Designer Crush: Stefani Stein

1. How did you get your start in design?

I loved interior design from a young age and would design floorplans “for fun” as a child.  Interior Design was actually my first major in college, however, my parents didn’t feel it was practical and steered me in a different direction. I regretted not following my passion and when I was nearing 30, I realized life was too short for regrets and decided to pursue what I loved. So, I left my well-paid corporate gig and started over.  This was definitely a bit scary. Fortunately, after attending the UCLA Interior Architecture program, I landed a position working with a very talented interior designer. Her attention to every minute detail was inspiring and she opened up my eyes to elements of traditional design that I hadn’t previously appreciated.  I feel very fortunate for those couple of years of mentorship.

2. What inspired you to launch your own firm, and what have you learned in the process?

In a way, I stumbled into launching my own firm. I had outgrown the role with my mentor and a few friends had asked for interior design assistance all around the same time.  It was more than I could take on as a side hustle without my day-job suffering, so I thought, why not give it a try on my own?   

The autonomy and creative freedom has been truly rewarding.  Although admittedly I wasn’t initially prepared for all of the administrative elements.  I hadn’t considered the amount of work that went into details, such as sales tax and payroll and whether or not to incorporate, I was just thrilled to be doing my own projects.  I hired a bookkeeper straight away to ensure everything was being handled correctly on the business end. This enabled me to focus my energy on designing. 

Each project is different so you learn something new with every client. On one hand, that can be challenging, but I love the variety and uniqueness of each project.  There is never a dull day!

3. What’s your process for getting to know a client? 

I have a preliminary set of questions that helps me gauge client priorities and preferences. Those questions, paired with the initial consultation, are essential. The consultation is an opportunity for both myself and the client to get to know one another and make sure our personalities jive—sort of like a first date. I tend to trust my instincts based on that initial interaction. This really steers which projects I take and which I pass on. I think I do this well, as many clients have evolved into friends.

4. You put a special emphasis on supporting specialized craftspeople - how do you seek out artists and collaborators to work with? 

The custom elements that go into each project are what make it special and unique. The craftsmen and workrooms I use have been refined over years of trial and error, as well as their reputation within the design community. Those working relationships are essential to a successful outcome.

5. Describe one of your most memorable projects.

That is such a tough question! Each project and client are memorable in their own way. If I had to choose, I think my Silver Lake project will always stand out for me, as it was my first solo project and was also a gut renovation. Seeing my vision for that come to life was both inspiring and confidence-building.  

6. Who is your biggest role model and why?

I’ve been fortunate to have many incredible women in my life—from my grandmother and her innate ability to be on top of all the latest trends, to the incredible women I’ve met in the design community, to friends who are both artists and CEOs.    

Lightning round!

7. First concert?

Madonna!

8. First celebrity crush?

Brad Pitt.

9. Favorite book?

A tie between The Great Gatsby and Jitterbug Perfume.

10. Dream vacation?

I love exploring the architecture and art in each city I visit, especially in Europe.  But I never say no to a warm beach in an exotic locale.