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.


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!”

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

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Dream Home Tour: A Vibrant Take on Modern Desert Style

desert minimalA bit boho. A little modern. Even a touch rustic. There’s a cool new style that’s catching our eye in a big way and we’re calling it Desert Minimal. You may have caught glimpses of it in some of our recent summer designs, with its mix of warm desert tones, comfy clean-lined furnishings, and organic and natural accents. It’s the perfect blend of easy and eclectic that gives spaces a curated look as well as calming appeal.

Of course, we’ll be the first to admit that bringing together various design styles and all the right pieces can be tricky. What do you pair with organic-shaped side tables? Is there a good neutral color to bring in amid a sea of white and wood tones? How do you work in pops of patterns? We totally get it. So to help guide you along, our design team dreamed up this charming bungalow that showcases the desert minimal style and how it can all come together in a harmonious way.

Dive in and get our style tips as we break down the big and small design elements—from grouping organic shapes with sleeker furnishings to working in varying earthy hues throughout—for bringing the layered look home.

desert minimalMix In Organic Shapes

This is the foundation of the desert minimal look, so start here. You’ll want to nail down furnishings you love that have organic silhouettes, such as coffee and side tables with curvy bases, a cowhide rug, or a natural-leather sling chair.

Then, to balance the look, you’ll want to offset them with more modern pieces, like poufs, ottomans and sofas with soft rounded edges. Think of this approach to grouping furnishings as a warm and cool balance—for every organic element, like a leather butterfly chair, you’ll want to even it out with a clean-lined piece, like a mid-century inspired sofa.

The one exception? Lighting. You can go organic or modern here—think a textural fixture, like a fabric or rattan chandelier or try an ultra-modern armed pendant. The only requirement is that it should make a statement.

desert minimalThink Warm Neutrals

It’s not desert minimal if there isn’t a mix of earthy colors and natural tones. The key with this palette, however, is to keep to mostly warm neutrals—think nude and terracotta, mustard yellow and dusty pinks. These hues will immediately bring to mind the arid landscapes of the American southwest and sunsets on the horizon, giving the home a rustic vibe that still comes off as collected and chic.

Another great thing about this palette is that because there is such a rich layering of pretty earth tones, you can keep your walls relatively minimal with little to no styling or graphic art with white backdrops that recede into the background. They’ll actually stand out more on their neutral canvas.

desert minimalLet Natural Materials Shine

Choosing a few favorite designs made with natural materials is a great place to start with the desert minimal style. Since you want to keep the overall furniture look pretty minimal, pick pieces that really speak to you. The best part is that furnishings made with natural materials—think leather, cowhide, linens, raw wood, rattan, stone, and bone elements—will seamlessly play up the warm neutral palette in your space.

Even try mixing varying leather and wood tones, which is a stylish way to add bold visual texture throughout the space.

desert minimalGet Smart With Geometrics

Once you have your foundational pieces, layer in art and objects to bring the look to life. We love geometric patterns for the desert minimal style.

Don’t be afraid to add pattern to even your furniture, like this inlaid console. Just be sure to carry this design element through to your art and accents with graphic prints and decorative objects that have strong shapes.

The idea is to bring these bold pops of patterns, even tribal elements, into your space through smaller geometric details that add visual texture without compromising on the overall airy, minimal look.

desert minimalKeep it Light and Clean-Lined

What sets desert minimal apart from other spaces that feature a modern mix, is that this look is all about clean-lined furnishings that have a lighter, airier appeal. Think of it as mid-century meets relaxed, minimal design. Aim for pieces that have curvy silhouettes that play well with organic designs and light woods that pair easily with all the natural materials.

The key is to find streamlined pieces that have natural textures and shapes, like this dining room credenza with pretty wood graining and the dining table with a rounded top and legs. They help to balance out the organic pieces and smaller patterned accents, such as art, pillows, and decorative objects.

desert minimal trendMake For Minimal

Because there’s such a richness in the materials and shapes in the desert minimal look, keep styling to a minimum. Unlike boho or eclectic styles, desert minimal is all about artfully arranged surfaces that put emphasis on a few unique designs, such as hand-crafted artisanal pottery, a beautiful inlaid tray, or a lamp base with subtle detailing that comes off as bold texture.

Don’t feel the need to fill out your console surfaces and bookshelves; instead lean into a leaner, sparser look with meaningful pieces.

Ready to Bring the Desert Minimal Look Home?

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