Rising star designer Raquel Montolio is a student at Nassau Community College and the winner of our Casaza contest to find the next great interior designer. We chatted about her studies, nature-inspired design, and the Eames house.
Q&A With Raquel Montolio
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Raquel Montolio: I currently attend Nassau Community College as a design major. I first started as an engineering student but I was craving a little more than just numbers. My first semester of design was amazing and I felt at home immediately. I still have a year to finish my associates and I’m excited to continue my education and build my career.
When I graduate I will help rebuild my family’s home in Puerto Rico, which was built by my great-grandfather and destroyed by Hurricane Maria. My education at NCC has prepared me to start my career after my education and utilize my skills to help my family.
C: How would you describe your style?
RM: My style is practical and comfortable. I love contrasting light colors with rustic wood elements. Comfort and functionality are important to me; the two are the foundation of my style. I’m still fairly new to this field, and I’m sure my style will evolve with my experience.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
RM: Nature is what inspires me, the fresh air and earthy colors clear my mind. There is a hiking trail I like to walk often that brings me inspiration. When the seasons change it’s like a completely different trail and that really helps me think of all the possibilities there can be in one room.
C: Favorite room in the house?
RM: I cherish the living room because its a place for gatherings of family and friends. Also, it’s my favorite room to design because its a space in the house that the entire family can enjoy. One of my favorite parts of design is problem-solving and making the space functional.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
RM: I don’t believe in using the same metal finish throughout a room. Matching all fixtures/ appliances is traditional and can look too clinical. The trick is to make the metals look unmistakably different.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
RM: The Hudson Yards Vessel project has inspired me not only because of their sustainability practices but for their way of utilizing space. This megaproject sits on top of the rail yards by 10th and 11th Avenues, and 30th and 34th streets in New York City. I admire the way they are rebranding the neighborhood with projects like these.
C: Favorite texture/pattern/color?
RM: I love smooth textures like satins and silks, reflective materials can make the space seem lighter and bigger. I personally like those textures because of there soft qualities. Geometric patterns are visually interesting and can be a powerful statement. My go-to colors are earth tones because there are calming.
C: What is “good design” to you?
RM: Good design to me is when everything in the room is scaled correctly. The furniture of the space can easily be too big or too small. For example, if you have a small living space you should not pair it with an oversized sectional. This makes the space seem smaller than it is.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
RM: The Eames House, in Los Angeles. They believed the details were the product. The house utilized the natural surroundings beautifully. Charles Eames said, “Just as a good host tries to anticipate the needs of his guest, so a good architect or a designer or a city planner tries to anticipate the needs of those who will live in or use the thing being designed.” I share the Eames view of solving the problems of consumers.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
RM: Music is key! Make a playlist of background music to liven up the party.
C: Best advice for DIYers?
RM: Improving lighting in your workspace is key to any successful project. This may seem basic, but it is often overlooked by many DIYers. Having sufficient lighting is important to anything that involves detail or precision work. The use of headlamps can solve this problem especially if you’re working in a confined space.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
RM: Make a connection with the professional to ensure proper communication. Meet face to face and make sure that they answer your questions satisfactorily. Check your local Better Business Bureau before you hire a pro to make sure they don’t have a history of disputes with clients.
C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
RM: Natural and industrial blend enthusiasm. I’m thrilled about the natural and industrial blend trend, visible all over Brooklyn. The use of wall-mounted plants, cement countertops and floors, greenery walls, and wood furniture bring in nature with the sleek simplicity of industrial design. The element of plant life tones down the harsh edges of the industrial design.
C: How do you take your coffee?
RM: Light and sweet with almond milk.