Designer Series: Interview with Nina Seirafi

When I first dreamed up this little Designer Series, I never imagined I'd have the opportunity to interview the remarkably talented Nina Seirafi.

Nina is undoubtedly living the 'designer dream', and rightfully so.  After graduating from Parsons School of Design, she hit the ground running and became the sole interior designer for several notable architectural firms.  In 2004, she founded Nina Seirafi Interior Designs and has since designed spaces I can only dream of.  Her incredible talent has her recognized as one of Architectural Digest's Top 100 Designers, which only furthers my gratitude that she would appear on this little blog. 

As you'll see in these stunning photos (plenty more on her website portfolio), her designs appear like a modern fantasy.  The cohesiveness of Nina's spaces leaves me swooning not just for "that lamp" or "that bed", but for the entire concept.  I may just be a twenty-something aspiring designer/blogger, but I truly believe Nina is one of the finest designers of our time. 

And with that, I'm honoured to share her interview with The Beautiful Shelter!  Thank you Nina! Dear readers - enjoy!

Becoming a Designer

Can you tell us about your first job in the design field?
My first real job was an immersion in a big architecture and design firm where I was responsible for the material library and did not even have a chair. I folded as much fabric samples as I could and learned the names of most material companies and left saturated after only three months of it!


What's inspiring you right now?
For some reason I am exploring the whole Hollywood regency style and cannot seem to get enough. I like using hints and allusions in unrecognizable ways in my designs... such as the scale of rooms and furniture, rounded edges and of course the allure of undeniable glamour.


What is your most memorable travel destination?
My trip to a shipyard in Cartagena, Spain! I had always been fascinated with submarines and I got to see a submarine cut in half. It was amazing to see the whole structure exposed, a truly a memorable and inspiring trip.

In House

What are your “best practices” for accessorizing a room?
Accessorizing a room is actually the last step of the design process integral to procuring a perfect and complete room. I always like to use the accessorizing as a tool to emphasize a mood that I have been trying to convey in a room. This mood dictates the accessory list. Beyond the pragmatics of functional, I like to invent creative purpose for items that are not typically found in modern interiors, such as table lighters for instance. One does not need to be smoker to accessorize a coffee table. They are a delightful, curious piece and can be used to ignite both candles and conversation.

Nina's Success

What's next for you?
First a monograph. Then a line of accessories that will hopefully bloom into a line of furniture. What I hope for is to design a cool new hotel project and the inside of a jet!


Designer Profile: Interview with Julia Buckingham Edelmann

In the sea of shelter magazines and design blogs, I so often find myself loving just bits and pieces of settings, but the work of Julia Buckingham Edelmann hits on every one of my design-loving senses.  Her work truly stands on its own and I feel so fortunate to introduce her as the next designer in this series!

Julia is the owner and principal of Buckingham Interiors + Design LLC, a Chicago-based residential and commercial design firm.  Needless to say, I could easily spend hours admiring their remarkable portfolio.  Each space is designed with such rich character; the collaboration of antiques, natural finishes and always a distinguished light fixture.  Julia's outstanding design talent is complimented by her gracious demeanor, and I easily consider her one of my favourite designers.

Enjoy Julia's fabulous interview!

What was your first big design break?
Breaking into the world of design can be a daunting task! I remember my first visit to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago- nervous and unsure of what to say or how to inquire about a product. That was 12 years ago and I can still clearly see that day and how I felt. Starting small, and with the realization that each new project brought me knowledge and experience for the next- all along with the most fun that I had ever had- brought me to the career that I cherish today. The clients and their homes that I have been lucky enough to be a part of, all led me to the moment of “aha” that I consider to be my very first design break. 

I was contacted to meet and visit a project in an historic Chicago neighborhood. When I left that site- I knew that I would be experiencing a bit of design magic and that after this- I would definitely never be the same. The power of referrals by friends- both clients of mine where this new client had visited their homes and asked who had designed- is the key to a strong and successful design business. To this day, I consider this project to be the turning point of my career. A project that I was devastated had to end!

