Grad is a Pasadena Showcase House Designer
Born and raised in Miami, Florida, Interior Design Graduate Barbie Palomino is known for designing unique, eclectic, and visually appealing spaces as the Principal of Studio Palomino, a full-service boutique interior design firm specializing in residential and commercial design. Since striking out on her own in 2012, her work has been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, Sunset, and House Beautiful, among others. We recently caught up with Barbie, who is based on the island of Hawai’i, to learn about her design career, entrepreneurship, participating in the 2020 Pasadena Showcase House, and working with celebrity clients like Issa Rae.
What was your path to FIDM? I had wanted to study Interior Design in college, but followed my Dad’s guidance to get a business degree first. Two years after graduating, I still craved a creative outlet and so I started researching design schools on the West Coast. As soon as I learned FIDM offered a one-year AA Professional Designation program, I applied. I actually didn’t apply to any backup schools, so thankfully I was accepted!
Where do you trace your love of interiors to? I can trace my aversion to bad interiors more easily than my love. Like many kids of the eighties, I grew up with a “formal” living room where every piece of furniture was covered in plastic, as if anyone were even allowed to sit there, anyway. When I was maybe 10 or 11, my dad let me “design” custom furniture for my new bedroom — I was hooked. This early introduction into “form follows function” was enlightening at that age, and I quickly learned so much of my happiness and stability was rooted in my environment.
What were some of the most valuable things you learned at FIDM? The most obvious answer for me would be AutoCAD, but before that, hand drafting was a lovely skill to learn and understand. I vividly remember my first trip to the Pacific Design Center to visit the trade showrooms. I was in awe of all the resources and options at my fingertips. The possibilities were endless.
You worked in various roles prior to striking out on your own. How did they help prepare you for entrepreneurship? My first design position after FIDM was for a hospitality firm focusing on brand hotels. After the crash in 2008, I involuntarily took time away from my career and a year or two later I ended up taking an unpaid internship at a design/build firm. I felt urgency to get back into the industry and was willing and able to “pay my dues” again and work my way up. That quickly led to a role as a Project Manager, Interior Designer, and Stager at that firm, and learned so much of the administrative and financial aspects of running my own design business. I met a talented designer while there and our styles were so in sync, that we left to form our own company. Many interior designers are a one-person show, so it’s crucial to wear all the hats before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship. Set yourself up for success!
What do you love most about being the Principal of your own firm? Pride of ownership doesn’t just apply to real estate. I have worked 70-hour weeks, skipped vacations, typed away through celebrations (some at my own home), all in the name of keeping our clients happy and their projects moving forward on time and on budget. And it’s all been worth it! I love what I do, and hope to continue turning houses into homes for decades to come.
Tell us about your experience as a designer for this year's Pasadena Showcase House of Design: A lot of stars aligned to make participating this year possible for my team. My first choice space was the Live/Work Loft upstairs and we were so happy when we were accepted. The design had to happen fast, and there were a couple all-nighters where one of us plugged away at renderings while another burned her fingertips with the hot glue gun. Of course, we had no idea 2020 would develop as it did, so we didn’t end up with the traditional Pasadena Showcase House experience with social distancing and a pandemic raging. Everyone on the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts team is a rock star, and they really pulled together and made it shine virtually.
You also worked with Issa Rae not too long ago. What was that collaboration like? I’m still a bit in disbelief about it, to be honest. I’m not one who gets star struck, but when you’re in such a talented celebrity’s home and they can make you feel so welcome and appreciated, that’s really something. She’s a brilliant and powerful woman, and I was doubly honored to be tapped to design their production offices in LA.
What projects are you currently working on? We just wrapped up three kitchen projects in LA, pandemic be damned. We’re currently working on a 4,400 square-foot mid-century modern home on the outskirts of LA that we have demolished down to the studs. City delays have set us months behind schedule, but when it does finally wrap up I expect it to be quite the showpiece, if I do say so myself. We’re also really excited about a West Hollywood condo remodel with modern Parisian vibes that will be completed a week or two into 2021.
Learn more at studio-palomino.com and on Instagram @thedesignstalker.