Sandy: I'm so glad you could interview today. I'm very inspired by your new business, and I think my followers will be as well. So Christina, I obviously know a lot about you from being friends with you, and just a little bit about your journey to becoming an interior designer, but would you want to speak a little bit about what your journey was, from finding the seeds of maybe what your passion and calling was, to actually getting there and doing it?
Christina: Yeah, absolutely. And thanks for having me, I am honored, and I always am really excited to talk to people about this, because I’m really just like everyone else. Everyone has dreams, everyone has goals, and it really is just putting one foot in front of the other, in terms of getting there. It takes time.
So for me, this passion started from a young age. My parents had a designer for our home that we lived in for 30 years. They were constantly evolving this home. Me being the youngest, I would constantly follow them around, hold the clipboard, hold the tape measure, and give them my two cents. It was fun! I knew I loved remodeling, building, and trying to envision things like the existing kitchen, and how you could change it, and which direction it could face, and what window worked best, etc.
So I just had that mindset, knowing that that was something I really loved. For a long time, I called it a guilty pleasure, and I kept wondering why I'm calling this a guilty pleasure when it's truly something I really love to do. So, I went on to college, and studied broadcast journalism. I also love to do that, although I just didn't have the glamorous look day-to-day. I couldn't do the 2 A.M. wake up, with hair up to the sky and the makeup all ready to go. It just wasn't a lifestyle that really fit who I am. I like to kind of get down to the nitty gritty, which is a little bit more on the contracting and building side of design.
Anyways, I knew I wanted to be a designer my whole life, but I thought I'd put it on hold until later in life, when I could have a family, and work maybe from home. I thought I'd put my time in my 20’s more into the corporate world, so I started working in advertising when I graduated from college. That was wonderful, a really good experience for me, and just good business to business experience, that I think everyone needs.
I sort of just trusted the path and followed it, and I knew, again, in the back of my head, I would always do design. So, I started a blog that I'm pretty sure only my mom and I read. It was a place for me to put my thoughts down in terms of fashion and design culture. I would do that on my lunch break and at night, when I'd come home from work. That was something that I always did to keep myself going, in terms of my passion for design while I was in advertising.
Then I realized, maybe I should take this a little further, and go to school, see if I liked that. So I enrolled in classes at UCLA, and I did classes after work from 6 to 9 P.M., which was grueling, but it was what I wanted to do. The dedication, and the passion I had for design, it was just very apparent. So as I took these courses and did the blog, my energy started to shift toward design. I started talking to different people that I knew in design, and there was just no doubt at that point that that's what I wanted to be doing.
So that's sort of my path, how I got there. I started working for a firm after school, after I finished my program at UCLA for design, in Manhattan Beach, and then evolved from there. I worked for another firm after that, and now I'm on my own.
Sandy: That's so awesome! I'm so happy to see you spreading your wings, and as your friend prior to you being in the career path of interior design, I so admired your style and your eye for design in really every aspect of your life, so I'm happy to see you pursuing that.
Christina: Thanks Sandy. It's funny, because, we would spend so much time together in our early 20s or mid-20s, talking about how to get where we ultimately see ourselves, and as I found out, it really is just putting one foot in front of the other, and staying focused. I think focus is huge, and that goes with everything in life that you want to pursue. One thing you had taught me that has helped me get to where I am, is to actively envision what you want your life to look like, and to not just envision it in your mind, but to make a Pinterest board about it, and use that to stay laser-focused on what you want. When you start molding that in your head and in your mind, and in your heart, it comes to you. That's the life you want to live, and that's what you'll do.
Sandy: Yeah, it's so true. And I love how you really did that. This journey of yours really started from taking those small baby steps, like starting your blog that you didn't even create to become famous, or anything like that. You started it for you, because you thought it was fun, and I'm sure more people read it than you even thought, but it starts from doing these things that just sound fun, you know?
Christina: Yeah, it's funny. I started to think I had a passion for photography at one point, and now I realize that it wasn’t the photography that I was necessarily passionate about, it was the ability to tell a unique story that really captured my interest. When I look at this bigger-picture mission of sharing unique stories, I can see why I was interested in broadcast journalism, too. Telling unique stories is what I do with design as well, just in a different way.
Along my path, I allowed myself to do what felt exciting. I never would tell myself no. If I wanted to pick up the camera and take a picture of somebody, or do a photo shoot, I realized it could be a clue to the bigger picture, so I let myself do that. I think all of those small steps led me to being an interior designer, it all kind of came together for me.
Sandy: Yeah, I can totally see that. And, the photography definitely is a part of even what you do today, since you showcase your work on Instagram, right? So, I'm sure it helps.
