and believe will be big in 2022.” In particular, she thinks pieces featuring plaster, champagne brass, gunmetal, and matte finishes will take center stage.

Designer Nicole Reid agrees. “Statement lighting will be big in 2022, as we are seeing a shift toward more sculptural lighting, the use of mixed materials, and more abstract shapes,” she notes. “People are craving individuality in their homes through unique lighting, art, and bolder colors.”

Lamp bases aren’t the only things getting sculptural. Malleable LEDs are actually being used to make what looks like illuminated drawings, doodles, and scribbles as well. Think of this as an artsier, fresher, and even more flexible way of doing neon word or pictorial lights, and what’s great is these fixtures can be incorporated into you wall decor or used freestanding as well.

Over on Instagram and on her own blog, Small/Cool 2021 designer Liz Kamarul shared how she added literal dimension to one of her signature wall murals in her own living room with a winding LED neon rope light, the squiggle shape of which was created as she hung it. This is a potential DIY you could take on to customize your wall decor even more while adding extra function, too, since these pieces do provide a little extra illumination.

Artists and makers are iterating on this concept as well. Early next year, Title of Work, artist and designer Jonathan Meizler’s brand, will be releasing a debut collection of lighting fixtures. The first set of offerings includes frames made of black and white painted wood that feature inset, continuous LED light representations of drawings by Meizler himself (as shown above). The collection will also offer industrial, architectural pieces in which solid concrete bases are complemented by steel or brass channel lights with inset LED lights, showing that sculptural lighting can, indeed, take many forms.

Nordic-inspired finishes and shapes

Bring on the hygge vibes! According to designer Anita Williams, Nordic style will be majorly on-trend next year. “The minimalistic vibes of Nordic-inspired designs are showing up big in 2022 in table lamps and suspended light fixtures,” she explained. “Look for sculptural lighting options featuring brass finishes with opal white globes or optic clear globes, which can create either a warm glow or a more playful atmosphere.”

Go ahead and work those walls with your lighting, Williams also advises. “I’m already seeing the trend of wall lamps showing up in areas such as kitchens, highlighting tasks over a sink, or emitting a gentle wash of light in hallways over a gallery wall,” she comments. Anywhere you need to save floor space — whether that’s a bedroom, bathroom, or living room — consider a wall sconce for that area, too.

She offers this tip for those looking to hop on board with this trend and want to go the DIY route without getting involved with wiring, particularly for renters: “Opt for battery-operated wall lights, as they create warm and intimate moments in our homes,” Williams says. “This is ever important with the growing desire for privacy in our spaces.”

Trading recessed lighting for stylish flush mounts

Designer Kelly Hurliman is already a proponent of saying goodbye to recessed lighting when possible and swapping in some kind of a flush-mount fixture, as seen in this image of pendant lamps overhead from Rejuvenation. “I’m a big fan of swapping out can lighting for small flush-mounts,” she notes. “A great lighting plan with minimal recessed lighting feels much more custom and polished!”

These Are the 7 Biggest and Best Design Trends of 2021 So Far

These Are the 7 Biggest and Best Design Trends of 2021 So Far

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

As the end of the year approaches, it’s only natural to look back and see how far we’ve come. Now that summer’s over, you can reflect on your progress on your yearly goals — or you can think back on the home decor trends you’ve loved this year. We covered what was making waves a few months back (hello, custom wood details and working pantries!), and now it’s time to see what’s still around, what’s emerged in the months since, and what to expect as 2021 comes to an end. 

It’s never too late to redecorate, and there’s plenty of fresh inspo below to help you hit your end-of-year design goals.

Neutrals will always have a place in design, but throughout this year (and into 2022), you can expect color to continue returning with exuberance into homes. “The pandemic has played a huge role in the reemergence of color,” says designer Travis London of Studio London. “People were stuck at home and realized their spaces had no color. The last few years of design have been ruled by neutral colors, and now we are seeing the shift into people wanting color in the home more than ever. They want a different environment — they want their rooms to tell a story.”

Amanda Walker from Dwell Aware agrees, citing an unexpected hue at the forefront of the colorful revival. “While neutrals have had a beautiful moment, deeper and darker colors are going to be showing up in a big way,” she says. “Red tones are circling back again, bringing with them energy and striking beauty.”

