Lydia Manalo went to school for fashion design, but today she uses her eye not for outfits but to outfit a room as the owner of Lydia Manalo Interior Design. Manalo spoke with The Frederick News-Post recently about how her fashion background influences her work, and how she sometimes persuades clients to go a little further than they might otherwise.
How did you get interested in interior design?
I was originally a teacher in Frederick County, and I moved to Boston to go to fashion design school. And after a year of fashion design school, I decided I wanted to do interior design. So I went to Suffolk University, which is the New England School of Art and Design, and did all the master’s coursework for interior design. But I came to interior design kind of through fashion and my love of textiles and color and pattern and texture, and then how it relates to an environment.
What is the secret to putting together a room? How do you like to work?
I typically come at it from a practical standpoint at first, to see how the room is going to be used. And then after that, I usually get a feel of a color palette and things of that nature and try to make it a cohesive environment. I tend to mix things, modern and traditional, or I like to mix different time periods and different aesthetic styles within a room. Maybe a midcentury-style sofa with a French chair.
It’s all about layering, and it’s all about layering different types of fabric, maybe patterns, and then solids with texture. It’s just all about layering color, and layering other elements and objects in a room to create a vibe. I’m always looking to create a feeling in a room. I don’t like just rooms that are just sort of pretty but there’s no soul or feeling there. For me, it’s all about the feeling that you get when you’ve entered the room. So it’s a matter of using those elements to create a feeling, a genuine, authentic, real experience in the space.
How does your fashion background fit into your work?
I try to stay current on what colors are popular. But I really don’t get pigeonholed into any sort of rules when it comes to color. I love color, so I try to push the limits a little bit with color, and maybe pair colors that you wouldn’t normally see together, but when put together they create an interesting appearance.
Do you have a period or era that really appeals to you?
I really do love midcentury forms and designs, but I’m also really, really inspired by art deco of the 1920s, and kind of that glam, glamorous feeling that you get with the materials that they used and kind of the shiny, reflective materials of the ‘20s. But I also am really inspired by the modern movement, the midcentury movement.
When you’re working with a client, you’re obviously taking their tastes into consideration. How do you balance what they want with your professional judgment?
That can be tricky at times. I always find that you need to listen to the client, you need to deliver what the client wants. But it’s the job of the designer to push the limits for them, for what they’re comfortable with. And sort of give solutions that push their limits and what they think that they might like, to create something a little more interesting. Maybe they didn’t think they would like it originally, but then they end up saying, “Oh, I didn’t see it that way, but I really like the way it came together.” I think a designer has to push the client a little bit outside of the client’s comfort zone, or you might not achieve a result that just kind of takes it up a notch.