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Designing Women: How to Perfect “DIY” with Evette Rios

October 29, 2012

Interview by Jennifer Markas, Photography by Amy Lee

Evette Ríos is a jack jane-of-all-trades! When she’s not helping Rachel Ray come up with amazing do-it-yourself crafts, Evette can be found hosting Better Homes and Gardens 100-Days of Holidays online video series and reporting for ABC’s The Chew. She is inspired by her Puerto Rican heritage and the energy of New York City. Damsels in Design is very lucky to sit down with Evette and learn how she uses her creativity and imagination to brighten up homes across the country.  And her best piece of advice:  “No man, or woman, should be an island!”

Can you tell us what you were both doing before appearing on television? How is it different from working off-camera? What are the time-frames like?

I did a few things before becoming an on camera TV interior designer…I worked for a high end interior designer with an incredible French country/Scandinavian/well traveled aesthetic. She had a remarkable command of color and I learned so much working with her. I also was an in-store salesperson/designer for Waterworks. There I learned the ins and outs of designing and specifying plumbing and fixtures for bathrooms and kitchens. I also had a wonderful group of private design clients that I worked with. Doing design work for broadcast on television is way different than doing one on one work for a client. The budgets are lower and the time frames are tighter. Sometimes I feel like things just can’t be done for TV. But then we get it done! I guess I do my best work under pressure so for me its perfect!

How do you manage all of your daily to-do’s? Have you adopted morning/evening rituals to help you get through the day? If so, which ones have had the greatest impact on running your own business?

I am a compulsive list maker, it must be the Virgo in me. I make lists about making lists! Sometimes it’s a little ridiculous.

Also, as a self-employed person, finding balance can be really difficult. I am not always the best at it. The first thing that I really try to implement is to make Mondays my computer work day. I try to keep it free of appointments and obligations. I find that if I do that the rest of my week goes smoother and I feel accomplished. I have also started to ask for help. You can’t do it all on your own! I have a friend helping me update and post blogs on my website, I have someone else helping me with graphic design and logos. And I recently hired a publicist to help get the word out about my work. I was so resistant to hiring people to help me but I realize now that it frees me up to do the things that I really love and I am good at, which makes so much sense! You can’t be everything to your business and as much as it hurts a bit financially to add someone to the payroll, if you find the right person, your productivity will go through the roof!

What is your favorite part about the projects you create and teach? What inspires your aesthetic and creativity? How have your colleagues (Rachel Ray, etc.) informed your sense of design and business savvy?

I LOVE listening to my clients needs. I find them to be the most inspirational. As a designer you get very involved in your clients lives, you have to listen to what their likes are but more importantly you have to be ultra observant of how they live their lives. Those kinds of insights will ensure that the design you create will be a lasting one!

I have worked with Rachael Ray for years now and I LOVE her. What I learned from Rachael is to be fearless with color in the kitchen. I used to have the utilitarian kitchen thing, stainless steel accessories and off white cabinets. Working with someone who uses color so fearlessly has really been inspiring!

We want our readers to understand that design is everywhere and how important it is to be a well-rounded designer to remain flexible in the ever changing design industry. What advice can you offer young women in college who would like to pursue a career such as yours? How important is networking in your line of work? How has it helped you build your community, garner support, and connect you with new projects/contacts? If you could offer one piece of advice to the next generation of designers what would it be?

The biggest advice that I can offer anyone is to start working as soon as you can in the industry. If you are studying design, try to find a job in a design savvy company. Even if you aren’t doing exactly what you had in mind. Say you are restocking sample rooms for a fabric showroom for example, you will learn so much just by being present and interacting with established designers. Those connections that you make will be lasting ones and will help you as you get ready to launch yourself in the design world.

The other piece of advice that I have is to force your self to get out of your comfort zone and do things. I can be a bit of a homebody, and slightly, at times, nervous about going out and socializing. But I have noticed that when I am resistant to doing things is when I need to do them the most! Force yourself to get out there socialize and network. I have never, ever regretted it.

My final bit of advice is to remember that design is an art form and is entirely subjective. There is never a right or wrong solution, just YOUR solution. Have faith in your decision-making and present your suggestions with confidence. If you are listening to your instinct then you are always making the right decision!

If there is one thing you could change about the design industry what would it be? Has the idea of a DIY revolution hindered the market in any way?

I think what I would change first about the design business is that it can sometimes be a little snarky and slightly elitist. I grew up in a working class family in the projects of Brooklyn but to this day my parents have one of the most stylish homes I have yet to see. We always had original art on the walls, gorgeous antiques on the shelves and hand sewn slipcovers on the sofa.  It is not about getting “brand name” or designer product. It’s about trying to find the right, well designed solution to your clients style, taste, program and budget.

I am so excited about what the DIY movement is going to do for design. I am a huge proponent of American made products and I think the more self sufficient we become as a society the more value will be put on great design. The DIY culture is about making what you need yourself instead of just going out and buying it. It is a 180 from our usual consumerist tendencies. I think that this ensures that what we bring into our homes is better suited and better designed for our needs. It is all very exciting!

Let’s talk about the future. Do you plan to launch a home accessories line down the road? Any books on the way? Any new collaborations to look out for?

Yes and yes. I am working on a book right now that combines crazy stories about my family. We are a SUPER DIY family, I call us “pioneer-ricans”. The book will also include some of the best DIY advice I have up my sleeves. It is all really exciting, and a home accessories line should be coming soon after! But you are not going to see me do slight and superficial twists on contemporary favorites. I am all about solutions. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, solve a problem or make me unbelievably happy I will not design it. We only have space for so many things in our homes and in our lives and for me those things must be beautiful and work well.

Damsels in Design fosters a supportive, engaging, and non-competitive environment for professional women. We believe this is the only way to secure successful opportunities and to give back to the community. How important is it that women support and assist one another along the way? What steps can we take to ensure we’re maintaining this camaraderie and creating opportunities for one another?

Women need to stick up for one another in the design world! The truth is we provide an extremely vital voice in this industry. The female designers that I know create spaces that are thoughtful, comfortable and welcoming. Not that men can’t, but we seem to cut to the chase a little faster than men would. My female designer friends are probably not going to upholster a busy families sofa in white silk for instance. We instinctively know why that would be a horrible idea. And that for me is the sweet spot in design, where form and beauty meet. Women are champions of that!

I think it is so important to create relationships with other female designers. I personally come from a place of abundance. I know in my heart that there is plenty for everyone. There is no need for competition. Making friends, getting together and sharing ideas is so important. No man, or woman should be an island!

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