It’s been two weeks since the 2021 Elle Décor magazine’s A-List of top interior designers was announced. Though I have been on this esteemed list for more than two decades, it was an utter surprise to have been selected as one of two dozen industry TITANS. Apparently, the Titan honor roll celebrates exceptionally influential talents, which I must say, is quite humbling.
Personally, there is a juxtaposed of feeling bafflement while simultaneously feeling profoundly rewarded for reaching this point. Without a formal education beyond high school, I pressed through early adversity as a Cuban refugee with severe dyslexia, that made traditional schooling near impossible, coupled with bountiful early failures. After moving to New York as a young man, I’d been fired from many jobs; trust me, it was not an easy path. I could only rely on my own tenacious appetite to learn by exposing myself to things that inspired me; training myself to trust my gut and fight for my principals. My fortune began changing with the exposure of my work in design publications that in no small way propelled my career.
But each day there were always new opportunities to conquer challenges. In my early years it was difficult, even scary dealing with project hiccups (there were many) and clients (enough said). Through experience – and a confidence that can only be achieved by experience will a budding design firm learn to properly deal with the ‘business of design.’ Adding to that is today’s unfortunate pace of the world that’s increased exponentially – thank you internet, which adds another layer to instability and vulnerability.
For these reasons I find myself embracing my role as a mentor. Recently, I also had the honor of judging a magazine’s Home Design Awards. All this have afforded me the opportunity to become acquainted with young designers and their work as they are launching their careers. I cannot help putting myself in their shoes. With the shifting availability of media and the plethora of design information at everyone’s fingertips, their paths will necessarily be different than mine. Young interior designers are certainly challenged to gain footing in their chosen industry.
From where I stand, it’s critical that novices define their business goals. Do they want more clients? Higher profit margins? Would they want to work in partnership? Seek media acclaim? Or simply preserve a sustainable, livable practice. However, their business is sculpted, they must develop their own style vision and to maintain professionalism in all presentations and practices.