Designer Brenda Thomson of House Life Design also calls attention to jewel tones for homeowners looking to play with color in a saturated, trendy way. “Jewel tones are having a moment,” says Thomson. “When using color, it’s important to be intentional so the colors accomplish what you’re after. If you want to add depth to a space, add color to the furthest wall. To add interest, repeat the color around the room. Both options add warmth to a space and provided just enough interest for a custom look.” 

Another by-product of the pandemic? The desire — and need — for homes that allow you to escape from daily life without leaving the safety of your four walls. “If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that we have to find spaces and ways to retreat and relax at home,” says Walker. “Creating designated spots for this is important for our mental health — whether it’s a corner or a whole room, creating beautiful places to be free to rest and reset are key.”

While you might think of this trend as causing a boom in home exercise nooks, meditation rooms, or even dressing areas, don’t discount the power of a little cocktail or coffee corner either. “There’s never been more of a collective need to unwind at the end of the day than there has been this year,” says Molly Torres, designer and owner of DATE Interiors. “I’ve noticed a huge uptick in home bars especially, which we’ve found easy and affordable ways to incorporate into our clients’ projects.”

Things have been getting a little softer and sexier in 2021 — at least when it comes to furniture lines. From curved sofas to rounded display cabinets, these new shapes are surprisingly sharp for something with so little edge (see what I did there?). According to design pros, architectural features are getting in on the action, too. “Rounded shapes are having a moment, and one of the ways I see that coming to life is a resurgence of the classic archway,” says Walker. “Turning a traditional squared doorway into an archway is an instant way to add character and charm to your space.” Of course, this kind of a project requires construction, so you can always paint an arch or half arch instead.

A recurring theme throughout the past few years has been filling your home with things that matter to you and make you happy, and this directive has inevitably trickled over into the art people bring into their homes. “While art isn’t necessarily a trend, clients’ recent willingness to spend time and money sourcing and commissioning special pieces is, and I think it’s one that’s here to stay,” says Torres, who adds that boring white walls just “aren’t going to cut it anymore.” 

“We are seeing more people than ever celebrate themselves and family with custom portraits and paintings,” adds London. “We live in a world now where we are always taking photos, and everyone is on social media. Clients now are taking that a step further and having portraits and paintings done of themselves or family and friends and hanging them in their home.” 

Germs have been top-of-mind for many people in recent times, so it’s no surprise that design innovations and features have played into this ethos. “As a result of the pandemic, we want anti-microbial everything,” says designer Jeanne Chung, owner of Cozy Stylish Chic. “Thankfully, technology has been on our side, and many of the products and materials available have only gotten better and better. We’ve been seeing a lot of anti-microbial fabrics from companies such as Crypton, while hard surfaces have seen a bigger demand for porcelain, especially countertops. Porcelain is not porous like a natural stone might be, so no liquids can seep in, and it’s hygienic as well as durable and stain- and UV-resistant.”

The impact of this health-conscious attitude can also be seen in the emergence of touchless appliances, chic hand sanitizers, and more, says Chung. “While touchless and voice control features have been around for a while, they have gained popularity in the past 18 months as a result of the pandemic,” she says.

If you’re one of the many (many) homeowners who adopted a dog or cat during the pandemic, you’re not alone. The ASPCA reports a staggering 23 million American households added a new fur baby bestie to their homes over the past 18 months, and with that can come changes to decor. “Many people became new pet owners during the pandemic, while others became closer to their pets during this time,” explains London. “Due to that, we’re now seeing a home trend where the pets have their own space.”

Consider carving out an under-the-staircase hideout for Fido or a bookshelf hangout for your kitty. Not in the budget? Don’t worry — loads of stylish solutions out there can still make you and your pet happy, from sculptural cat scratch posts to mid-century inspired food bowls. “Now, pet products aren’t just stand-alone solutions but stylish extensions of your home decor,” London says. 

Practicality (and longevity) will never not be important to homeowners, but gone are the years where we expect our countertops and finishes to remain pristine for decades. In fact, that ethos has almost switched entirely now, with many embracing a new version of permanence and livability that emphasizes a well-worn, patinated aesthetic. 

