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Meet The Designer: Talking Twilight, Natural Textures, and the Bauhaus Movement with Shelly Sutton

The Modsy design network is full of individuals with incredibly diverse backgrounds. Some are formally trained, some are self-taught, and many had established careers in a totally different industry before making their way into the world of interior design. (Kind of like some of our favorite interior designers outside of the Modsy world!) We want to introduce you to some of our talented designers—to help you get to know the people behind the screens!

Want to work one-on-one with one of our talented designers to decorate your home? Start a Modsy design project and get matched with an expert who will show you designs in your exact space in 3D!

Today, we’d like to introduce Modsy designer, Shelly!

Shelly Sutton discovered the world of interior design as a teen and has had a ferocious passion for it ever since. She loves the way that color, texture, and natural elements can breathe life and balance into any room and believes that the best rooms are functional as well as beautiful.

Shelly is an innovative thinker and problem-solver who loves the diversity of both the design process and each design project (we’re lucky to have her on the team!). She enjoys taking time to understand her clients’ individual needs, making the design process simple and enjoyable for them.

We (virtually) sat down with Shelly to hear more about how she started her design career, the design tips she swears by, and where she finds inspiration.

living room blue couch baskets plant

Design by Shelly in Modsy 3D

How did you get into the interior design industry?

“I was 13 years old the first time I was really inspired by design. I went to a model home near our house that I grew up in,” says Shelly. “I remember loving everything I saw and really paying attention to the different furniture and textures.” She went back more than once because it made her so happy to see such beautiful, thoughtful design and it became a source of inspiration. “I would imagine it being mine, thinking through what changes I would make. I would go home and try to implement some of the design choices in my room.”

But beyond a personal love for interior design, Shelly also has a diverse background that informs her designs today. During undergrad, she started out as a psychology major, then she studied photography and graphic design at the Art Institute before finding her calling in interior design. “I went to the Harrington Institute of Interior Design and got my formal education there,” says Shelly.

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grey living room beige ottoman

One of Shelly’s stunning Modsy 3D designs

How did you find yourself at Modsy?

“I saw an opening for Modsy online and was intrigued by the whole idea of online interior design,” says Shelly. “It’s definitely the way of the future. Once I got the job and went through the training, I was blown away by the software. I was completely enthralled by the technology and approach Modsy takes to design.”

Shelly has worked at Modsy for the past two years and loves how she gets to blend art and science in her work. “Modsy is perfect because it brings together all of those different aspects I studied into one discipline,” says Shelly. (You might be surprised just how much overlap there is between psychology and interior design—in fact, there’s a whole field of study called environmental psychology!)

Shelly loves the work she does with clients through Modsy. “This work is definitely my passion,” says Shelly. “It doesn’t feel like work most of the time.”

A peek inside Shelly’s “timeless with a twist” living room

How would you describe your personal design style?

“I would consider my style timeless with a twist,” says Shelly. “I like spaces to have a bit of an edge.” She likes to combine unexpected elements, so she formally falls into the eclectic camp. “I love pairing modern elements with unexpected pieces—like, items you wouldn’t normally think would go together,” she says. “That unexpected layering adds so much soul to a space.”

dark grey dining room pattern rug

Shelly’s “dream room” designed in Modsy 3D

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Where do you get inspiration?

“I get really inspired by each of my clients,” says Shelly. She loves how each client’s project is so unique, and each person needs help solving a different problem through design. It gets her brain moving. “I enjoy being creative and helping provide solutions for them. That inspires me.”

“With one client, I was working on a space that was an 80s time warp with all these really quirky angles,” says Shelly. “The client wanted their room to become a zen, modern space. I had no idea how I was going to do it—but with some creative thinking, I was able to provide a solution that was what they were looking for.” She finds her creative spark in inspiration in meeting each client’s individual and unique project needs.

“It’s humbling to be able to solve problems for customers because that’s what they’re coming to Modsy for!”

Another of Shelly’s Modsy 3D designs

Do you have a favorite design era or movement?

“One of my favorites is the Modernist Bauhaus movement,” says Shelly. “I learned about it in design school and that was the era that really inspired me to get into design myself. In Bauhaus, there’s a ‘less is more’ concept that I really enjoy. They were so ahead of their time. If you look back at the styles they were creating in the 1920s, they are actually so current today—they’re more in-style today than they were back then!”

What is the secret ingredient that you think makes a good design into a great one?

“Layering textures and materials helps add so much dimension to a space,” says Shelly. “I love playing with different textures and patterns.”

contemporary dining room design with a glass table and black shell dining chairs

One of Shelly’s 3D Modsy designs

What are the 3 design tips you swear by?

  1. Pick a good paint color. Color is one of the most important design elements in a room. It can really make or break a space. And painting is one of the most cost-effective ways to design. You can completely transform a room just by choosing a new wall color or painting kitchen cabinets.
  2. Layer your lighting. Lighting is also really important—layered lighting, especially! Like paint, it can also make or break a space. You can have a beautiful design, but if the lighting isn’t right, the room won’t look as good as it could!
  3. Include some natural elements. I try to always add some sort of natural element to any space I design. That helps a space feel grounded and adds warmth. If you have a stark, modern room, simply adding a piece of driftwood adds character and soul to the room.

The Cullen’s Home in Twilight

What interior from a movie or TV show would you live in if you could?

“Don’t laugh! But my daughter was a major fan of the Twilight series, and I love the Hoke house, which is the house where the vampires, (AKA the Cullen family), lived. So, that’s what I liked about the movies! This house was so cool—it was cantilevered over a ravine and had all these floor-to-ceiling windows that highlighted this magnificent view. Some of the materials were kind of industrial, but it complimented the wooded surroundings so well. It was like a modern treehouse in the woods. It must be so beautiful in the fall!”