Can you tell us about your first job in the design field?
As one of four owners of a Cincinnati, Ohio Antiques Store, I would travel all over the world to source and select unique furnishings for the home. This amazing- and hard to believe that it was even called a job experience led me into the homes of people who were purchasing my pieces and asking for help in placing them into their homes.

My first design “housewarming party” will not ever be forgotten. My client was showing her new home to friends and referring to spaces as “Julia’s rooms.” How cool is that?! This was my very first experience with a wall mounted TV above a fireplace mantle- it was such a novelty back then.

What is your most memorable travel destination?
PARIS FLEA MARKETS! Everything looks better and much more beautiful when you cross the ocean.

I am also very sentimental about the markets in Ohio, Kentucky and the place that I visit every Spring with gal pals in Brimfield Massachusetts. If you ever go there you must have a lobster roll and wear very sensible shoes :)

What are your “best practices” for accessorizing a room?
Go bold with accessories. This is my mantra- small scale pieces can be ordinary and end up looking like absolutely nothing at all! If you grab an aged or repurposed object is can actually look like a piece of modern art. And remember that “Spare is not always bare.” It is in the interesting texture and scale of an accessory piece that can make or break a room.

What's next for you
More, more and more! I am loving my revolving art exhibits in my showroom in Chicago. We have thus far focused on local talent from Francine Turk to a fantastic new exhibit opening on March 18 Skrebneski Photography. Lucky to be surrounded by so many beautiful and stunning works of art. Allows me and my design team to be all that much more creative on a daily basis.

A book is on the horizon for me. One that will be as appealing to the eye as the collection of hundreds that surround me at all times for inspiration. And, of course, I strive to meet and work with the next round of fantastic clients!

Thank you so much to Julia for participating in this series!



Designer Series: Interview with Capella Kincheloe

After interviewing some of New York's finest designers, I thought it was time to spread the "Designer Series" wings and find amazing designers residing elsewhere!  So, I'm anxious to introduce this talented and beautiful Atlanta-based designer, Capella Kincheloe.

Principal of Capella Kincheloe Interior Design, Capella's exquisitely styled spaces are fresh, timeless and sophisticated.  I'm thrilled that Capella's offered up some career and design advice here, and her down-to-earth recollection of her first design job is something I can relate all too well with!

My first “design” job was answering phones for Michael Smith – I needed a way into the interior design field and used the reception desk to propel me from answering phones to jr designer and finally working on my own projects as a designer.  It was a priceless experience and a ton of hard work.

Right now I am inspired by original ideas.  When you see a pairing that you have never seen before, color used in an unusual way, brilliant DIYs, new fabric and furniture combinations that is what is inspiring to me.  The ideas that make you kick yourself for not thinking of it first or those that you applaud for being daring and original.  It makes me smile to think how much talent there is in the world.  We are so overexposed to design we should be searching out the original and unusual and not following the trends.

I love to travel, but don’t really understand why people want their spaces to feel like a hotel.  When I am away from home I would rather my hotel feel like home.  There are so many amazing destinations in the world and I feel lucky to have seen many of them, my favorite places so far are Alaska and Mallorca.  Places next on my list?  Maldives, West Africa and Croatia.

I love decorating and designing any room, but those that are challenging end up being the most rewarding.  I have always loved puzzles and rooms that are oddly shaped or need to serve multiple purposes are just like figuring out a puzzle.  Besides the physical architecture, you can also have clients that create challenges, good challenges that make you think and find original solutions.

So much of my success is thanks to the relationships I have made since I opened my business.  It is so important to be visible in the design community online and locally.  Its amazing how supportive your community can be if you just ask.  

Thank you so much to Capella for some insight into her life as a designer!  Visit her fabulous blog A Curated Lifestyle for more inspiration!


Designer Profile: Interview with Adrienne Neff

I'm so excited to introduce the latest designer in this series - the incredibly talented Adrienne Neff.  Known for her calm, uncluttered designs and integration of colour photography, Adrienne's appreciation for decorative arts also led to the debut of her gorgeous Uzu wallpaper collection in 2009!  Her work and wallpaper line have graced the pages of Interior Design magazine, Domino and Hamptons Cottages and Gardens (to name a few) and she continues to make her mark in New York City with her namesake design firm. 