“We have been seeing a big shift towards more honed, matte, and leathered ‘lived-in’ finishes,” says Chung. “Polished finishes can be a bit harsh, so we prefer going with a softer look. It’s about achieving balance — in a recent modern French kitchen that we completed (pictured here), we opted for a leathered white marble island but used a polished Alpi Verde stone (it read as black but is actually green) on the perimeter.” The idea is for these materials to show their age and just feel more causal in general.

5 Home Staging Secrets That Translate into Stylish, Real-Life Decorating Ideas

5 Home Staging Secrets That Translate into Stylish, Real-Life Decorating Ideas

House hunting is a truly wild ordeal. Let’s start at the top: You’re (in many cases) talking about spending your life savings on a piece of property, so there’s just no way it’s not going to be stressful. You’re invasively walking through people’s homes, rifling through their things, and judging their various choices. Add in a global pandemic, where you basically have to act like a shark at feeding time if you even want a chance at scoring a property, and that’s the situation my husband and I found ourselves in less than a year ago. 

Having spent ten years in New York City, nearly every home was four times larger than anything we were used to, so we were immediately wooed by the square footage. That’s where the fantasy stopped though; so many of the places we toured needed serious help aesthetically. While it’s true that you’re buying someone’s shell of a home and not their decor style, it’s so easy for the two to impact one another. One home we walked into was so filled to the brim with cat collectibles that we could barely move, and another had a carpet and wall of built-ins so destroyed by the residing pups that you couldn’t walk into the space. Needless to say, both of those homes did not make the cut.

After a series of unfortunate first impressions, we walked into an immaculately styled home where every detail was thoughtfully considered. The furniture was proportional to the space; the coffee bar was stocked; there were fresh flowers on the table — it felt lived-in but in a way that made you want to picture your life there. While we didn’t end up making an offer on that house, the impact of the staging made a lasting impression on me. Not only does staging make a huge difference when looking to sell your home, but with its practice also comes with sneaky takeaway tips to utilize when decorating — though, make no mistake about, they’re definitely not the same thing.

“The number one difference between design and staging is the intention,” says Leia Ward, founder of luxury staging design firm LTW Design. “Design is intended to reflect the style of the homeowner and is completely subjective. On the other hand, staging is objective and intended to highlight architectural focal points of the home (among other selling points) and create a lifestyle experience in order for buyers to emotionally attach and make an offer. The priorities are very different.”

That being said, many of Ward’s best staging tips also make pretty good decorating ideas. I went through the main rooms in a hypothetical home with her, getting her strategies along with the underlying takeaway decor principle behind them, which can help you make the most of any space you come to call “home sweet home.”

Kitchens are the heart of the home and often can be a huge deciding factor for prospective buyers. While the finishes (see also: appliances, countertops, and layout) are paramount, Ward emphasizes the importance of adding life to the space, turning to large displays of greenery (often tall branches with leaves) to add freshness without taking away from the necessary features house hunters are truly there to see. 

When it comes to decorating your own kitchen, Ward suggests treating the countertops just like you would any other surface in your home. “Even if it’s not functional, decorating the kitchen is important, and we like to style surfaces there just as we would a coffee or console table,” she says. “Create a little vignette by adding a framed piece of art against the backsplash with two coffee table books and a vase.” Don’t forget fresh flowers or greenery either; a little bit of life can warm up an otherwise sterile looking kitchen, whether you’re looking to sell or in your forever home. You don’t have to go over-the-top here, but if you do have high ceilings, for example, why not choose a few dramatic, tall branches?

Perhaps the biggest difference between staging for buying and decorating for living can be seen in the living room layout, according to Ward. “In real life, it’s functional to have the sofa facing the TV, so if you’re designing for yourself, make the most of the space for day-to-day livability,” she says. “However, when staging, the layout must allow for an unobstructed flow, which usually means the sofa is perpendicular to the fireplace or TV so buyers don’t have to walk around it to see the focal point. We want to use less furniture to create negative spaces, which make rooms feel bigger and show off more square footage.” 