What’s your interior design pet peeve?

“Recliner sectionals. I shudder when people say they want to bring them into their designs. No offense—they’re just not for me!”

Shelly enjoying a much-deserved vacation in Thailand

What’s your favorite place to vacation?

“Any place with a beach! We went to Thailand a few years ago and I loved that. I’m kicking myself because we were so close to Bali and I didn’t go. Bali is definitely on my bucket list! I would really love to go there someday. But really, anywhere with a beach will do!”

What’s the last book you read and enjoyed?

“‘The Celestine Prophecy.’ It was given to me by my dad, I read it and it was really enlightening. I think every time you read it, you pick up something new, so I might actually read it again!”

What’s a fun fact about you?

“I love to wrap presents! I love crafting and being creative, but I especially love when I’m wrapping presents and giving gifts. People say they’re so beautiful they don’t want to open them!”

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Meet The Designer: Chatting 70s Rock Stars, Plants, and Traveling With Hope Colling

One of the great things about the Modsy design network is the diverse backgrounds of all our designers. Some are formally trained, some are self-taught, and many had established careers in a totally different industry before making their way into the world of interior design. (Kind of like some of our favorite interior designers outside of the Modsy world!) We want to introduce you to some of our talented designers—let’s get to know the people behind the screens.

Want to work one-on-one with one of our talented designers to decorate your home? Start a Modsy design project and get matched with an expert who will show you designs in your exact space in 3D!

Meet Modsy designer Hope!

Modsy Designer Hope Colling has quite the resume. She toured with Kiss, was a Wall Street stockbroker, and owned two successful boutiques in San Francisco. A photo of her living room was even the most pinned image of 2012! All that to say, her path to becoming an interior designer has been far from ordinary. But it’s her unique journey that shapes her perspective when it comes to designing spaces for Modsy customers.

We (virtually) sat down with Hope to hear more about her life, design process, and what inspires her!

A throwback to Hope’s touring days!

How did you get into the interior design industry?

“I have a very unique and diverse background,” says Hope. “Now that I’m older, it’s kind of cool to reflect on my journey. But when I was younger, I felt like I had no shared experiences with anyone because my path was so different.

“However, the fact that I didn’t know anyone who had taken the same path as it gave me the confidence to take more risks! I went in my own direction without feeling limited by other people’s life choices or experiences.”

Hope’s career began in the entertainment industry when she was just a teenager. “Both of my parents were artists—my mom was a professional dancer and my dad was a musician,” says Hope. “I grew up in this very bohemian, rock and roll household.” So, at the time, it didn’t seem so crazy that her first real job was touring with Kiss and Mötley Crüe.

For three years she was on the road, and after touring she moved back to New York. Not knowing what her next move would be, she took a job as a receptionist at a financial firm. Hope soon developed a knack for finance, and ultimately became a stockbroker, working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

But after 15 years in finance, living in New York during 9/11, and a diagnosis of ovarian cancer the following year, Hope was ready for something totally different. She had always dreamed of owning her own boutique, so she moved across the country and decided to take the leap. “I had no experience in anything like this,” she says, “but I just followed my instincts and wasn’t afraid to work hard. I opened a boutique in San Francisco in 2007, which was named the Best Boutique in the Bay Area for 4 consecutive years.”

View of Marmalade boutique from Union Street in San Francisco

The boutique, where Hope sold collections of women’s clothing, was called Marmalade. And it was in the process of designing and decorating her boutique that she discovered her love for interior design.

From opening day, customers were inquiring about the tables and shelves (all made by Hope’s husband, Pete) that she used to display clothing in the store. “More than buying the clothing, people wanted to buy the fixtures in the store,” says Hope.

And this sparked something for Hope and Pete. Together, the couple eventually opened a sister boutique, The Mason Jar, full of furniture and housewares. And they also launched a design firm, Colling Design + Build, to pursue furniture and interior design beyond their storefronts.

“So, I don’t have a background in this. I’m just a hustler and follow my instincts!” says Hope.

Hope’s many interests outside of interior design include swimming with sharks and riding her horse

How did you find yourself at Modsy?

“After living in California for many years and starting several businesses, we wanted a break from all the hustle. So, we sold our home and moved down to the Bahamas and bought a small house down there!”

Hope’s husband is currently working on a project in the Bahamas, but they also regularly spend time in both Florida and Austin, Texas, which is currently their home base in the US. Because of all the traveling they do, a traditional job isn’t in the cards for Hope at the moment. But with Modsy, she saw an opportunity to use her design skills while having flexibility as a remote worker.

“I’ve always been a superfan of Modsy’s technology and the direction the company is going—I really believe that Modsy’s approach, with our 3D capabilities, is the future of interior design. So, I kept my finger on the pulse of the company, and when I saw an opening I jumped on it. I’ve loved Modsy for a long time, and right now it’s also a good fit for my needs and skillset!”

A peek inside Hope’s cozy home

How would you describe your personal design style?

“I’d describe my style as Scandi-boho meets global eclectic, but with a minimalist undertone. I gravitate toward warm, earthy neutrals and simple shapes.”

Hope and her husband have travelled a lot, and her husband lived abroad when he was younger. She says that this influences their eclectic style.

“I’m a big believer that your home should be a reflection of your history.”

“A lot of our decor consists of pieces we’ve collected over the years through our travels, as well as family heirlooms and other beloved treasures that represent our story,” says Hope. “I’m a big believer that your home should be a reflection of your history. We like to showcase the story of our life in our home.” But the minimalist side of their style comes in through the styling, which is more pared back. “We don’t like clutter or a lot of textures and layers crowding our space,” she says.

living room tan couches wood sidetable

One of Hope’s many gorgeous designs, created in Modsy 3D!

