Elena Calabrese was exposed to design at a young age through her fashion designer mother and father who worked as a contractor. She went on to earn a BFA from California College of the Arts and studied Interior Design at The University of California Berkeley. After studying metal arts and sculpture, Elena started her endeavors in the fashion industry, working for DKNY in New York City and designing accessories for large companies in the Bay Area. We sat down with Elena to discuss her design aesthetic, understanding her strengths and the importance of being flexible.
Take us back to the beginning. What led you to become a designer?
Being the daughter of a builder and fashion designer I was exposed to both sides of interior design at a young age. My first career was an accessory designer working with large companies in the Bay Area. After the purchase and remodel of our first home, I realized that I wanted to change my creative direction to interiors. I studied at UC Berkeley’s interior design program and opened my firm in 2009.
What word would you use to describe your aesthetic, and how is it integrated into your projects?
Earthy chic. I like modern architectural elements, clean lines, but with lots of texture and warmth. Natural materials in modern forms, always appeal to my “California” eye.
“If we are in the building process and there are more eco-friendly options I always will opt to use them.”
What would you consider to be the biggest change in the field of design since you opened your firm?
Learning how to do the parts I love and hiring the right people to do the parts I don’t love. Everyone has their strengths and understanding that none of us are really meant to do it all!
How does environmental sustainability factor into your projects?
It varies from project to project, but I am not a big believer in waste. If we can reupholster a great piece of furniture instead of buying new I frequently suggest it. If we are in the building process and there are more eco-friendly options I always will opt to use them.
What advice would you give to those just entering the design industry today?
Be creative and open on how you set up your business. The industry is changing rapidly (along with everything else) so you need the need to be flexible is important. Do what you love and trust your intuition in everything you do.