My adventure of becoming a furniture designer is a tale of magic.
The year was 2007. I was knee–deep in an industry doing work that gave me a lot of recognition and status, but it was killing me. I was having dreams at night and they were showing me beautiful glimpses of what my next career could be. At that time, I didn’t even know what the word destiny meant.
These dreams happened often. Most of them came at 2am or 3am when I was half–asleep and dead–tired from working the phones internationally. When I closed my eyes, I would see interior designs. Specifically, they were fully–designed living rooms and I could see the furniture, fabrics, tapestry, upholstery, ceiling moldings, staircase design, cabinetry, as well as the view. It was like flipping through an interior design magazine! I could even zoom in and out.
One of the coolest dreams I had was seeing a luxury–designed living room overlooking the sea. The details of that room are fuzzy now (I didn’t sketch it down) but what I remember is the red sofa. I also distinctly knew it was Barcelona and a photograph of this room would appear on the cover of Architectural Digest. The designer of that room would be me.
Soon, I started getting up to sketch these “downloads” because if I didn’t capture them within a few seconds, they’d disappear from my mind’s eye forever. Just before the image dissolved or faded into the next one, I’d try to remember the most distinct detail about what I saw and drew those into my sketchbook. As long as I captured the most striking detail, I could build or reimagine the design around it afterwards during waking hours.
And mind you, my sketches were horrendous (and still are)! First, I was making them half–asleep. Second, I could barely draw at the time. My sketchbooks were filled with what looked like stick figure furniture. Details looked like spirals that one scratches on paper to see if a pen has run out of ink. But I would LOL and keep going!
Chairs started coming into my dreams almost exclusively. By 2012, I had come up with my first fully–designed chair that started from dream to pencil sketch and then rendered with Illustrator. Named La Duchesse (The Duchess), it was inspired by one of my favorite women in the world, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton), who had married Prince William the year before.
I loved my Duchess chair and thought it was the coolest thing ever! But I was too afraid to make it real. More than simply lack of courage, I was deathly afraid someone would sit on my furniture and somehow the piece would break. The person would hurt themselves and I would get sued for it. The fear was so strong and felt so real that it stopped me from moving forward.
Making furniture also didn’t feel easily profitable. At the time, I was more interested in making products that would fast–track me to riches. Silly me, I abandoned the furniture and took myself into the diamond jewelry business. I wanted to design diamond engagement rings and diamond scarf rings thinking wearers of Hermès would buy my accessories to adorn their scarves with.
How easy it was to design jewelry in comparison to designing furniture. With jewelry, I could make up just about anything: the sky was the limit with the sheer ostentatiousness, variety, size and proportion that I could imagine!
But I was incredibly bored. My heart fell asleep. My mind felt worn down to a nub like a pencil that hadn’t been sharpened in centuries and could no longer make a stroke. My mind couldn’t understand why I couldn’t make jewelry design work because if it did, I’d never have to face my fears! But I just don’t love jewelry design.
My heart loves furniture.
When that realization hit me, I scrapped the jewelry then began researching furniture manufacturers: from Houston to North Carolina, to Portugal, to France, to U.K., to Indonesia, to Italy.
I remember getting up super early in the morning to make phone calls to Europe, even hiring a translator to help me make contact with manufacturers that didn’t speak English, particularly in Italy. For companies that didn’t have a website and never answered their phones, I booked a trip there to walk the streets of Milan, seeing who and what I could find.
A year later, I found the perfect furniture factory. It felt like going home. Upon seeing La Duchesse and the other designs I presented, I still celebrate the sense of validation I received from these industry titans. They said regarding my work, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen this.”
My heart burst into a giant hot air balloon that instantly took flight into the cosmos. This itty bitty dream I had, which I’m still not sure is mine because it birthed from out of nowhere, found recognition. It was like my heart knew where it belonged and found home for me instead of me trying to make it up myself.
Following my visit to the furniture manufacturer, I became busy at work, creating my first collection of fifteen pieces, all “runway”–worthy, all drop–dead gorgeous, including a newly reimagined La Duchesse collection with an armchair and a settee.
So bold was I that I started seeking startup capital to launch all my pieces into the marketplace. I needed money to prototype, to market, to operate, to hire, to sell, to promote. I thought I had struck jackpot when one of the world’s richest families from the Middle East contacted me asking if I needed capital. They asked me how much and I said, “$4 million.”
With operational information and financial projections sent their way, and after a year of discussion, they came back with a response. I got a yes. I was terrified. My body was shaking and I nearly hyperventilated.
When the yes finally came, I had been hanging my hopes on this money for many long months. My spirit guides kept telling me to have faith and that the money was coming. But then something screwy happened and the universe stepped in. I was guided to abandon this money and opportunity for reasons that I can’t say here.
I remember praying to Jesus, who I rely on often as a guide. In my hand was an oracle deck that I knew well and I said, “Jesus, if I’m meant to walk away from this situation, please show me the card called Move On.”
A card flew out of the deck.
It was the card Move On.