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Where do you go for design inspiration?

“I find so much inspiration from Mother Nature. She never gets it wrong; I’m such a nature girl. I love looking to nature for inspiration on color palettes, especially,” says Hope. “By choosing color combinations and tones that are found together in nature, you can create a natural sense of balance.” She loves combining pinks and oranges, like you’d see in a sunset, or forest green and light blue, like trees against a clear sky.

Hope also finds a ton of design inspiration from 1970s fashion. “I’m kind of obsessed with the glamour of rock stars and models of that time—especially couples like Mick and Bianca Jagger, or Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin,” she says. “There’s this combination of very done and undone in those couples. Rock stars are edgy, messy, and discombobulated. And models and socialites are lovely, glamorous, and always done up. I get a lot of inspiration from that aesthetic.”

living room teal accent wall orange pillows pink rug

Modsy 3D design by Hope

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What is the secret ingredient behind a “great” design?

“Everyone has a different idea of what qualifies as good design,” says Hope. “Some designers say that ‘a room is only a success if your eye never stops moving.’ Others say that it’s only a success if your eye finds that one focal point. There’s no right or wrong answer. In my opinion, a room is a success if you feel good in it. Your house should fit your lifestyle, not just someone’s Instagram highlight. You can make anything beautiful, but it has to fit your lifestyle.”

“A room is a success if you feel good in it.”

living room brown couch round coffee table white chairs

Modsy 3D design by Hope

 

What are the 3 design tips you swear by?

  1. Plants, plants, and more plants. In my opinion, a house without plants has no soul—it’s like a hotel room. Potted plants, trees, succulents, air plants—they instantly (and literally!) bring life to any space. They add a punch of color, add a sculptural element that helps break up the lines and architecture in your space, and make a room feel lived in.
  2. Don’t be afraid to mix and match. That goes for patterns, textures, woods tones, metals, and price points. Good design should feel curated and layered.
  3. Support artists and makers! Infuse a little uniqueness into your home by shopping craft fairs or sites like Etsy for handmade pieces that tell a story.

Hope’s dream home would be the set from Nancy Meyers’ film, It’s Complicated

What interior from a movie or TV show would you live in if you could?

Meryl Streep’s house in “It’s Complicated” or Reese Witherspoon’s in “Home Again.” Nancy Meyers, the director of both films, does an incredible job of making her sets feel like a character in her films. You want to get inside the sets.

All of Nancy Meyers’ movies are romantic comedies, with a woman at the center. And there’s always something going on in her life—her love life’s a mess, her career is a mess. But she always has this beautiful, well-appointed house to come home to. It gives you this sense of, ‘As long as my house is in balance, my life is in balance.’”

modern living room ladder bookshelves white couch

Modsy 3D design by Hope

What’s your interior design pet peeve?

Sterile kitchens. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and it should feel that way!

Hope and her husband, Pete, taking their pup for a walk

Favorite place to vacation?

Anywhere I haven’t been! I love to travel and explore new places. Though, lately, my biggest adventure is taking my dogs for a walk!

What’s the last book you read and enjoyed?

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I first read it a few years ago, but I thumb through it and read random passages pretty often. They’re always so timely and relevant.

You’ve already shared so many—but what’s another fun fact about you?

I’m obsessed with great white sharks. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was young, and in 2010 I got to go on an expedition dive in the Farallon Islands.

Want to work with a Modsy designer like Hope to bring your dream room to life?

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Celebrating Women’s History Month with a Spotlight on a Few of Our Favorite Interior Designers

March is Women’s History Month—so we thought it was the perfect opportunity to shine a light on some of our favorite women designers. We’re highlighting some of the women in history who paved the way for female interior designers, as well as some current designers who are doing amazing work in the field.

Read on to discover some designers through the decades and learn more about 10 famous women interior designers you should know!

famous women interior designers

Elsie de Wolfe

Born in 1859 in New York City, socialite Elsie de Wolfe started her career as an actress, and later made the transition to working as an interior decorator. She was one of the first female interior designers—and some say it was she who invented interior design into its own profession. Prior to that, interior design was more part of the architectural process. But when Elsie hit the scene, she established it as its own discipline.

Alive during the heart of the Victorian era, her designs vanquished Victorian gloom—replacing heavy, dark interiors with light and uncluttered layouts featuring fresh colors and 18th-century French furniture. (Was she, perhaps, one of the original minimalists??) She also notably popularized chaise lounges and animal print upholstery. She had a very high-profile clientele, including Amy Vanderbilt, Anne Morgan (daughter of J.P. Morgan), and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

“Light, air and comfort—these three things I must always have in a room.” Elsie de Wolfe

famous women interior designers

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Elsie’s Most Iconic Design

One of Elsie’s notable decorating gigs was The Colony Club, New York’s first female-founded social club exclusively for women. This is the space that, nearly overnight, established her reputation as an interior decorator. In stark contrast to the dark, upholstered spaces in men’s clubs, Elsie decorated The Colony Club with a light, feminine style, full of glazed chintz, pale walls, wicker chairs, and even an indoor garden pavilion.

famous women interior designers

Dorothy Draper

Dorothy Draper was born in 1889 to a wealthy family. She was the first to “professionalize” interior design, establishing the first official interior design firm, Dorothy Draper & Company, in 1923. But she wasn’t just a pioneer of the field; she also invented the “modern baroque” look, a then-modern take on the elaborate, intricate style that was popularized in the seventeenth century. Dorothy loved using vibrant, splashy color in her designs—which contemporaries often referred to as “The Draper Touch.”