Not long before the devastation began unfolding in Japan, Adrienne had returned from a wonderful trip to Kyoto and Tokyo and completed this interview.  Her admiration for the Japanese culture and its influence on her organic and geometric Uzu wallpaper collection make this interview very timely.  I hope that releasing this today will  not appear to lessen our concern for Japan by discussing it in a design capacity, but instead bring further awareness to a country so in need.  A huge thank you to Adrienne for participating in this series!

 Jenna: What was your first job in the design field?
Adrienne: Working for the very successful interior designer Thomas O'Brien.

Jenna: What is inspiring you right now?
Adrienne: I just returned from a terrific trip to Japan, to Kyoto and Tokyo. The Japanese are inspired by nature. A 450 year old Plum Tree in bloom was very inspiring in particular.

Jenna: What is your favorite hotel?
Adrienne: In Kyoto I stayed at a traditional Japanese inn called Kinmata. Guests sleep on futons on the floor with tatami mats. There is a wonderful wood soaking tub. The cuisine is fantastic (the owner is a reknown seafood chef), and the rooms are full of Japanese antiques. It's a trip back in time. Highly recommended!

Jenna: What are your best practices for accessorizing a room?
Adrienne: I collect large scale color photography, and so do many of my clients. I love to encourage my clients to invest in it. It packs a powerful visual punch. This image of a Home Office features a fantastic photo center stage, it's Grace Kelly's face constructed of thousands of diamonds mounted on a piece of black velvet. The artist is Vic Muniz.

Jenna: What's next for you and your design career?
Adrienne: I recently designed a line of hand block printed wallpapers called the Uzu Collection. They are very much inspired by Japanese decorative arts. For this photo, we wrapped the papers around books to better show the scale and proportion of the patterns. They are sold To the Trade through the Holland & Sherry showrooms in New York, Paris, and London. For more information, please contact our website.

I highly recommend visiting Adrienne's website to see more of her portfolio, and a quick reminder to send thoughts and any assistance to Japan.  Thank you again Adrienne!


Designer Profile: Interview with Jayne and Joan Michaels

Forget sibling rivalry.  Sisters Jayne and Joan Michaels of 2Michaels Design have mastered their modern design aesthetic together.

Raised in Palm Springs, followed by extensive travels to Italy, Jayne and Joan now reside in New York City where they design residential and commercial spaces.  Their self-described "spare, yet luxurious" trademark is what attracts me most to their work.  With strategic use of saturated colour, they have created a warmth in otherwise modern spaces that I find both soothing and exciting.  I would love to visit one of their spaces in the future (a Kips Bay showhouse maybe?).

Until then, a few inspiring words from Jayne and Joan.

 Becoming Designers
Our first design break was meeting Jen Renzi who was a senior editor at Interior Design magazine.  She brought our work to the attention of Cindy Allen (the editor in chief) and she featured my apartment in the magazine.  It brought work and lasting friendships with both Jen and Cindy.

Our favorite places to shop are 1st Dibs @ NYDC (it just opened and it's fabulous), Weinberg Modern on the 4th floor of NYDC, ABC Carpet and Home, Magen H Gallery on East 11th street and Bergdorf Goodman

Our most memorable travel destination was India.  In 2002 we attended a "royal wedding" in Rajasthan, the culture, the colors, the flavors, the sheer beauty of the country was astounding and unforgettable. 

What is the preferred room to design in a home? 
We are drawn to libraries/dens.  Colors can be more dramatic, furniture a little looser and with books you can't go wrong. 

What's the biggest design risk you've taken?
Definitely designing a room at the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse. It's like the Academy Awards of showhouses and it's a terrifying risk, you either sink or swim.  Luckily we swam!

[Above is a clip during the 2Michaels installation at Kips Bay.  Jayne says that a "decorated room" is a dead room to them, and that it's more important to work on layering the elements.  I loved this statement - not a fabricated, but a meaningful space.]

A huge thank you to Jayne and Joan for taking part in this series! 
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