Ward also removes any extra clutter and personal photos, encouraging clients to think of it like turning your home into a 5-star hotel. “Nobody wants to go into a hotel room and see a personal item left from the previous guest, right?” she says. “Same concept! Buyers want to walk through your home and envision it as theirs.”

The upshot here? Choose a layout that works for the way you regularly interact in your space, and don’t worry if your coffee table has remotes, coasters, and magazines on it. Just maybe add a tray or basket to corral said items, so they look a little bit more organized and in their proper places. Could you benefit from losing a chair or an extra side table though, putting to use Ward’s staging prerogative on flow? Negative space is never a bad thing, even in a lived-in home.

The powder room or half-bath is one of the few places where Ward’s design and staging ethos meet. “My biggest suggestion for your powder room is actually the same whether you’re staging it for sale or trying to warm it up for yourself: Add live greenery!” she says. “It’s the nicest surprise and is so refreshing when you see live flowers or tall branches with leaves in a bathroom.”

The bedroom is another personal space buyers are going to want to “see” themselves in, so Ward cautions against a palette that is too bright or attention-grabbing when staging your home for sale. “For staging, it’s all about creating a sanctuary for potential buyers — especially in a primary bedroom,” she explains. “Soft neutrals and layered textures (think: cashmere throws, bouclé pillows, linen sheets) will do the job.”

When it comes to decorating a bedroom for yourself though, Ward encourages all the cozies mentioned above but with a personality-packed twist unique to your style and a playful outlook on color, pattern, and texture. “When decorating your primary bedroom, go bold and use wallpaper — we especially love a solid textured wallpaper,” she says.

If there’s one thing most homeowners have on their wishlist when house hunting these days, it’s a home office. In fact, the folks behind Rocket Homes reported almost a 17 percent increase in listings mentioning a home office between March and July of 2020, and that trend is only set to explode with the increase in telecommuting. The solution? A design that melds functionality and decor into one serene space — plus, an added dose of organization if you’re actually living there. 

“When staging an office, it’s all about showing the buyer how they want to live — a neat, clean office without desk drawers or clutter tells buyers, ‘If you buy this house, you’ll live like this,’” says Ward, who shares that she stages offices with small-scale dining tables instead of true desks to cut down on visual clutter, which is a great tip if you like a more streamlined look yourself and can invest in other methods of storage. In fact, for a functional office space you can actually live and work in, Ward absolutely emphasizes the need for appealing organizational solutions. “Style the office with bold accessories that are functional for organization,” she suggests. “Don’t just buy any old pencil cup holder or paper tray. Use that item to make a statement, whether it’s with a concrete, marble, or leather texture.”

3 Latinx Designers on Their Work and the State of Diversity in Design

3 Latinx Designers on Their Work and the State of Diversity in Design

We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission.

The influence Latinx designers, decorators, interior stylists, architects, bloggers, and artists have had on the design world is indelible. Take a closer look at the industry though, and it’s painfully obvious that Latinx creators don’t always have a seat at the table to experience how work gets commissioned, seen, and valued. Fortunately, talented and tireless trailblazers from within the community are working to change that, one project or product at a time. In honor of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month, I interviewed three Latinx designers on the changes they’d like to see come to the design world and how they’re leaving their mark on design. 

Estefanía de Ros and Gustavo Quintana-Kennedy, architects and designers of Agnes Studio

It’s no surprise that Guatemala City-based architects and designers Estefanía de Ros and Gustavo Quintana-Kennedy ended up in the design world. Both very creative from a young age, Quintana-Kennedy has always loved drawing and tinkering with objects, while de Ros loved taking pictures and building things. When they met and started dating, they also started creatively collaborating. Trained as an architect, Quintana-Kennedy had already held various jobs in different design disciplines, and de Ros herself was earning her undergraduate degree in interior design. “This led to a common interest of designing and creating together just for the sheer fun and love of it,” Quintana-Kennedy says. 

Once together, the duo got their start in the design world organically. In 2012, a friend asked them to design a coffee shop. Shortly after that, they entered and won two product design competitions. “That experience made us realize that this was something that we were passionate about, something where we really enjoyed the process and the result,” de Ros says. 