“It is just as disastrous to have the wrong accessories in your room, as it is to wear sport shoes with an evening dress.”Dorothy Draper

famous women interior designers

famous women interior designers

Two of Dorothy’s Iconic Designs

Dorothy Draper’s design style is so iconic, we couldn’t just pick one design. So, here are two of her iconic designs that we love!

Above is the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. It features her signature black-and-white floors, with colorful walls—both striped and palm printed. Dorothy was hired to redecorate the hotel after it had been used as a makeshift hospital during WWII. Using bright colors and oversized patterns, she gave the space a luxurious, elegant facelift. She remained the resort’s decorator into the 1960s.

Below is a residential project she worked on in Michigan. We love the bright, cheerful pink and white palette. (And those Staffordshire dogs!) This space epitomizes what we love so much about Dorothy’s iconic style.

famous women interior designers

Sister Parish

Sister Parish was truly an American original. With no formal training, she launched her own decorating business at 23, during the Great Depression—during which time she really caught on, with friends and family wanting her to decorate their homes. As her design business grew, so did her clientele. Her high-profile clientele included the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and even the Kennedys. In fact, she designed the Kennedy White House.

She spent six decades professionally designing—with a “cozy, old-money” look being her staple style. She wanted every room to feel romantic and whimsical, and her iconic design style certainly reflects that. She’s widely considered to have created “American country style” and is considered to be the last of America’s grande dame decorators. And, fun fact: Dorothy Draper was her mother’s first cousin!

“Behind every attractive room there should be a very good reason” Sister Parish

famous women interior designers

One of Sister Parish’s Iconic Designs

You can’t talk about Sister Parish without talking about her design of the Kennedy White House. She worked with Jackie Kennedy to give the White House a facelift when they moved in, focusing specifically on the residence. Above is the Yellow Oval Room, a space on the second floor of the Whtie House, within the residence, that has typically been used as a private sitting room or a formal living room for entertaining. Sister Parish brought in Louis XVI-inspired furniture for an airy French-style salon vibe.

famous women interior designers

Ray Eames

Born in 1912, Ray Eames grew to fame in the design world for her designs with creative partner and husband, Charles Eames. She made groundbreaking contributions to the fields of architecture, furniture design, manufacturing, and industrial design. However, she actually started as an abstract artist. Over time, she and her husband began developing furniture and architectural design—creating famous pieces like the molded plywood chair and their iconic home, now known as “The Eames House.”

“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.” Ray Eames

famous women interior designers

One of Ray’s Iconic Designs

Is there a more iconic Mid-Century space than the Eames house? Probably not. Located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, serves as a fantastic example of Los Angeles interior design.  The house was designed and constructed by Ray and Charles to serve as both their home and studio. Built into a hillside, they wanted the natural elements surrounding the house to seamlessly integrate with the home’s design. The two-story steel and glass windows make the outdoors feel like an extension of the home.

famous women interior designers

India Mahdavi

India Mahdavi is an Iranian-French architect and designer who founded her studio in Paris in 2000. Her work is largely in the commercial sphere, consisting of bars, restaurants, retail concepts, clubs, and hotels. In all her designs, she loves using bright colors and says she gets her playful color palettes are inspired by the classic Disney films she loved as a child.

“My work is about joy and sunshine and how you can change the mood of a room full of people when the place has some kind of happiness to it. People need color. If I can bring that into the environments I create, I’m happy.” India Mahdavi

famous women interior designers

One of India’s Iconic Designs

India designed The Gallery at Sketch in London. A tea room and cocktail lounge, this space is full of so much glamorous, quirky charm. We love the use of pink on pink (on pink) and the opulence that the channel-tufted seats, velvet, and brass accents bring to the space. This is an Instagram-able space at its finest.

famous women interior designers

Sheila Bridges

Sheila Bridges founded her New York City design firm in 1994. One of her most notable projects is that she designed former-President Clinton’s Harlem offices. She was named America’s best interior designer by both Time Magazine and CNN. Sheila has her own lines of furnishings and decor that are sold in several retail stores—including her now-famous Harlem Toile De Jouy fabric and wallpaper pattern.

“Whether we’re dealing with antiques or modern furniture, everything can be classic.” Sheila Bridges

famous women interior designers

One of Sheila’s Iconic Designs

We’re pretty much in love with all of Sheila’s Harlem townhouse—but we were particularly taken by the artwork in this hallway. We’re big fans of cheeky animal art, so we love this floor-to-ceiling gallery wall. It’s full of framed moments from Sheila’s own Van Doe wallpaper, where a deer stands in as the subject of many famous paintings.

famous women interior designers

Kelly Hoppen

Kelly Hoppen is a British interior designer and TV personality. She started her career at the young age of 16 when she was given the opportunity to design a family friend’s kitchen. Since then, she’s designed jets, yachts, and many commercial and residential projects all over the globe. Her style is defined by the fusion of clean lines and neutral tones (she’s often referred to as “The Queen of Taupe”), but those neutrals are balanced with an opulent warmth. She’s the author of nine different design books, with her first book, East Meets West, defining her aesthetic and the balance she seeks to achieve through her designs.

“I am convinced that a calm, quiet and harmonious interior can be as beneficial to health as sensible diet and regular exercise.” Kelly Hoppen

famous women interior designers

famous women interior designers

One of Kelly’s Iconic Designs

The industrial modern vibes of this space are truly in a league of their own. Despite the hard lines throughout both spaces, both feel like an inviting place to gather. And, in the living room, we love how the organic forms of the chairs sit in such contrast to the clean hard lines throughout the rest of the space.

famous women interior designers

Justina Blakeney

Justina Blakeney is a designer, artist, and the author of New York Times best-seller, “The New Bohemians.” She’s also the founder of the decor brand, Jungalow®, which brings to life her eclectic, bohemian, and global-inspired design aesthetic.

