Homepolish designer Mandy Cheng is part of our expansion team, based in St. Augustine, Florida. But her talents hardly stop there! She's worked for DreamWorks, commercials, and wait for it... Beyoncé.
Mandy, we loved watching you on the Homepolish Snapchat recently. From the looks of it, you have quite the eye for trends. How did you develop in design?
“I’ve been at Homepolish for a year. My life in design, though, has been quite a process. I worked at DreamWorks Animation for many years and became close friends with a lot of filmmakers. I started designing sets for them in my off-hours and soon after, I left DWA to do freelance production and graphic design full-time on my own. But designing sets is both magical and soul-crushing… you spend all your waking hours (when I’m on a shoot I sleep anywhere from 2-4 hours each night) building this beautiful space only to have it torn down in minutes. It started to drive me bonkers. Around that time, I met my boyfriend, Rory (conveniently he’s an architect), who mentioned a friend who just bought a condo in Marina Del Rey and needed a designer. There was something so satisfying about designing a space that would stay built longer than 24 hours. I was hooked.”
That is QUITE a journey. Do you still dabble in graphic design or production?
“So, I work a lot. When I’m not designing spaces for clients, I’m still designing. I do graphic design work for a couple of production designers in LA, and I find it’s a great way for me to stay inspired and not get burnt out on interior design. I worked on Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” for Rihanna and One Republic, a Paul McCartney music video where Jonny Depp winked at me and asked how I was doing (and I almost fell out the window), 20th Century Women, and many television commercials. And then on top of that, I’ve been helping my boyfriend design and build a house, which is essentially done as of today! He has owned a little piece of land here in St. Augustine, Florida, for several years. It’s on the water, right next to a lighthouse, and has a huge oak tree in the middle of it. He wanted to start his own architecture firm. That’s when we left LA, set up shop here, and got designing. It’s finally time to decorate the home and I’m SO EXCITED. So yeah, sleep isn’t high on my priority list at the moment.”
When I’m not designing spaces for clients, I’m still designing.
Um, excuse? You just said so many of our favorite things. Beyoncé. Music videos. A magical seaside home?! How has all this helped you invent your own style?
“Beyond all my previous commissions, I’ve always been inspired by Roman and Williams. They came from film as well, and every space they design is so sexy. Oh, and I have to mention Wes Anderson alongside any of his production designers. I want to live in all of his films. I guess those influences would lend me a mixture of California modern and The Royal Tennenbaums vibe.”
And you recently had your own break-out featured role on the Homepolish Snapchat…
“Oh goodness, I had no idea how to Snapchat before the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show. I was texting back and forth with Claire, the Homepolish social media content guru, and I was absolutely convinced that I was going to mess it all up. My first public post where I introduce myself and tell people I’m in Orlando, Florida, at KBIS, etc. took 5 tries with people staring at me, because I was practically shouting at my phone so you could hear me despite the noise. It was a whole situation.”
LOLZ. And how was the rest of the show? You went there to design a show kitchen for Frigidaire, right?
“The Frigidaire booth was a fun project, because it was different than the typical residential or commercial space. I was given a rendering with dimensions of the space as well as links to the table, chairs, sink faucet, and cabinet pulls they wanted. We discussed the design a bit, and I got to work sourcing everything. I shipped 90% of the items to my contact who was managing the build of the booth, and 10% was shipped to me, so I could hand-carry it to the booth due to a later delivery date. When I arrived to style the space, we realized that 2/3 of the items I ordered were missing. They spent a couple hours looking for the container, but you can imagine how challenging that must have been considering there were at least four gigantic convention halls with hundreds of booths in each and a thousand people unpacking all their containers at once. Around 5 PM, we decided to give up the search, and an incredibly nice girl went out in the middle of Orlando rush hour to try and re-purchase as much of the missing items as possible. I was very thankful for her help, as well as some extra items that the company had brought from their book and prop warehouse. Without her help and without these extra items, I would have been in a bad position. The booth turned out great, and it was so fun to see people come and take pictures of my styling.”
Sounds like some fast thinking saved the booth! You also participated in a panel on color for Frigidaire. What was your advice?
“I don’t remember because I was SO NERVOUS. Just kidding. The overarching theme of the panel was to always make sure that the colors you introduce are complimentary and continuous to the architecture of your home. We also discussed incorporating the “color of the year” or any other trending colors in less permanent items, like throws, pillows, tabletop decor, accessories, etc. as opposed to the bones of the house that are much more expensive and difficult to change (aka don’t go painting your kitchen cabinets green this year).”
Make sure that the colors you introduce to your space are complimentary and continuous to the architecture of your home.
Did you get any time to simply wander the KBIS show as well?
“It was all such a blur! Did you know there’s an $8,600 matte black automated toilet that you can either talk to or operate remotely? But $8,600. Also, matte black fixtures are coming in hot. Sink faucets, sinks, shower heads, everything. Matte black. And of course brass.”
Well, if money wasn’t an object, what would be in your dream space? That toilet perhaps?
“Haha, I love this question! I have a friend that I always hire to help me on projects in LA, and we have actually discussed our dream office together. It would be a ground floor warehouse painted white with plants everywhere. Spaces would be separated by black steel-framed, floor-to-ceiling window walls. One huge space would be dedicated for wood cutting, and there would be built-in floor and wall vacuums that would immediately suck any and all sawdust out of the air. And there would be these mobile walls. Each wall would be dedicated to a specific tool (so there’d be a wall of drills, a wall of rulers, a wall of tape measures, a wall of paint brushes, etc). Everything would be perfectly spaced and hung exactly the same way. And whenever someone needed something in their work area, we could just give the wall a little shove and watch it glide effortlessly across the warehouse. My specific desk space would be staged to look like I’m camping.”
Like a Dreamworks or Pixar workshop come to life! What would you say your tips are to stay successful in the interior design field?
“Stay organized. The more organized you are, the less work you have to do. Organization applies to communication too. Communicate often and in a cohesive fashion. Since I’m mostly a by-video designer, communication is everything so the client doesn’t feel like I’ve forgotten about them. My points of communication are strategically timed according to each project’s construction timeline. It helps me stay ahead of the game, so that if there are delays, they aren’t my fault. With clients, don’t over-promise. Being realistic with them is important.”
“When your success is dependent on other people, stay on top of them (but never be mean). Always be grateful for people’s help. Since designers are dependent on contractors, sub-contractors, custom finishers, and so on to carry out our designs, it’s a lot of schedule maintenance, phone calls, and emails. Sometimes I feel like I spend my entire day checking in on people, which can be exhausting, but it always pays off.”
“And above all, love your designs. If you love the design, your client will love it too because your excitement will be contagious. Remember that you’re talented, you have skills that the client is interested in utilizing, and stick to your design gut.”
Above all, love your designs. If you love the design, your client will love it too because your excitement will be contagious.
To follow Mandy on Instagram, follow @mandychengdesign.