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  • Writer's pictureChristina Mariani

A Sneak Peak Inside the Mind of a Designer: A short origin story

Updated: Jan 30, 2023

People: So, how long have you been a designer?

Me: Blank stare. I'm sorry? I do not understand the question.

I came out of the womb as a designer.

People: Excuse me? Blank stares and then chuckles of awkwardness.

Me: *Thinking about walking away because I know they’re not ready for the long answer…

I’ve been decorating and designing every thing I could touch since as long as I can remember.

As a child, I would go to my mom’s friend, Teresa’s house to learn how to decorate cakes. It was such an art. We would make roses out of frosting.

My grandpa was a carpenter and taught me how to draw floor plans at a very young age. My old childhood sketchbooks are full of floorplans, libraries, home exteriors and landscape designs.

For fun as a teenager, I would ride my bike and walk around the neighborhood, silently critiquing, and taking notes on pleasing landscaping plans and residential architecture. This has continued to be my favorite past-time… decades later.

Young Designer

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of me attempting to advise my parents on which furniture to buy, whilst I was very, very young. I think they stopped taking me to furniture stores with them fairly early on because I was probably a major headache. Most adults probably do not appreciate an 8-year-old telling them which leather sectional to purchase, nor the extreme upset aftermath that followed when such expert recommendations were disregarded.

I still remember being appalled that they did not buy the chrome toilet paper holder stand that I selected for the bathroom (this was probably 1999). ***I love you Mom and Dad!! They had to advise me repeatedly throughout the years that: "when I get my own place, I can get a dog and I will enjoy full creative freedom to make all of the design decisions my heart ever desired."

(My first and only criteria established for my future husband while I was growing up, was that he did not in any way attempt to limit or restrict my design freedom.)

And so my three biggest goals in life became crystal clear, early on...

1) get my own place so that...

A) I can finally get a dog and,

B) I can design and decorate to my heart’s content. Gahhh! I could hardly wait for adulthood!

While in college, I became addicted to designing websites, event fliers, decorating for events, designing logos and social media pages, especially Instagram pages. I enjoyed the process of creating brand color palettes and achieving a cohesive look across all platforms. This was a temporary outlet.

When I finally got my own place after college, the pure bliss of creative design freedom overtook me significantly, after 24 years of design suppression. It sort of manifested as an explosion. I transformed every single inch of my first apartment into an unimaginable space. I used wallpaper from Walmart and peel-N- stick murals from Amazon to achieve a grand transformation, on a small budget with minimal tools. This was only the beginning.

My first apartment

Early Career Conflicts

As I started in my (unrelated) career, I got into some trouble re-designing the office spaces of every job I ever held. Some of my supervisors and coworkers loved it; others were mildly to severely annoyed.

At my first corporate job, I became best friends with the maintenance department and achieved coat racks and storage installation in strategic locations to reduce the trip hazard of coats and bags, which were constantly piled up in the corner, near a high traffic-flow doorway. Apparently, everyone else who had requested this in the decades prior, had trouble getting it approved or completed. I proceeded to re-arrange furniture and create proper workstations until traffic flow, organization, function, and productivity were ultimately maximized. I added a motivational and morale-building bulletin board with birthdays and placed décor wherever possible. I started a “say something nice box,” where coworkers could submit anonymous Thank You’s and Shout Outs and we would read them out loud together as a team once per week. This was to help combat issues of morale and employee retention.

We sat around the conference room table, smiling and laughing like this team pictured above. This was a huge transformation from a very toxic work environment full of drama and agression of all kinds.

At my second corporate job, I created a no-cost, easily implementable plan that resolved safety issues stemming from broken and improperly scaled furniture, misused storage closets, rooms and cabinets, which were all contributing to employee traffic flow issues, major safety hazards, and serious barriers to communication and productivity. My immediate management did not appreciate this proposal, although the CNO highly approved. Middle management and tenured faculty sabatoged the plan due to their intolerance of change and I left as soon as I realized my time, energy, talent, skills and intelligence were being wasted there.

At my third corporate job, I finally acquired my own office and was able to shut out all of the nonsense and politics. I was able to organize and design the space perfectly for maximum efficiency, ergonomic comfort, and aesthetic appeal. However, there was no window in my office. This will always be a deal-breaker for me. Our department was also imploding and there was a mass exodus of employees. Joining them was a no-brainer decision for me on many accounts.

It quickly became apparent that I am physically unable to work in a poorly designed space. If I am not given the freedom to fix it, intense irritability will fume out of me until I leave the premises permanently. When I try to stay and tolerate the situation, design frustration turns into intense rage, bitterness and resentment towards every barrier to improvement until I become physically ill. It is not pretty, nor is it healthy.

This brings us to my fourth corporate job, which involved deliverance from the office politics via a dream work-from-home position. It was a timely answered prayer that allowed me to finally be at home, surrounded by my plants and dogs; able to eat every 2 hours, use the ladies' room as often as needed and step outside when in need of a breath of fresh air. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is real!

Within one month of working from home, I had redesigned my entire kitchen and bathroom and was obtaining quotes from contractors for full renovations. No longer did I have to request a day off of work 30 days in advance just to get new floors installed or furniture delivered! I had to pinch myself; it seemed too good to be true.

My first home was a mid-century modern redbrick ranch, and I enjoyed completing many updates on it. I achieved a refreshing mid-century modern aesthetic mixed with magical boho vibes. When I felt ready to move onto the next design project, I sold my first home, and I set out to find the charming tudor that I had been pinning to my Pinterest boards for the prior decade. I enjoyed renting in picturesque historic communities during my search for "the One."

And here it is... In all of its glory

As a designer, I am a firm believer in the existence of a "perfect match."

This goes for everything in life: the house, the dog, the partner, the job, the career, the business, the investment, the nonprofit, the piece of furniture, the paint color, the outfit for a particular occasion...

There is a perfect match for everything.

This is much different than shoot for vague or vain, unachievable "perfection." Perfection may not exist, but the perfect match always does.

It's only a matter of how much time, energy, and patience you are willing to invest into finding it.

Personally, I thrive off of the hunt. I am married to the process. I would rather go without, than settle for the wrong one. If I haven't found the "right one" yet it's because it is just not time. I will do my part to figure out how I could be contributing to a delay in the process, and I will remain committed to the hunt and the wait without wavering. The perfect match has never, ever, disappointed me. I am always willing to wait forever for it, and it always shows up in God's perfect timing.

To follow my treasure hunting chronicles, or for more specific updates on the Charming Tudor Project, visit the "Interior Design" page of this website. Project video updates and reels are posted primarily to Instagram @christinamarianidesign.

I pray that this short, personal origin story inspires you and provides clarity on your own path to finding your purposes. And I pray that you are able to make time to chase all of the things you are most passionate about.

Cheers to all of my fellow home remodeling addicts! May our souls experience the most rewarding satisfaction with each and every completed project we are able to add to our portfolio of accomplishments.

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