All you aspiring interior designers are in for a treat today! So far the career spotlights have covered women in clothing, home decor, jewelry, social media, and weddings so I felt it was high time to share one of my favorite interior design duos. I “met” Alyssa Kapito and Vivian Muller through Instagram, where they tagged a Design Darling business card holder on Alyssa’s desk which led me to discover their beautiful design work. I was so excited to meet them in person and just as excited to see Alyssa’s home / office in person — serious inspiration for anyone who’s self-employed! I love that they met while working for another designer and knew one day they’d collaborate and launch their own firm. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did!
Alyssa: I started out in the art world. As I was doing my Master’s thesis on Renaissance art, I realized I loved interior design and really wanted to try it. I applied to intern at Bunny Williams, which was a perfect first job — I loved it there. Then I met Vivian and we clicked immediately. We knew if we ever started our own firm, we would do it together. We’ve been at it now for a year and a half!
That’s so exciting! What does a typical day look like for you?
Alyssa: We wake up pretty early and have a client meeting in the morning; we try to space them out throughout the day. We go to the D&D building to look at fabrics or to different showrooms depending on the project — Waterworks for a bathroom, a marble yard for a kitchen, etc.
Vivian: It’s very busy! Sometimes we divide and conquer. But we’re on the phone with each other until at least nine o’clock at night.
It must be awesome to have each other as a sounding board for every project. Where do you start when you’re working with a new client?
Vivian: The first thing we do is get a sense of the client’s personality and style. We actually send them over to Pinterest and ask them to start pinning spaces they like. It’s a very visual platform and an easy way to get a feel for someone’s aesthetic, what they respond to, and what they don’t.
Alyssa: Once we see the space, we always know exactly what we want to do with it and tailor that plan to what the client wants. We don’t like to rush it — we want people to have the perfect pieces, which requires searching and waiting. A small design project might take three months, whereas a gut renovation could take a year and a half.
Is it hard to juggle so many different projects at once? How do you stay organized?
Vivian: Everything is online — we’re totally paperless. It’s so much easier to find a purchase order on your laptop than in a closet full of papers.
Alyssa: Vivian’s incredibly organized. She makes Excel spreadsheets for our clients with schedules, timelines, budgets… She really makes sure each project is on track.
Besides Pinterest, how else do you get inspired?
Vivian: We both love discovering new places, whether that’s traveling to a new city or trying a new restaurant. Commercial spaces can be really inspiring. We’ll see something at a new hotel and think, “Could this work in someone’s apartment?”
Alyssa: And we love Instagram. The design community is small and really engaged — we can see what other designers are doing and get immediate feedback from our audience.
Is your average client pretty active on social media?
Alyssa: They’re all young and fun — late twenties to mid thirties, some with young kids… We love our clients! They have different personalities and tastes but come to us for a certain aesthetic.
And how would you describe your aesthetic?
Alyssa: Clean, tailored, chic, with something a little eclectic for good measure.
That’s really the perfect description. Take your apartment: lots of neutrals but with interesting texture and cool details like Hermès boxes and that Kate Moss illustration. I love it! What are some of your goals for the business in the coming years?
Vivian: We definitely want to do a product line eventually but right now we’re just developing our signature style. We’re all about slow and steady progress!
Alyssa: I think we’re doing pretty well. Right now we’re primarily based in Manhattan but we’d love to expand nationally and internationally. If we could do an apartment in Paris, I think I’d die happy.
Is that when you know you’ve made it?
Vivian: Yes! And decorating for the cover of Elle Decor or Architectural Digest.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way! What’s one “pinch me” moment you’ve had so far?
Alyssa: When we met Steven Gambrel. I love his work.
Vivian: Or Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Sweetest person ever!
What’s your advice for someone who wants to go into the design business? Alyssa: Be prepared to wear a lot of hats. Talk to people, learn from their experience and what they found hard in the beginning. And if you’re motivated and talented, at some point you just have to go for it! Vivian: If you have a business partner, bounce everything off each other. That’s the best part of having a partner — having a second opinion and getting to be two places at once so that every client gets the proper attention. Alyssa: Vivian’s more business-minded and I’m more focused on design, but we both ask each other questions constantly. It’s a little like a marriage — you have to find someone who really complements you!
What’s the most fun part of your job? Alyssa: The best part is the moment when your colors and fabrics come tighter, right before you present it to your client, when you know it’s really good. Vivian: Our job really is fun. It’s probably half design work and half paperwork, but it never gets old. The design industry is constantly changing, which keeps it exciting. Alyssa: We really love it. It doesn’t always feel like we’re working. Sometimes it does, but definitely not always!