A couple of years later and with a few collaborations and projects under their belt, they were invited to pitch an idea for a grant focused on women’s empowerment in Indigenous communities in the rural areas of Guatemala. “It was something that was very close to our hearts, and we proposed ‘Simbiótica,’ a project that connected designers and artists with local artisans and enabled them to work symbiotically, with an emphasis on mutual learning and growth,” de Ros says. “For this project, we traveled to various artisan communities throughout Guatemala to learn about their craft and develop products in collaboration with the artisans. This was an eye-opening experience, which gave us a newfound appreciation for traditional craftsmanship methods and sparked our interest in innovating by developing new ways of using traditional techniques and materials in contemporary design.” 

In light of that experience, de Ros and Quintana-Kennedy decided to shift their scope from interior design and consultation to product design by founding Agnes Studio in 2017. “It was challenging to find a balance between the creative and the dreamer side, our passion, and the more grounded and rational business part in a cohesive way, learning all the logistics of the business,” de Ros says. Now the pair is back in hybrid mode, designing a house and focusing on their ceramic work at the moment.

“We find inspiration in many things: in the people we collaborate with, in the making of things, the process, the materials, and how we can push the boundaries and create something new that evokes an idea or an emotion,” de Ros says. Quintana-Kennedy adds that they also look to nature and their immediate surroundings, as well as the places they’ve visited. “We find inspiration in the legacy of humanity and what past civilizations have built,” he says. “And we find inspiration in creating hypothetical scenarios, alternate realities, and other worlds, where we can imagine the design and create with a ‘what if’ mindset.”

As their sources of inspiration and own work continue to evolve, de Ros and Quintana-Kennedy hope the design industry will follow suit. “We believe the whole system has to change — or at least be reformed in very specific points that go from education and opportunities — to address and change in the correct direction: themes like inclusiveness, inequality, the impact on our environment,” de Ros says. 

That being said, both designers are hopeful for the future. In fact, Quintana-Kennedy points out that, throughout the course of history, designers and artists generally have been at the forefront of adopting or generating new ideas, inclusiveness, and progress. “We believe design and art can be a tool for dialogue, a tool to generate empathy, to communicate that we need to be more empathic of each other,” he says. “The attention that design generates has been growing steadily, and it can be used to move these voices and needs into the mainstream consciousness, but we also have to acknowledge our past, our errors, and work toward making amends to create a more inclusive world and industry. In our specific case, as Latin designers, we live firsthand the struggle that certain communities — especially indigenous communities — have when they are seen with less value than other artists or designers, and also collectively as communities where their ownership of their cultural heritage is not respected, instead of being honored with the value they have.”

Jessica Meléndez, founder of Sitos

When Jessica Meléndez was in college for fashion design, one of her professors invited her to work for him at a children’s clothing company in her home country of Colombia. The store was called “La Hormiguita,” which translates to “the little ant” in English. “I guess the name comes from my region (Santander) being popular for its fried ants snacks,” Meléndez says. “I was able to design different collections for girls between 2 and 10 years old, and it was one of the most fun job experiences I’ve ever had.” 

That initial gig was followed by a few other design-focused jobs in the U.S., from working as a visual merchandiser to helping launch a clothing rental startup in Seattle. It didn’t take long for Meléndez to want to start her own project. Currently based in Austin, Texas, Meléndez is now the proud owner of Sitos, a brand dedicated to all things macramé, including plant holders, wall hangings, kits, tie-dye textiles, and even rattan phone holders.

“Having my own business is very rewarding but definitely has its big challenges that I’m sure every entrepreneur has faced, like not having a steady income month after month, seasonal lows and highs in sales, not being able to afford health insurance in this country (this is a big one for me right now), and doing it all, from customer service, social media, advertising, photography, inventory planning — the list goes on and on,” she says. “This is all part of the deal when signing up to be your own boss, but I wouldn’t change it for anything because it’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

To build Sitos into what it is today, Meléndez had unusual mentors along the way. A true 21st-century entrepreneur, she relied on Google and YouTube to turn her handicraft into her livelihood. “I basically started my business without knowing a thing about online sales and have been figuring things out along the way, mostly on my own,” she says. “I guess that’s how it goes for most introverts like myself — reaching out to people is a scary thing.”

