Montclair Design Story

Montclair Design Story

Out of 1200 applications, I was one of the 100 students who gained a seat for architecture school in Poland, after a grueling 6-hour drawing exam. I studied architecture in Poland mainly because I had drawing skills. We had a communist system, so schools were free. I studied drawing afterschool, and liked to draw faces and people, but I also had to learn to draw objects, bowls, chairs, motorcycles, and buildings. The key to drawing for architecture school was to find objects within an object, everything is made of similar components and simpler forms. During that 6-hour exam, objects were placed in the center of the room with easels placed all around the composition; we were required to draw the objects exactly from where our easel was located, and then judged on how precisely we were able to draw the composition from our angle of vision. My family and I came to the US in 1969 as an international refugee. There was a quota for Eastern Europeans and we lived in Rome for 5 months for interviews. We then lived in Brooklyn when we arrived. I wouldn’t necessarily call this home my “American dream” because I don’t operate on those terms. I came with the idea of hard-work in mind and I had nothing planned on anything. Right away, I went to school at the Pratt Institute. I gained acceptance because the committee was very impressed with my sketch of the Guggenheim museum from 5th Avenue. Interior design is part of architecture, and I had to get very familiar with it and have done a few residential interior designs. The key to design is knowing vendors, styles, weaves of carpets, familiarity with showrooms etc. An architectural drawing is actually a legal document, where an architect is liable for everything in the document according to design codes. Architectural work was great until the recession when many architects were laid-off including myself, so we had to figure out a way to earn money without being affiliated with a firm. Most of my interior decor items are gifts from friends or from traveling. The vase in my dining area is from a 78 year old friend who is a leading potter in America. Other items are from my travels; for example, when I lived in an ashram in India where I followed the philosophy of a guru. The idea behind my dining table is that I wanted something that reminded me of a communal restaurant in the west of France. A few of my other paintings are from avangarde painters from Poland painted in the 80s. The granite monkey that I have on display represents the despair of an artist; this is because I went to the granite display/artshow in Kingston, NY and the artist revealed to me that he was unable to sell a single piece of his art that night. I felt his struggle, and purchased this monkey for $1500 even though it was way over my budget, because I understood his despair as an artist. SEE MORE
Hilltop View Home

Hilltop View Home

I’m a 5th generation Californian. This was my dad’s home and I grew up here. I went to college at UC-Santa Cruz for a short time and then I moved to the East Coast where my mom lived, to attend the University of Vermont. I later came back here for art school at the San Francisco Art institute and California College of the Arts for pottery, sculpture, and painting. My degree was in fine arts. I absolutely fell in love with pottery from a young age and I was immersed in clay work, however after an exacerbation of a congenital deformity in my wrist, I had to give up making pottery. I then began focusing on painting, which was great but I always found it to be very cerebral and two-dimensional vs. pottery, which has more dimensionality. Since then I’ve gotten involved in stage performance in both singing and acting. Any place I’ve lived, including my first apartment at UC-Santa Cruz ,I always made it my own and designed it to look beautiful. In this current home, I’ve incorporated a lot of things from my dad including an airplane piece as artwork for my dining area. It reminds me of my dad who was a pilot and loved flying; he passed away when a small plane he was flying crashed in Idaho during an interstate flight. For me, design dictates everything in life. I find that life is very segmented, and design lets you express yourself and how you value yourself. Interior home design is a way of presenting what you hold dear, what sparks a joy in your life and how you arrange things in your life. Design doesn’t have to be expensive, it can be simple things such a changing the paint color or adding wood work. This home is my dream home because each element of this house is an iteration of my dream home. In the future, it would be great if I can add a few 120 sqft/10ft tall tiny homes in parallel as extension of this home. You don’t need a permit as long as you keep within those measurements. Home design has to give back to your life and put your life at ease. It’s an expression of the inhabitants. In the design process, I always start with places that are difficult to keep tidy. How can I improve a storage space or where do I have too much stuff? If the energy is not flowing properly in a certain area of the house, it’s unorganized and stressful, then that’s the place I like to address and improve. I always look to improve the places I see myself avoiding, such a stack of cookbooks in the kitchen that I never use or a over-stuffed closet I never open. If it’s not serving you and putting your life at ease, then get rid of it. Your own aesthetic is valuable because it’s your voice and expression of who you are – home design should make you feel good all the way down to your toes. SEE MORE
Industrial Artistic Home

Industrial Artistic Home

I moved here from China to study civil engineering at U.C. Berkeley. However after graduating I felt my true talent and gift was not in engineering and tech, so I took two years off to decide what I wanted to do. I traveled the world, met new people, practiced yoga, and even lived in an Ashram in India. It was an amazing spiritual experience for me. My favorite country in the world is India. Right now, I’m in real estate but I would love to get some experience in design and eventually open my own interior design staging firm. Growing up, my dad had a great taste in design because he was a painter and a photographer, so I got my artistic sense from him. My design inspiration is industrial with mid-century style. I look at various blogs, Chinese websites and pinterest to find design ideas and inspiration. I purchase my home décor items from different places including craigslist, west elm, urban outfitters and CB2. My design method is selecting one piece that I absolutely love and working around that piece by adding pieces that look good together with it. Since I love staging, one of the fun things that I’m able to do is rent out my multiple spaces on Airbnb and design them all differently with each apartment having it’s own unique style and flair. All of the guests love it. Good design to me is a space that tells a good story; when someone walks into a home, they are able to understand who the owner is and what their personality is like. The best designed space is a space that makes you yearn to come back home, and tells a good story to other people. SEE MORE
San Francisco Loft

San Francisco Loft

I’m a third-generation Californian and third-generation interior designer. My mom’s design style was traditionalist, very Laura Ashley with the chandelier, puffy window seats, ruffles, and English designs. My grandma’s design style resonated with the Eichler home style, and she had the shag carpet, sunken rug, and a patio home with a interior courtyard. This current apartment is a San Francisco rental and it’s about 300 sq.ft. It was originally built in 1906, with a old Victorian style and it had studios and bedroom upstairs for solo renters, and a commercial space downstairs. The commercial space has been a transgender dressing room, an African-American salon in the 60s, and many other businesses. I would say my design style is always changing but I place focus on a “green-organic” outlook. I firmly believe in reusing items and purchasing used item from stores/offices going out of business, craigslist, and house décor sales. My dream is to own a place in the city, have a vacation home in Miami and a home in the Lake Tahoe area where I grew up. I grew up in the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe and met my husband, who is from Mexico City, while going to school there. He is a builder and I’m a designer, so we work collaboratively on various projects including renovating this rental space. To me, good design means scaling one thing. This means, saving up for one big item and then working in layers with the design. After you have the one big thing, like a sofa or a piece of large furniture, then design by adding layers. You can for example affix red wood beam up the walls, then in steps add glass, wood, water, metal, plants, or lighting in layers. SEE MORE

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