So I moved on.
But it wasn’t like I just picked up and walked away, cool as a cucumber. I kicked and screamed at the universe before I walked out that door. The ending of that chapter was one of the most challenging tests for me. The heartbreak was so mighty that I almost wanted my life to end. I honestly felt lied to. How could I ever trust the universe again and what other business endeavors could I possibly initiate if the universe was going to lie to me like that?
I felt the universe was playing games with me, bringing this investor into my life, guiding me all along this path, having my spirit guides repeatedly tell me over the year that this money was arriving, only to snatch it away at the last second.
I remember screaming at my spirit guides, “What the F are you all doing up there?” I wish I was told to walk away from the start, not more than a year later. (As it turned out, I had a negative, sabotaging spirit guide on my team who a healer helped me to send away.) In hindsight, the universe was also protecting me from a potentially unsafe situation.
I did a lot of healing after this experience and the wisdom that came to me was that perhaps I was meant to fund my dreams myself. It was also not the right time, not the right people. Maybe I’m that right person. I decided to stop seeking capital from the outside.
Not long after, my father passed away. He had left me a bit of money and I invested it into my furniture business and funded my first prototype.
Before he died, one of the last conversations we had was about a show in Milan. A Portuguese furniture manufacturer commissioned a chair design from me and they would exhibit it at Milan’s largest furniture fair called Salone del Mobile. My dad said he was so proud of me. I asked him to stay so he can enjoy the blessings and abundance I hoped to shower upon him.
But he couldn’t stay.
After he passed away, I lost so much of my creative courage. I hadn’t realized that he was the soul partner that I shared much of my adventures with. He, too, was a big dreamer and visionary, and we used to sit around sharing ideas of what we were going to create.
He was a bit crazy and reckless in business which rubbed off on me to take crazy risks too, as if we were being foolish together. Without him, the force behind me to live life daringly was gone. I retreated into a shell, healing myself so thoroughly so that I feel safe to risk again.
I’m making my way back and am nearly there. 🙂
In many ways, my journey into furniture design has barely started. I only have one product in the marketplace via the commissioned chair from the Portuguese manufacturer. So thankful I am for the opportunity to be regarded and presented on the world stage, but the design isn’t me. With my own collection, my prototype ran into a ton of snags and is stuck on the production floor.
My sketches are still sleeping two–dimensionally on my pages or on my computer screen, invisible to the world. I feel as if my heart is still locked away from those who I most want to connect with through my furniture—because I can’t share my genius until the products are ready to market.
All my career, I have been in the services industry, which meant I could birth a business overnight. With my website design and phone sales skills, I could throw a site on the internet and be open for business within hours, and I did that over the years as necessary.
The biggest challenge for me with switching to a product–based business was the amount of time, resources, and partnership needed to get something started. I couldn’t be a lone wolf here as I’ve always been. Everything was about alignment, divine timing, and divine partnership.
There was also money. Jewelry making, as I saw, was simple and inexpensive to start, which is why my logical mind took me there. But with furniture, the investment needed is a lot more costly, especially when I am not mass manufacturing and am committed to luxury–level hand craftsmanship.
For those wondering if I had studied furniture design before—I did not. I didn’t even study product design. What I had studied was Communications Design (graphic design) at Parsons School of Design in New York.
When I started my journey, it didn’t bother me that I never studied furniture design before. I hadn’t even studied jewelry design before and I hired CAD experts and worked with the factory to realize my visions. My knowledge of furniture was basically zero (and still is). And that’s okay. I knew I could design the furniture and hand off my sketches to the manufacturers who could figure out all the steps toward production and completion.
That’s the thing about product creation: we don’t have to know in advance how to get there because there are plenty of specialists who do. Or, we’d figure it out together.
If I had labored myself into figuring out how each part would join together, and with what, and how, and all of that, my vision would probably have been lost or compromised in that process. I would have overthought it to death or to banality.
It would be better for me to dream up perfection and then be told by specialists what could or couldn’t be accomplished. They could also provide expert guidance on how to revise the design for ease of accomplishment or for cutting down costs.
Entrepreneurs don’t need to know everything. They just need to know who to ask. I like to go into creativity with the least knowledge possible so that all options are open to me. If I don’t know, then I don’t know what would be “wrong” and therefore, magical solutions appear!
With the mind of a novice, I am not burdened by boundaries or what is or isn’t possible. In that way, I hope to continue being a novice and staying at the edge of not knowing. This is how we can continue to take bold, creative risks and come from a fresh perspective.
I’m still healing a broken heart but thank goodness that I’ve come such a long way. My heart is still drunk with love with my furniture and the potential surrounding me but my attachment to the outcome is not really there anymore. If I succeed, it will be like having all the vegan chocolate in the world delivered to my doorstep at once. But if I fail or if it never happens, the sweetness is already inside my heart.
But I know this is my destiny, too. It can’t not happen because it’s in the stars, I know. 🙂
I hope this has inspired you with courage and inspiration, should you be interested in becoming a furniture designer.