At the moment, Meléndez sells her wares on Etsy and Amazon Handmade, and she’s focused on expanding her lighting product offerings as well as taking on bigger bespoke projects, which help push her boundaries as a designer. “I love when I get to make custom pieces for homes or commercial spaces,” she says. “One of my favorite projects was a huge screen wall I did in macramé for a communal space of an apartment building in west Seattle.” She’s also in the process of creating a custom macramé pendant lamp that will be showcased in a makeover video shoot on YouTube next month, which feels like a full circle moment, considering how she got her start.

Ultimately, Meléndez hopes that anyone who wants to pursue a career in design can do so. “My biggest wish is to see everyone represented and representing the design industry, no matter their social status, race, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation,” she says. “Creativity is for everyone, and we all win when a new artist comes along; we all get to enjoy and appreciate their creations. I hope to start seeing more Latinx people in the home decor industry and to have more platforms like this to share our stories and art.” 

Meléndez also wants other Latinx designers to experience what she finds to be the most rewarding aspect of working in the design world. “To be able to create pieces that will be appreciated for other people and used to decorate their homes, that to me is mind blowing and makes the hardship of self-employment totally worth it,” she says. 

Abigail Marcelo Horace, principal interior designer at Casa Marcelo

Like many fans of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the young Abigail Marcelo Horace took the show very seriously. Her fandom peaked in high school though, where she took her love of DIY to a new level by redoing her room — and then continuing to restyle it a few times each year. “I didn’t realize it was a career,” she says. Once she had that epiphany, she happily enrolled in the interior design program at the New York Institute of Technology. 

While in school, Horace began interning and working her way up in the design world, later landing jobs as a senior interior designer at Dumais ID and the AD-famous firm Hendricks Churchill. “I’ve pushed myself from being somebody who didn’t have any connections or any cushion to now owning my own business,” Horace says. In fact, she launched her own firm, Casa Marcelo, in March 2020 just before COVID-19 changed the world. 

A global pandemic wasn’t enough to stop Casa Marcelo from thriving, probably because Horace hones in on anything she sets her sights on — and is currently loving the life of a solo designer. “My favorite, honestly, is working alone,” she says. “It’s a very freeing and liberating experience to be a designer and to just deal directly with the client and not have to go through a boss to go to a client. Being a boss, in general — I didn’t know I would have this experience this soon and to be a leader. To see myself grow in that way has been really empowering for me.”

Though based in Connecticut, the bulk of Horace’s work happens in her native New York City; a favorite project of hers in Brooklyn even incorporated references to the Harlem Renaissance period. “I got pretty creative with that one,” she says. “I feel really hopeful about the space and how it’s going to come together; it was a lot more colorful than I usually am.” Horace describes her own personal aesthetic as minimalistic and mid-century modern, but her design style fully adapts to her clients, who are her primary muses. “I really don’t look at anything else outside of my clients,” she says. “My clients inspire me. Whatever they’re into, I try to really get to know my clients and understand what they’re about. I find it a good challenge to interpret what they want and make them happy at the end of a project.”

Having her own business also makes it easier for Horace to be her full, authentic self. “In my career, there’ve been a lot of challenges; there have always been,” she says. “I’m a first generation American — my father’s Dominican, and my mother’s Panamanian — so I speak Spanish, but everyone says I look Black, which I don’t even know what that means because there’s such a huge variation of Latinos in our community. I felt like people always wanted me to be this star-studded minority candidate, and then I would have to code-switch in the office to perform in that way. Not being able to really express myself the way that I want to — English is my second language — was also hard. I’ve always been the only Black or Latina woman in every single firm that I’ve worked for.”

To change that narrative, it’s important to Horace to employ a very diverse group of people once she starts building out a full team for Casa Marcelo in the future. She believes that being the change she wants to see can and will set an example for others to follow. “I feel there’s a lot of white American designers who can just be themselves and not even have to try that much,” she says. “I want to see that for ourselves. I want to be able to have a variety of designers in our field.”