I had the pleasure of doing a My City feature on Naomi of Design Manifest while I was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago giving a seminar. Naomi and I met in New York while attending BlogFest but were familiar with each other prior to that via blogland. She is delightful, funny, and a very talented interior designer (ahem, hire her). You’ve probably seen her place (or pinned it) on Design*Sponge.
During our day she said, “To me, happiness is guacamole and a margarita.” I knew we were in for some fun.
See where Naomi took me around Philadelphia after the jump!
We had lunch at Wedge & Fig in an area of Philadelphia called Old City.
Naomi spends a lot of time in this area because she used to live just a few blocks away,
her sister — a designer for Free People — lives there, and there are lots of little shops to peruse.
To get to the garden of Wedge & Fig, you have to go through this long hallway to the adorable patio area.
Then we stopped in the Jonathan Adler store. Never a lack of inspiration in there.
Interestingly, they just happened to be training the manager and a few employees for the
DC store, set to open in Georgetown this fall. So I got to know the manager,
who I’m sure I’ll see often at the DC store… I love me some Jonathan Adler!
Walking around Old City with a latte while waiting for stores to open.
Naomi’s boho outfit:
Shorts from Urban Outfitters, Free People sandals, the sheer top is Free People … or Urban. I forget. (See a theme here? I heavily use my sister’s [her sister is a designer at Free People] employee discount card). Purse is Prada, watch is kate spade.
After Old City we decided an afternoon of margaritas, guacamole, and queso sounded like a good idea. So Naomi took me to El Vez where we sat melted outside in the heat. I had a blood orange margarita, and she had a pineapple margarita with a cinnamon/sugar rim — um, yum!
Inside El Vez is … interesting. Very neon and very themey.
Typical blogger/self-employed gal: mid-day margarita and iPhone out. Obviously I was doing the exact same thing. The thing about bloggers is, when we eat together, there is always an understood five minutes of silence for tweeting/instagramming/e-mail checking.
Even though I was stuffed to the brim after my margarita and queso,
Naomi took me to Capogiro where I couldn’t resist some dark chocolate and plum gelato.
Even though I’ve never seen the show, the commercials pretty much told the story.
They give lots of tickets. So I assumed like any other big city, you had to be pretty careful…
I was so wrong.
These guys are VIGILANT, and of course Naomi got a ticket
WHILE WE WERE WALKING TO GET HER CAR!
Her time ran out at 1:20, we got to it at 1:29.
And I saw PPA guys (and gals) all over Philly for the 48 hours I was there.
They are no joke. I bet Philly makes A SHITLOAD of dough off parking tickets.
A little ridiculous, don’t you think?
The guy on the right was happy to take a photo,
the one in the middle is trying not to smile… but I think he secretly loved it.
Ok, off my PPA soapbox. I can see why Philadelphians loathe them.
Naomi was kind to take me back down to the area where I was staying.
As we drove around the old City Hall where a bunch of important stuff went down in US history many many years ago, I stuck my camera out the window and started snapping pictures. I thought this one turned out pretty good!
Let’s hear from Naomi:
Why did you take me to Wedge & Fig, Lost + Found, Jonathan Adler, El Vez, and Capogiro?
I love Wedge & Fig’s back yard — it’s a little oasis in the city! It seemed like the perfect place to relax and have a cup of coffee and catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in weeks. Old City has great boutiques. I can always count on Lost + Found to have interesting pieces I haven’t seen before. I’m old fashioned — I’d rather shop for clothes in person than online, so Lost + Found is a great source for me. Old City is also a great spot furniture shopping. I always need to pop into Jonathan Adler when I’m in in the area to see new pieces, being inspired by vignettes, or even if I just need a dose of happy. El Vez just has delicious guacamole and margaritas plus its located in a great spot for people watching. There are so many
great restaurants and bars within steps of El Vez. Great place to start the nice and wander from there. The gelato place is Capogiro and I took you there because it is the most delicious thing ever. Better than ice cream, better than yogurt, I just think it’s insanely tasty and you don’t need a lot to be filled up.
What are some of your other favorite places to eat and visit in Philadelphia and why or what do you HAVE to get when you go to them?
My newest restaurant obsession is Sbraga from Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga. Everything is amazing. It prix fixe menu and the best seat is the house is at the bar where you can watch the chef’s create their magic. Passyunk Ave in South Philly is such an exciting area. New shops and boutiques are opening up every month. I love digging at Sweet Jane Vintage.
How did you get into interior design?
I was selling mortgages and having much more fun arranging my room at night. I saw at opportunity at my father’s construction firm to build up the design division. At first I started learning about his speciality — kitchen and bath design — and after a few years, I went back to school to learn more about interior design. The final step was starting a blog and offering my decor services. Those first few clients were brave souls!
Do you have a design philosophy or process you use for clients?
My philosophy is to create layered rooms that are unexpected but really cohesive and gorgeous. I want to create spaces that engage you — subtly or colorfully and make you feel happy and inspired. My process changes with each client. I feel like decorating is such a personal thing that I tailor my style and approach for each new person I work with.
What is it like owning a business with your dad and working with him so closely?
It has its benefits and drawbacks. He has so much knowledge and I’m always learning from him. We have a lot of fun together and I’ve gotten to know him SO much better than when I was a child. He is really patient and supportive of
me, even when I make mistakes. Like with any partner, it can be difficult when we don’t see eye to eye. He is more conservative and I am more adventurous. We definitely butt heads over that as I’m constantly pushing his limits! But overall, I think we balance each other out really nicely.
What are some of the biggest business lessons you’ve learned being a designer?
Being a designer is much more than just pulling together rooms! You have to pay taxes, deal with logistics of vendors, delays, deliveries, mistakes etc., and you have to market and promote yourself. For me, the client-designer relationship is most important. I want to establish realistic expectations and timelines. I’ve learned that happy clients bring more clients, so that is essential for me to keep operating my business. Having a successful business means I have to be at the top of my customer service game.
How has blogging helped your design?
Blogging has given me great knowledge of design styles, trends, products etc. Having never worked under another designer, I sometimes feel like I am “reinventing the wheel” with design. Blogging has helped me so much in making connections, finding sources and getting the feedback I need to be a good designer. It’s also been a great avenue to share my projects and portfolio! The support of others has given me the confidence I need to grow as a designer.
What are some of your creative goals?
Ambitiously — I’d love to have a furniture store that sold a mix of new and vintage pieces. I don’t think homes should only be composed of new products and I ‘d like to encourage people to re-use and recycle pieces too. I’d love pattern and color so designing fabrics and wallpapers would be super fun as well.
What are your favorite items in your space?
My art makes me really happy. Just a few short years ago all I owned was college posters. Now I’m proud of my collection! It’s a great mix of vintage, original paintings and inexpensive prints. It’s definitely worth it to invest in a few pieces of art. When you mix them in with cheap stuff, the whole collection appears richer.
My City is a weekly column where I ask lovely ladies to take me to some of their favorite places in their city.Tweet about this post and other My City features with the hashtag #mycity on twitter @megbiram