“Add life: People, plants, and pets are the soul of the home.” Justina Blakeney

famous women interior designers

One of Justina’s Iconic Designs

Full of Justina’s signature bright colors and boho style, this living room is the perfect blend of that “Jungalow” style, mixed with some modern lines. The result is a space that feels trendy but livable. We’re big fans of the way that the mix of bright colors and a hanging chair give a youthful playfulness to this space.

famous women interior designers

Barbara Barry

Barbara Barry grew up with modest means in a family of working artists. She founded her design firm in LA in 1985 and has grown to international renown. In addition to interior design, she’s developed product lines of everything from furniture and lighting to dishes and tiles. Barbara takes inspiration from the colors and forms found in nature, and she believes these restrained color palettes bring order to the chaos of life. In both her home and the spaces she designs, she likes to bring a sense of elegance and simple luxury into the space.

“Underneath all I design, lies the solid belief that beauty is a positive force” Barbara Barry

famous women interior designers

One of Barbara’s Iconic Designs

From a residential project in Hawaii, this dining room really blew us away. Though it features a neutral, monochromatic color palette, the textures and shapes in this space give it so much visual interest. It very much gets at the heart of her design style—which leans on the forms and materials of nature, with a desire to bring order out of the chaos of life. famous women interior designers

Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler founded her own design firm in the mid-1990s. She built her reputation through designing boutique hotels, and she now works on both residential and commercial properties. Some of her major clients include Gwen Stefani and Cameron Diaz. As a designer, Kelly always refused to blend in, with her design aesthetic being very eclectic and avant-garde.

Today, her firm has evolved from simply working on interior design projects to an interdisciplinary lifestyle brand that offers not only interior design and architectural services but also product design, branding, and graphics. Kelly also designs and develops furniture, lighting, rugs, and more, which she sells under the Kelly Wearstler brand. She is the author of five different design books.

“My aesthetic is about mixology; always something old and something new, raw and refined, masculine and feminine.” Kelly Wearstler

famous women interior designers

One of Kelly’s Iconic Designs

Kelly designed the Santa Monica Proper hotel, using the city’s climate, history, and iconography as inspiration for the design. With a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces, the hotel’s lobby lounge gives us major Mid-Century vibes. It’s a feeling of walking back in time, without losing and of today’s modern conveniences. Excuse us while we go book a stay!famous women interior designers

Tiffany Brooks

Tiffany Brooks was the winner of HGTV’s “Design Star” in 2013, which helped launch her career as an interior designer. Today, she has a design firm in Chicago, but also works with HGTV on several shows and writes for her design blog. Her mission as a designer is to create stunning living environments that encompass her clients’ individual needs and unique style.

“I seek out to uncover that flavor; the soul of their home which always tells the true story of those that inhabit it.”Tiffany Brooks

famous women interior designers

One of Tiffany’s Iconic Designs

It’s an unexpected move to put upholstered accent chairs and ottomans around a dining room table. But somehow Tiffany makes it work in this space. We love how the seats and patterned curtains bring softness to this space, while the large windows and oversized plants make this feel like a truly special place to dine.

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Celebrating Black History Month: 10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

The interior design community has long had a diversity problem. When you look at lists of famous or iconic designers, the list is usually centered around white European or American designers. And, frankly, a lot of men. Even shelter magazines which highlight the work of current interior designers tend to feature white designers, designing spaces for white clients. This is not a new problem, unfortunately.

Historically, the staff of many design schools and institutions where interior design and art history were taught were dominated by white men. Furthermore, 95% of textbooks in these programs are written by white men. The result has been an entire industry shaped by a fairly singular perspective. And that doesn’t exactly breed diversity. So it’s not a huge surprise—though it is a disappointing one—that as of 2019 the American Society of Interior designs reported that Black designers accounted for less than two percent of its membership.

But we think things are slowly starting to change for the better. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, 2020 was a year when we saw major protests across the country surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. These events caused institutions, organizations, and individuals to reckon with their own implicit and explicit racism, to reexamine their values, and to more thoughtfully explore whose stories they’re choosing to listen to and tell. And it’s also ushered in a new focus on Black creatives and supporting the work they do.

At Modsy, we know we have work to do in our corner of the world. We often talk of the famous designs of Ray and Charles Eames, Dorothy Draper, and even designers today like Nate Berkus and Joanna Gaines. But this doesn’t tell a full story of the design world. So, as an organization, we’re seeking to do a better job of diversifying the stories we tell.

So, in honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting 10 Black interior designers—both well-established and up-and-coming—who are making bold moves in the field, along with some of our favorite spaces they’ve designed. The work of these designers is quite diverse—ranging from bohemian to classical, glam to brutalist. We hope you’ll find some new designers to follow on this list, along with lots of inspiration! Keep reading to get to know some of our favorite Black interior designers in the field today.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Image via One King’s Lane

Sheila Bridges

Sheila Bridges founded her design firm, Sheila Bridges Designs, Inc. in 1994 and has worked on numerous high-profile projects throughout her career—including designing the Harlem offices for former President Bill Clinton and his staff. She holds degrees from Brown University and Parsons School of Design, has been named “America’s Best Interior Designer” by both CNN and Time Magazine, and has been featured in numerous national magazines. Sheila is also the author of two books: Furnishing Forward: A Practical Guide to Furnishing for a Lifetime, and The Bald Mermaid, a memoir documenting her childhood, professional life, and her alopecia diagnosis.

