Meet Interior Designer Robin Sillau
I’m excited to introduce you to former Domino assistant Robin Sillau who is currently working as an Interior Designer at an architecture firm in Manhattan. I spotted her walk-in closet/bedroom in the current issue of Domino magazine Feb. 09 pages 46-47) and had to know more about the lady who pulled together such a rockin’ space. Would you like to know more about Robin? I especially enjoyed her answer to “What do you think is missing in the design world?”, you will spot that below. Ready? Okay good… take my hand, let’s go!
Her 8′ x 6′ x 8′ bedroom is now a loft!
decor8: Tell us about your background and how did it lead to interior design?
Robin: I grew up in Queens and went to college for journalism to pursue a career as a newspaper writer. I’ve been passionate about writing since I was a teenager and thought that being a journalist would be a really fulfilling career for me. As I worked as writer in college and as a freelance writer after college, I did enjoy myself, but didn’t feel whole. My other passion, which only in my adult life did I realize could be parlayed into a career, is interior design. I grew up in a small apartment and my room was my haven. I rearranged my furniture for fun and was constantly redecorating, decoupaging, and making my space feel perfect. I continued to develop my style in each residence I inhabited in college as well. Since I’m so career driven, I pursued many internships during college. While working at the now-defunct Organic Style Magazine in the summer of 2005, I was placed in the home department. It was here that I really fell in love and decided that after my graduation, I would find a way to integrate writing and my love of design in the hopes of discovering which was the path for me.
(Robin Sillau blogging her design finds, photography: Lesley Unruh)
decor8: And that’s around the time you started working at Domino magazine… So tell us what did you do at Domino and why did you leave?
Robin: I was the assistant to the Creative Director, Sara Costello, and was also an assistant in the Market Department. I left because I knew I wanted to design homes and I wanted to make the next step in my career at a young age.
decor8: What did you learn working at the magazine?
Robin: Working in magazine land was very trying at times, but I would not change one experience because I learned something that is utterly invaluable and that is what I want to do with my life. I see my peers struggling with what step to take after their entry level jobs and many simply don’t know what they want to do in the long run, or how to figure it out. At domino I learned what I wanted to do with my life, and how important being happy in your home is. I also learned less ethereal, and more technical matters. I learned how to product a photo shoot, how to remain completely calm even under times of duress, how to transport 40 pieces of furniture to California from New York in, oh, about a week, and about what to look for when taking shots of interiors. I learned about the different styles of furniture design, about how to chose colors, textures and patterns that work together, and about the importance of scale in a room. Everyday at Domino was a learning experience and I could never have gotten to where I am now without those two priceless years of education from the most talented group of people I’ve ever met.
decor8: Why did you become a designer?
Robin: I decided to become a designer because I want to help other people feel obscenely happy in their homes. I grew up with only my mom (who is 1000% the best parent anyone could ever ask for) and we lived in a tiny space. Try as we did, with little money, it was hard to make our apartment a home. Two years ago my mom retired and moved to North Carolina to a beautiful, new home. Watching her develop her own style and furnish her home with items that made her happy was the catalyst to make me realize how much having a beautiful, well-designed home is integral to leading a whole and comfortable life. When I reached two years at working at domino, I took this into account and what I loved best about my job, which was decorating sets, I knew that I had to take a very big leap try my hand at being a designer. I can make a beautiful photo shoot happen, and I can make it disappear. I decided I would be happier taking my talents and applying them to design homes where families with whom I could develop relationships with could live for years and years.
(Dining room and bedroom designed by Robin for the Cheap Kit from Aug 08 Domino, shot in LA by Melanie Acevedo)
decor8: You also have a blog called Decorated Life. When did you start it and what is it about?
Robin: I started my blog, Decorated Life, in August 2008. It’s about trends that I find, rooms that inspire me, and essays about personal experiences. I help readers with decorating questions and also enjoy posting pictures of Homer, my best friend’s dog with whom I have developed an undying love for. I treat my blog as if I were the Editor-in-Chief my own magazine. I try to post original content about project I am working on, advice for readers, new sources I discover, and inexpensive ways to bring bits of light into your home. I also like to post personal stories that I think might be able to help anyone who comes across my blog. I suffer from an auto immune disease called Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder, and writing about that has not only proven to be cathartic, but I hope it has helped others with rheumatological diseases, or anyone who has to deal with chronic illness.
decor8: What challenges do you face with clients and how do you handle them?
Robin: As a residential designer, my largest challenge has been transitioning from creating spaces that were born in my brain, to creating spaces that were born in someone else’s. At the magazine, I came up with a concept or a color palate and the shoots I worked on were my taste, to a tee. Yet to be a great designer, you can’t push your aesthetic onto your clients. You need to be the conduit for their creative vision to become even more beautiful, Learning that balance has been my biggest challenge. Not every client I work with wants a silver leather ottoman, a room entirely wallpapered in Osborne and Little’s large-scale chevron print, or a head board upholstered entirely in ironic toile. I’ve handled this challenge by having an open mind and listening to my clients and respecting and embracing their styles.
(this room is enclosed with fabric, bed on top, closet below.)
decor8: As a new designer, how do you market your business and what seems to work?
Robin: I currently work for a design firm, but I’d eventually like to start my own business, and I’m trying to market myself through my blog so this will one day be possible. I’ve found blogging to be my most effective marketing tool. I started by letting my friends and family know I was writing, and then branched out to posting updates on Facebook. This reconnected me with many old friends, who told their friends about my blog and so on. I try to stay true to the focus for my blog and I use my career as inspiration for posts.
decor8: How would you define your style?
