Designer SpotlightFeb 12, 2020

Designer Spotlight: Vanessa Alexander

Written by All Sorts Of

If you’ve spent any time on social media, odds are that one of Vanessa Alexander’s designs have stopped you in your scroll. Her work evokes feelings of the European countryside, mixed with a little bit of California, and a whole lot of cool.  And with projects ranging from Malibu to Mammoth, to everything in between — she’s surely a designer that should be on your radar.

So take a seat, scroll on down, and don’t forget to follow Vanessa Alexander on IG for more inspo!

a conversation with Vanessa…
1

Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey and how you got your start as an interior designer.

My previous life was in the entertainment industry as a manager of actors, writers, and directors. I’ve always had an immense love for architecture and design —  much attributed to being lucky enough to travel extensively growing up. My mother had an antique store and we would do buying trips which exposed me to so much.  When we started having kids and I wanted what I thought would be a more flexible work schedule (in reality, not true) I decided to recreate myself in the world of design. No schooling, just baptism by fire! My husband Steve (also an avid design and building junky) joined in and flipped a few homes successfully for ourselves. My first projects were for clients who I had represented who saw the homes we had designed and built and believed in me enough to let me take the design reigns for their projects. From there I found my confidence, and it has been an existing growth journey ever since.  Now I have an amazing team and we do residential, creative and hospitality projects all over the US and beyond. We have a bespoke/to order custom line which we design and fabricate but are starting to focus on widening that net.

2

You have such incredible variety in the projects you do with projects ranging from Mammoth to Malibu… What do you look for when saying yes to a project?

A huge driver includes the people that are involved, from client to architect, to landscape design… for the experience and creative process is paramount to us! We love collaborating. As much as we bring to the table we also love to learn, and the result is exponential when you have a team that works well together from the start. We also get really excited by location and creating an environment and lifestyle that fits that particular environment. I think it’s partly for this reason that we do design and build projects from beach to city to country — California, NY, Caribbean, Mexico, and beyond.

3
What’s your favorite part of your work day?

Being onsite… I love seeing the progress of projects coming to life and the energy and excitement that comes with it. That being said, I also love office time with my creative team where we brainstorm ideas and develop concepts.

4

What’s been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

How to balance a growing business and having enough staff to handle incoming opportunities, while also staying an intimate practice. And, of course, the balance between work and home life: three boys and an amazing husband with the addition of building our own homes. It’s a lot to juggle, but I think I thrive in chaos, luckily!

5
You’re a mom on top of all the other things you do on a daily basis. What advice would you give to a mom who is doing it all?

You must find a way to carve out quality, focused time for your family and yourself no matter how thriving your work life might be. It’s tempting and easy to get consumed and the taste of success is certainly addicting, but more important than anything is feeding the part of your life that nurtures love, confidence, and creativity as a by product.

6

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone getting their start in design?

School is amazing and I certainly would not hire anyone without the technical skills that one learns via design programs… BUT first and foremost, believe in your gut instincts and know that the number one most critical skill for a designer is knowing how to deal with people from all walks of life (from clients to subcontractors). Listening to and treating all with respect, but not forgetting your point of view.

7
How do you keep the creativity flowing? Where are your favorite places to return to when you feel like you need a little inspiration?

TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL to soak up new cultures…and taking time away from work and social media. Being in nature is a huge source of inspiration for me, but I’m also a city girl at heart. So on the one hand I find being at the beach or in the mountains very grounding, but on the other hand, I adore the energy of the streets, galleries, museums and all the architecture that comes with it in cities like New York, Paris, London, Madrid, and Tokyo.

8
What are a few things you can’t live without right now?

  • The many color variations of brown: espresso, cognac, camel… you name it. It’s the new black for me, although I will always love black accents
  • Paavo Tynell vintage lighting
  • Rick Owens outdoor concrete furnishings
  • Suede and Linen in combinations with each other

9

Who are your five favorite designers to follow right now?

10

What’s next for Alexander Design?

On the hospitality side, we are very excited about our Malibu Farm restaurant opening in Japan, as well as a boutique hotel with the same developer that embraces the relaxed California luxury of the farm brand. We also have some amazing homes in Los Angeles, St. Barths, and Montauk that we are incredibly proud of.

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