In 1996, she launched a sister business, Sheila Bridges Home, Inc, where she designs furniture and home furnishings. Her collections have been sold at national retailers, including Anthropologie and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. She also hosted four seasons of a design show called “Sheila Bridges Designer Living” for the Fine Living Network—showcasing her practical design wisdom and hands-on advice.

Why We Love Her

Sheila has designed some pretty stunning residential and professional spaces—including her own Harlem apartment, which we have featured below. But her talent doesn’t stop there. In fact, Sheila’s Harlem Toile designs have become wildly popular, especially as wallpaper. Her Harlem Toile de Jouy wallpaper is a unique take on traditional French toile patterns, but instead of pastoral French scenery, they showcase the African American experience. On her website, Sheila writes, “As an African American living in Harlem, I have always been intrigued and inspired by the historical narrative of the decorative arts, especially traditional French toile with its pastoral motifs…but after searching for many years for the perfect toile for my own home, I decided that it quite simply didn’t exist.” So, she created Harlem Toile, which has garnered such a following that it’s included in The Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum’s permanent wallpaper collection.

“It’s important to have a home that makes you feel safe and comfortable, at ease and relaxed.” –Sheila Bridges

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

Talk about personality! When Sheila designed her New York apartment—located in Graham Court, one of Harlem’s landmark buildings—she didn’t hold anything back. You get to see so much of the designer’s personality in this playful but sophisticated space. We can’t get enough of the cheerful colors and animal portraiture throughout the space!

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Justina Blakeney

Remember this Tropical Boho home tour? Full of Jungalow vibes, it was deeply inspired by Justina Blakeney’s designs. Justina is the founder and creative director of the home decor brand Jungalow® and is the author of The New Bohemians book series. Her design style leans tropical and maximalist, balancing color, pattern, and lots of plants to create spaces that are both lively and comfortable. Justina was named one of “The 20 Most Famous Interior Designers Working Today” by Architectural Digest.

Why We Love Her

In the design world, the 2010s were all about crisp neturals and minimalist spaces. But we love how Justina Blakeney broke onto the scene and broke the mold with her bright, bold, maximalist designs. We love the way she mixes new and vintage pieces for spaces that are truly one-of-a-kind.

“I like to bring in items that stimulate senses other than just sight—things that you touch, things that you smell, things that you hear.” –Justina Blakeney

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

There’s a lot going on in this space. But, while it is wildly eclectic, it doesn’t feel messy or cluttered. The clean lines of the sofa and shelves help ground the look so that all of the fun patterns and colors in this space can do the talking.

P.S. While Justina has designed some killer spaces, what we really can’t get enough of are her collaboration with Loloi rugs. Her collabs with national brands like this are an easy way to bring some of her signature style into your home. (You can even shop her Loloi collab through Modsy!)

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Anishka Clarke & Niya Bascom

Anishka Clarke and Niya Bascom are the design duo behind Ishka Designs. Before becoming a designer, Anishka worked in finance, both in Jamaica and on Wall Street. But in 2006 she began pursuing her passion for interior design. Niya, the firm’s creative director, cut his teeth in the film industry, working in set design and in studio art departments, in addition to his work as a photographer. In 2019 and 2020, Ishka Designs was named to the Elle Decor A-List.

Why We Love Them

Niya was born in England to Jamaica and Guyanese parents and raised in New York City, while Anishka was raised in Jamaica by her Guyanese mother. Together, they bring a global perspective to their work, which makes their designs incredibly unique. They work with clients around the world, and we love that they seek to develop relationships with local partners, vendors, and artisans, holding an awareness of the impact of their projects.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

The Ishka Designs portfolio is so varied, we couldn’t choose just one design! So, we chose two wildly different spaces to highlight the incredible versatility of this design duo. First, you’ll see their Discovery Pitstop Daycare, a space that’s a remodeled thrift shop. We love the bright, vibrant, youthful vibe of this space—perfect for kids—and yet it still manages to feel sophisticated. The second design is a beautiful example of modernist pieces in a traditional setting. It’s rare for a designer to not only do high-end designs like this, but also pull off fun and funky designs like the Discovery Pitstop Daycare. Anishka and Niya have an incredible breadth of style!

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Iris Martin

Iris Martin is the founder of and principal interior designer at Iris Simone Interiors. Iris first discovered a love for interior design as a teenager in Accra, Ghana, when her mother gave her the opportunity to help design their home. She was able to help design different spaces in their home and restyle spaces as the years went by. This eventually led her to pursue a career in interior design and ultimately launch her own business.

Why We Love Her

Iris has a passion for creating spaces that truly reflect her clients’ styles and personalities, while ensuring that every space she designs is both functional and well-styled. We love when a designer takes a very attainable, livable approach while still giving spaces that designer’s touch!

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

This “comfortably chic” space strikes that hard-to-achieve balance between being both glam and super livable. With transitional style at its core, this space feels wonderfully stylish but still super livable.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Photo Cred: One King’s Lane

Darryl Carter

Believe it or not, famed designer Darryl Carter began his career as an attorney. But even then he dabbled in design and recreationally flipped properties. Eventually, he began to formally pursue a career in design. He’s a big believer in creating timeless, livable spaces. His designs are far from trendy—but they do feature a unique blend of classical and modern elements, usually with neutral but considered color palettes. He tends to use a mix of antique and ornate with simple and modern to create these timeless designs. He’s the author of The New Traditional, which unpacks his signature style, as well as The Collected Home.

Why We Love Him

Sure, traditional design might be having a moment right now—but Darryl Carter was designing traditional and classical spaces way before it was cool. And, while his designs have an air of formality, they’re certainly not stuffy. In fact, Darryl creates spaces to truly be lived in and to reflect the individuality of the person who lives there.