Robin: Style is a hard thing to define! My decorating style is much more eclectic than what I wear on a daily basis. I LOVE PATTERN. I love mixing modern, iconic pieces with touches of floral, an antique wood, or a bit of tradition. I use graphic prints in conjunction with traditional shapes. I love glitz and glam, and think that punches of metallic fabrics can add a whole other dimension to a room. I love dark colors in small spaces and playing with scale. My style is everything I see, feel, experience, love and hate, filtered through brain and projected like a kaleidescope into the blank canvases I have to work with.
decor8: What 5 words best describe your personality?
Robin: Resilient, Complex, Funny, Loving and Curious.
decor8: What keeps you energized and focused?
My desire to please my clients and my desire to thrive as a designer.
decor8: How do you stay organized, do you have a specific system?
Robin: The process of ordering furniture at a magazine and ordering furniture as a designer is VERY different. I use Quick Books to keep my finances in order, and keep separate files for my invoices, organized by project, and purchase orders, organized by vendor. I also couldn’t live without writing myself notes. The notes feature on my iPhone has helped tremendously, as has importing my rolodex onto my computer and my phone. It’s annoying, but keeping my contacts always synched helps me to be able to work from anywhere. If I’m installing a project and need to call a vendor to ask “Where is my lamp?” it’s really easy to do so if I have all of my contacts in my phone and on my laptop. I also live for my Graphic Image planner, I use the daily journal and I love it. It’s the perfect size to carry with me all day, yet it has more than enough space to write my massive “to-do” lists. I loves.
decor8: What is an average day like for you?
Everyday for me starts with an unhealthy amount of coffee and about 10 shameful minutes spent on the Facebook. I’m constantly working on new projects while juggling the ordering and installation of projects that are ongoing. I joined my firm at an interesting time and have been able to install, make furniture plans, conceive palates for construction materials, and plan the homes of brand new clients. I spend a lot of time learning AutoCad, going to furniture showrooms, going to site-meetings to oversee construction, and a LOT of time trolling the Decoration and Design building for fabric samples.
decor8: What’s next for you, future goals?
Robin: I couldn’t have asked for a better job or a more nurturing learning environment to get me from magland to becoming an interior designer. Eventually, my ultimate dream for myself and my career is to start my own interior design firm. I’d like to work alone, or with an assistant for a while, but eventually be the principal of my own company. I’d love to eventually have my own line of fabrics and furniture, and although I’m sure it will be quite challenging, have all of my products be at reasonable price points
decor8: What do you think is missing in the design world?
Robin: Compassion and accessibility!! I see a lot of negativity and criticism in the world of design. You can’t have art without conflict and negotiation, but I’ve got butterfly skin when it comes to being privy to some to the nastiness going on in interior design blogland. I don’t believe is criticism without it being constructive. I put my stuff out there and totally expect not everyone to love it, but I get perturbed when blogs or comments completely rely on making fun of magazines, people, ideas, etc., without putting something positive into blogland as well. In the larger scope of design, I think accessibility to the masses is lacking. Furnishing your home will be one of the most expensive things you can embark on, and fabric, wallpaper and furniture can be INSANELY pricey. I think well-priced items that you don’t have to put together yourself and won’t fall apart on their own are heavily lacking from the market.
decor8: How do you get through a creative rut?
Robin: I take a break, eat a cupcake, and look through my inspiration binders.
decor8: Let’s say you run into a competitive person who tries to copy your work or in other ways, wants to bring you down. How would you handle them?
Robin: I don’t let negativity permeate me. I’m really proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. Any negativity I encounter I can spin and view as a good thing, because it means I’m getting my work and my words out into the public.
decor8: You need a new outfit, where do you shop and what are your favorite labels?
Robin: I’m a Lorick, Morphine Generation, and Marc by Marc Jacobs junkie. I also am a huge fan of Steven Alan’s button down shirts, and probably would be nude right now if not for American Apparel. When I need a classic dress for a party or an interview, I always go Diane Von Furstenburg. I get all of my skinny jeans from Urban Outfitters and love pairing my Chloe boots (which I got on MAJOR sale) with leggings, an oversized t-shirt from American Apparel, a blazer and my vintage Gucci messenger bag I got at the Hells Kitchen Flea Market. I love mixing sporty with labels, which I always try to get on sale.
decor8: What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
Robin: A point ballet dancer.
decor8: Favorite designers?
Tom Dixon, Miles Redd, Vincente Wolf, Ilse Crawford, Nina Campbell, Nick Olsen.
decor8: What do you do there to recharge yourself in Brooklyn?
Robin: When I’m feeling really stressed out, I like to work on projects that I’ve been thinking about but don’t make time for. I love going to flea markets and restoring pieces of furniture I find. I recently built a vanity to put on brackets and placed it on one of my bedroom walls. I love building and working with my hands. It allows me to zone out of my stresses and focus on something productive.
decor8: Three people (living) that you’d love to have lunch with and why?
Robin: Heather Armstrong (Dooce). I’ve briefly met her once and I love her style of writing. I think she’d be a blast. India Hicks, because I think she’s graceful and intelligent and I’d love to hear what her life growing up was like and Blake Lively, Serena, of Gossip Girl. Because…I mean…COME ON! She’s beautiful! And maybe, just maybe, if we had lunch, she’d realize we were meant to be best friends.
decor8: And finally… What trends do you love and what can you do without?
Robin: I love graphic prints, Lucite, Greek key patterns and white lacquer. I could do without shells and coral. BIG TIME!
(Living room designed by Robin for the Cheap Kit from Aug 08 Domino, shot in NY by Melanie Acevedo)
Thank you so much for chatting with me today on decor8, Robin. It’s so nice to meet you!
Readers: If you have any questions for Robin please ask her via the comments section below.
(images from robin sillau)