Felipe Navarro is the owner of Philippe Luxe, a Los Angeles-based luxury interior design firm. Having worked in project management for seven years, and then climbing through the ranks of various design firms, Navarro has branched out into his own, using his experience and creativity to make a name for himself in the designing world of L.A. Oola was fortunate enough to pick his brain for interesting and quality information. Read on to learn about interior design from an expert!
Oola: What drew you to the field of Interior Design?
Felipe: I grew up with my dad in the construction business. Being around my dad, constantly renovating something in my home was normal to me and something that piqued my interest. My dad was a construction project manager during the day who would remodel our family home as a hobby after work. I remember coming home numerous times to him tinkering in the garage and building something. Having a creative mind from a young age and a knack for working with my hands, I grew up always wanting to create. My love for art, fashion, and design cultivated my interest and allowed me to hone in on the skill of interior design. Garnering a passion through the idea of constantly changing spaces I knew this was something I would love to do.
Oola: How did you get your start?
Felipe: I spent many summers on construction sites with my dad and eventually took on project managing myself. I spent seven years learning how spaces are designed, built and used in the real world. While working in construction during the day I went to school in the evenings and online to further my interior design education. Utilizing both aspects of education and job training I applied these skills to create beautifully designed spaces. I finished my design program and went on to multiple internships, throughout Orange County and Los Angeles. Quickly gaining skills through my internships I was able to advance my career in multiple firms holding titles such as Design Assistant, Associate Designer, Jr. Designer and Design Director. After cultivating my experience I decided to take a leap of faith and build my own brand.
When you hire an interior designer, you’re not just decorating; you’re creating and building.
Oola: What’s a common misconception people have about hiring an Interior Designer?
Felipe: People generally have the misconception that interior designers just pick out furniture and finishes (i.e. paint, flooring, lighting, hardware, etc). While this is true that I do include that in my services, I also am in charge of project management, procurement, logistics and working directly with builders and architects. When you hire an interior designer you’re not just decorating, you’re creating and building. A designer will work with a contractor to go over the functionality of a design. There are certain standards that apply to things that everyday people are not aware of. So when you are hiring an interior designer, you’re getting an experienced, skilled, and talented individual who knows just how much work goes into creating those spaces we love. You wouldn’t hire a lawyer that knows nothing about the law, your home should be no different!
Oola: For our readers that may be considering hiring an Interior Designer, what should they be certain to ask before making a decision?
Felipe: I would tell all potential clients to ask ask ask, do not shy away from any question no matter how small or weird it may sound or seem to you as the client. The question isn’t what you should ask but what you didn’t ask. You want to feel like you can connect with your designer. Designing often becomes a personal process and you want to make sure you’re getting to know your designer on both a professional and personal level. Ask them about their background, their work experience, their favorite color, food, dog, cocktail or brunch spot, just ask what you want to know. What question do you as the client want to know to make that connection with your designer. The more your designer learns about you the more insight they have to understand you. Learning your likes/dislikes and the way you think and process ideas and concepts will help lead to a great design process and end result. If you’re going to work with someone over a period of time you’re going to want to like them and their work!
Oola: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact.
Felipe: Over the course of my career I’ve had a few mentors in different aspects of the design process. The first being my father, who taught me a lot in the summers I worked in construction. He showed me how to pay attention to detail and to put the best in your work no matter how minute it may seem, hard work will always stand out. I worked at a acquisitions firm that flipped multifamily/commercial buildings that had an in-house designer. I was lucky enough to work alongside her learning what she did and also having her show me her tips and tricks. Eventually, I moved to LA landing a position on the spot as a procurement specialist. After a month of working at this boutique commercial firm, the owner quickly noticed my skills and knew I was capable of more. She became my mentor, working with me one-on-one until she felt I was ready to become the office Design Director. While working with her I gained experience in creating designs and running a design business. She taught me how to write contracts, work directly with clients, and showed me some accounting/billing practices. Looking back that was one of my fondest career memories. She taught me a lot. After that, I went to my last firm and worked side by side with another designer/business owner who did a lot of construction as well. With him, he mentored me on permits, building codes, and construction drawings. He pushed me to learn as much as I could and really took me under his wing to pass on the knowledge he had. So much can be learned in my field and all that knowledge really does become helpful at some point. All these mentors gave me the necessary tools to launch Philippe Luxe.
Oola: Do you specialize in a particular type of design?
Felipe: My particular/personal design aesthetic is probably called “contemporary modern glam”. I love modern design but most think of stark white, sharp edges, and chrome when they hear modern. While that is one type of modern what I love about design most is that you can really take pieces from all types of design and create a modern look. You can also tone up or tone down the modern, it really just relies on personal tastes. The glam comes into play because I love rich colors and textures. I’m a lover of gold, brass, velvets, lucite, and furs but I also like linens, woods, and metals as well. Luckily most of my clients are drawn to the same so it works well but there is no design style I shy away from. It all comes down to clients wants and needs.
Ask yourself: why you want this, and what is your end goal?
Oola: What advice do you have for others that may want to get into the field of Interior Design? What do you wish someone told you?
Felipe: The creative industry is tough and a lot of boring work goes on behind the scenes! I equate it to the fashion world as it may seem fun and glamorous but you have to love doing all of it not just parts of it or you will get over it. You have to work long hours and constantly hustle for the next gig. I spent a lot of time being an assistant doing admin work, spreadsheets, accounting, cleaning, organizing, researching, emails, phone calls and of course designing but at the beginning you will be doing a lot of the legwork before getting to the fun stuff. You have to want to learn and grow but also have direction and goals. Ask yourself why you want this and what is your end goal? I’ve known since my first job that I don’t like having a boss aside from my clients. I don’t like being told what to do or the feeling of being babysat so the 9-5 life was not for me. I like to take care of business in whatever way I choose for that particular day and it usually changes from day to day. It was that flexibility and freedom that I always worked towards and continue to allow it to be my drive. When running your own business I like to say the good thing is you’re the boss, the bad thing is you’re the boss. Work never really leaves my mind but there’s the silver lining and that to me is freedom to love what you do, do it when you want to and to create! Find your “why” and align it with your career path.
Oola: Any new design trends you’re starting to get requests for?
Felipe: I don’t know if I’d say this is new but perhaps it’s more of a California trend. I get a lot of requests to have a lot of indoor plants. I prefer faux, minimal work and a lot of vendors make really nice ones!
Oola: What advice do you have to give to our readers for living life to their tastes using interior design?
Felipe: My advice would be to find what inspires you. It doesn’t have to be a particular room or space. It can be your love of fashion. Think dresses in bold prints and colors. Notice women’s handbags in different textures and fabrics. Find similar features in art, pillows, vases, and blankets. If you love makeup and beauty look at the colors in your palettes, the design of the cases, the smells from your perfumes/colognes, even the design of the bottle. If you’re interested in cars, look at the seat material, the metals of the knobs or parts. Everything is designed, someone had to create a design for something to look the way it does. So don’t think about it looking professional, think about the way it makes you feel when you see it and are living in it.
Learn More About Felipe Navarro
Company: Philippe Luxe
Specialties: Residential and Commercial Design