Christina: Yeah, photography too, absolutely. It's all very creative, and I think the advice I would give people is, to be kind to yourself, never tell yourself no if something seems exciting, and try to think positive thoughts ... You've taught me that. Speaking positive to yourself, being kind to yourself, and telling yourself good things, that will get you so far. And it's so easy to look at what we don't have - the glass half empty perspective, and I think the more positive you are and the more focused you are, the more your dream comes in to play. It all starts to form from there.
Always allow yourself to do what you feel. If you want to go paint, on a canvas in your garage, or whatnot, go do it, because that's what you need to do, that's what you're interested in. And you never know where it can take you.
Sandy: Yeah, for sure. So now that you're doing your own thing, what's your favorite thing about owning your own business, being on your own, and really living a career of your dreams?
Christina: Being on your own is such an exciting thing! I love everything about it, and also, everything about it scares me too. But when I say scares, I mean the right kind of scare. Not scares me away kind of scary, it’s the feeling of wanting to get up and attack it every day.
Sandy: Yeah, I talked to my followers about the difference between good scared and bad scared. The good one is a feeling you get when something that is a little or a lot outside of your comfort zone. This feeling can indicate that you are meant to go towards it, or to lean into it, because you can’t reach your destiny without growth and pushing past your comfort zone.
Christina: I think the most important thing you said is lean into it. I think that's exactly what you have to do. For me, I didn't think I was ready to go on my own at first, but I made the decision to go on my own six months ago because I had a really awesome opportunity - a client approached me with a 10,000-square-foot home to design. Any size home would have done it for me, really, but this especially warranted the leap. The client really wanted to work with just me, which was exhilarating, I was honored that they had so much faith in my work.
I realized, I had no reason to not be working with them on my own. If they want to work with me, I should absolutely take this opportunity to work with them. It was a big enough project that I would be able to start my company, and sustain business for more than a year, so having that opportunity was sort of what pushed me to go onto my own. I knew I'd have a guaranteed year's-worth of business, and an opportunity to create a roadmap, as well as work on my marketing, my website, and everything that you need to do to start a business. It wasn't just a furniture project, it's a construction project, so it was fairly extensive. The time frame of the project was going to be a perfect amount of time for me to focus on starting a company.
Anyways, that's really what pushed me on my own; getting the right client. I think timing is everything. If I didn't have this client approach me, I would probably have stayed with my firm. I recommend being with a firm, and learning as much as you can until the right opportunity presents itself. But it's kind of that cliché, kitschy quote that's out there, you don't want to miss an opportunity, you know what I mean? That was sort of how I felt about this job, and it was the right thing.
So again, timing, and I'd say, the best thing about being on my own is the challenges that I'm experiencing day to day; internally, I'm making these big decisions, and I don't have somebody to bounce them off of. But I'm a professional, I'm educated, and I know exactly what I'm doing, so there's no reason for me not to have confidence in what I'm doing.
Sandy: That's awesome. Yeah, and all of the training and education that you had has really probably helped you with that confidence.
Christina: Yeah. And the other thing is, people ... We're living in a bit of a cruel world. Everyone's rooting for you, but at the same time, internally in the industry, you are now not ... You're friends with all the other designers, but you're also their competition. And I think there's a graceful way of handling that, and sort of my thing, and generationally, I don't know if this will change, but I hope that, for me, I'm not really seeing it as competition, I really am just having so much fun. We don't even really see that side of things.
When I’m in the showrooms people will come up to me and say, "Oh, well now you're competition for other designers." And I don't even go there in my head, because it almost stifles my creativity. I am really enjoying being a designer for my clients, so I’m trying to stay focused on that. Hands down, that's what it comes down to. And if I'm not having fun doing this, then I'm in the wrong business.
Christina: I was having a conversation earlier today with my dad about business and how it's going, and I told him, "It's going so well, and knock on wood, I'm just having a ball." And he said, "Good, because if you aren't having fun, you're in the wrong business." And that's all that's important. I mean, not every day is fun, but overall, if you aren't enjoying it, then it's not for you.
Sandy: I agree.
Christina: You and I talked about it a lot years back. If you don't enjoy the marketplace, and don’t think about how to further yourself in that industry, then it's probably not the fit for you. But it doesn't mean to make a knee-jerk reaction and just pull out of it. Take time, listen to yourself.
Sandy: Yeah, I think that's so key, because so many people just bail out and then take just a random stab at the next thing instead of really doing some introspection on what they like, what their passions are, and trying to find those clues that lead to what they're meant to do.
Sandy: Well thank you so much for all your wisdom, and sharing your journey with us.
Christina: Yes, anytime. I'm honored, and totally open to speaking with anyone one-on-one that might be more interested after this conversation.
Sandy: That's so great, thank you so much.