“I think your home should be an individual expression of yourself, so I have a hard time getting my head around generic objects. And when I say this I don’t mean precious or expensive, I mean thoughtful and original.” –Darryl Carter

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

This space perfectly captures the Traditional American aesthetic—but it also has an organic overtone, which brings traditional design to life in a way we haven’t seen before. Being surprised by traditional? We love that. The juxtaposition of the white-washed chairs in a formal silhouette perfectly sums up this vibe.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Denese Butler

Denese Butler started her career as a wardrobe stylist but found her true passion in the world of interior design. The daughter of a carpenter and wife to an architect, she feels a career in interior design was inevitable. She launched her design firm, The Perfect Vignette, a couple of years ago and has amassed a beautiful portfolio of both residential and commercial spaces.

Why We Love Her

Denese believes that a person’s space should feel like a safe haven and embody their lifestyle. We love her personalized approach, which results in spaces that are both functional and timeless.

“When it comes to interior styling, there isn’t a right or wrong way. I believe that it’s intimate, personal, and how you choose to live.” –Denese Butler

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

This dining space is a Jewel Box Room if we’ve ever seen one! We love the dark color that covers not only the walls but the trim, molding, and even the fireplace! And we’re very into the mash-up of traditional and modern in this space—with the antique-style table and the mod dining chairs, along with the sputnik-style chandelier. It can be tough to create a space that feels both trendy and timeless—but this one nails it.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Kesha Franklin

Kesha Franklin launched her interior design firm, Halden Interiors, in 2006 and has made a name for herself as a designer of luxury interiors. Before becoming a designer, she had an established career in couture fashion, working as a backstage production manager and wardrobe stylist for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. This helped her sharpen her eye for details and develop her profinity for luxury. Kesha has been featured in a number of national magazines and was named a Designer to Watch by the Black Interior Designer’s Network.

Why We Love Her

While Kesha has a very high-end look (and clientele), we love how simple her approach is when beginning a project with clients: “As a designer, I start the process by listening, and then I keep listening.” Her highly personalized approach results in spaces that truly reflect her clients’ style and goals for their space.

“The definition of diversity means a state of being diverse, having variety; being composed of differing elements. To me, that is the essence of interior design: bringing together a mix of furnishings, colors, time periods, materials, and cultural stories of the individuals who dwell in the spaces. Our designs may represent the beauty of diversity, but as an industry we lack variety in the representation of the many faces that create that beauty.” –Kesha Franklin

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

We love the way this living room plays with color without being too in-your-face. The overall look is pretty dramatic and bold—and yet, when you zoom in on some of the foundational furniture, it’s fairly restrained. This leaves a lot of breathing room for statement pieces, like the coffee table, to take center stage.
10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Tiffany Thompson

Tiffany Thompson worked on the creative team at Nike for almost 10 years before taking the leap into interior design. When she did, she founded Duett Interiors. She credits her New York City upbringing for exposing her to art and culture from a young age, and uses the “melting pot” of styles and perspectives she encountered there to inform her style and approach today.

Why We Love Her

We love Tiffany’s unexpected style. A mix of brutalism and modern minimalism, with a wabi-sabi aesthetic, her spaces have a new-age vibe that you don’t see everyday. But she hasn’t stopped at interior design. Last year she launched a contemporary home decor product line, featuring handmade plastic-covered throw pillows (with truly beautiful fabric underneath) inspired by her grandmother.

“Chasing perfection is not the ethos I mirror my style on. It’s imperfection that is beautiful and using materials and objects that have stood the test of time.” –Tiffany Thompson

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

Neutral boho and glam is not a style combo you see every day—and it’s certainly not one that’s easy to pull off. It’s really hard to hit on styles that are on such opposite ends of the spectrum—with boho being super relaxed and organic and glam being very polished and refined. But this space brings the combo to life in such a beautiful way. And those pampas hats on the dining room wall—talk about a statement! We love.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Mikel Welch

Mikel Welch is a well-known celebrity designer who’s become more of a household name as a TV personality. Some may know him as a former on-air personality of TLC’s Trading Spaces. But today, he’s a host and design expert on Quibi’s Murder House Flip. On the show, he shows viewers how to design sophisticated spaces at affordable prices. Off-camera, he runs his own interior design business, Mikel Welch Designs. In 2020, he was named as one of House Beautiful’s 2020 Next Wave Designers. His designs have been featured on HGTV, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Good Morning America, and in numerous national magazines.

Why We Love Him

Despite his rising star and growing list of celebrity clients (he’s designed VIP green rooms for Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Halle Berry, to name a few), Mikel maintains an air of total approachability. Outside of his client work, he’s passionate about helping everyday people achieve luxury looks in their home—which is actually what his new Skillshare class is all about.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

Mikel has designed so many stunning spaces—but our current favorite might be his own home. This space embodies that “Traditional Comfort with a dash of British charm” style we’re really into right now. We love that it’s so comfortable and liveable but with clean lines to keep the look more current.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Image via Dwell

Delia Kenza

Delia Kenza fell into interior design somewhat by accident. A lawyer by trade, when she and her husband bought their first place in upper Manhattan, they renovated it themselves. And then she agreed to do the same for a neighbor. And just like that, she’s been in the design world for a decade, working on both her own real estate investments and client projects. She operates under Delia Kenza Interiors, and specializes in complete renovations of urban dwellings.

Why We Love Her

Delia operates in bold, clean lines and neutral palettes—but uses plenty of natural materials and choice color accents to warm things up. We love the balance that her designs strike, and the way they celebrate both a modern aesthetic but with a subtle nod to the past.

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

10 Black Interior Designers You Should Follow

Our Favorite Design

These two rooms flow so beautifully together. With a Scandinavian-inspired vibe, the crisp neutrals give this space a clean, minimalist feel. But pops of bold earth tones and that wooden dining table make this space feel so warm and inviting. We love the way the wall moldings and wall decor play off of each other in the living area. There’s a playfulness in the off-centered mirror, which makes your eye bounce around the space and take in all the lovely details.

Want to increase your exposure to even more Black interior designers and their work? Follow the Black Interior Designers Network and the Black Artists + Designers Guild on Instagram.

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Designers’ Picks – 5 Rugs We’re Loving Right Now

best rugsRugs are one of the most important elements in designing a room – they get rid of echoes, they keep your room warm, and they tie a look together. But with so many options finding the best rugs for your home can be a challenge.

To help, our designers picked their top 5 favorites and rounded them up in one place. Check out their picks and shop the looks!

Shop all featured rugs!

best rugsThe Skye Rug

Playful geometric patterns meet cheery colors in this ready-for-spring rug! Introduce it into any room in need of a bit of fun and watch your space instantly come to life.

Its 100% polyester construction makes the Skye highly stain resistant. Not to mention, you get the look of a high-end rug without the crazy price tag.

best rugsThe Sherpa Rug

Its bold geometric pattern and tassel border make this boho rug an instant designer favorite. Its plush, shaggy texture may make you think winter, but pair it with natural materials and bright colors for a spring-approved look.

best rugsReign Diamond Rug

Your high-traffic rooms won’t stand a chance against this elegant hand-woven rug. The perfect way to add a note of casual character to your space, we love the Reign Diamond rug for it’s subtle style.

A jute-wool blend, this rug is highly durable and is a great addition to busy homes that want to show off their (albeit low-maintenance) style.

The Peregrine Rug

Add a pop of texture to your space with this hand-tufted, 100% wool, and oh-so-soft rug from our friends at Loloi. We love the swirling, variegated pattern that adds depth and texture while still feeling neutral.

Since it’s 100% wool, the Peregrine is a tad pricier but is also more resilient than your average rug, and will look new for longer and stand up to more wear and tear than its synthetic counterparts.

The Barcelona Rug

Sustainably sourced jute is behind this rug’s natural look! A summertime styling essential, there are so many reasons to love natural fiber rugs. We love the subtle blue stripes on this number, which adds a pop of beach house elegance to any interior.

Need help finding the best rugs for your space?

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Designer Picks: Our Top 10 Favorite Pieces for Spring

spring decor ideasSpring is right around the corner! And if you’re like us, you’ll be seizing the moment as the perfect excuse to give your interiors a makeover worthy of the (soon to be) warmer weather.

This season, we’re looking to natural textures and breezy materials to breath new life into old interiors. No matter if you’re making big or small updates, there are easy ways to take your home from cozy-town to easy and breezy and celebrate the changing seasons.

To help you get inspired, we had our designers round up their favorite spring decor ideas to help you get the look. Read on to discover 10 of our top picks for spring and shop the look in our spring-inspired living room.

Need some spring decor ideas for your space?

spring decor ideasDrake Sofa

With the extra deep seat, feather down cushions, and easy-to-clean upholstery, our Drake sofa is as comfortable as it is stylish. From Modsy’s very own Ravine Home collection, Drake was made for lazy Sundays with the family and feels at home in any decor style all year long.

Anguilla Rattan Coffee Table

One of our favorite spring decor ideas is to add some natural texture to your look. We can’t think of a better way to do that than with this woven rattan coffee table. Beachy yet sophisticated, we love how this coffee table lends a casual warmth to any interior.

Loom Club Chair

The star of our Insta-famous rustic warmth living room collection, this chair feels trendy but won’t go out of style any time soon. The intricate woven back will make a statement without pushing your look over the top.

spring decor ideasBermuda Pouf

Equal parts function and form, the Bermuda pouf is the real MVP of this living room look. Not only does it add a lovely pop of natural texture, you can put this pouf to work as an extra seat or side table, or even use it as a foot rest. What’s not to love?

Blake Grey Wash Cabinet

With spring cleaning in full force, enclosed storage pieces are our latest and greatest obsession. They are low-maintenance and make the perfect places to stash clutter when you need to spark some joy in a pinch. You’ll never guess what a mess is hiding inside!

Marcelle Storage Side Table

White marble top + Art Deco details? What’s not to love about this adorable side table! The equivalent of a dress with pockets, we love the additions of the mini drawer and bottom shelf, which help expand your available storage space. We need all the help we can get!

spring decor ideasMalibu Chandelier

We’re crushing hard for Serena & Lily’s Malibu chandelier, which features delicate strands of beads set against a natural hemp-wrapped frame. It’s earthy glamour meets mermaid chic, which we’re predicting as the next big decor trend (just kidding, but we’d love to see it ).

Barcelona Area Rug

With warmer weather just around the corner (ok maybe not just, but let’s think positive people!) it’s almost time to break out the natural fiber rugs. A summertime styling essential, there are so many reasons to love natural fiber rugs. We love the subtle blue stripes on this number, which adds a pop of beach house elegance to any interior.

spring decor ideasPier Perspective III Wall Art

This contemporary giclee print adds the perfect dash of intrigue and color to any interior. Hang it over your sofa for a subtle conversation starter. Or, add it to your bedroom for a serene seaside escape.

Flynn Floor Lamp

Bronze and wicker? What a combo. This sleek and streamlined lamp is an easy way to  add function and style to your space. The curved base allows this floor lamp to snuggle in close, making it the perfect late-night reading light.

Want to see some spring decor ideas in your room?