ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Macelle Albelda Skivington, Principal of M Design Build Studio, Inc.

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We are excited to feature Macelle Albelda Skivington, Principal of M Design Build Studio, Inc. She graduated from the UCLA ARC-ID relatively recently, runs her own design firm, and let us in on some great insider info this month, ranging from the must-attend trade shows for your sector, to her unique time planning method, that frankly, is simple yet genius to compartmentalize the different parts of her day. We hope enjoy her answers as much as we do!

When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID program?  What were the most helpful skills you learned from the program?

I attended the program in 2016 . Where to start?! Yes, I was one of those people who complained that my hand and my back hurt from having create my drawings by hand, instead of just learning CAD, but I’m grateful for trusting the process. I was able to gain a great foundation that I build off of. My favorite classes were the History Classes, Surface Materials, Design Basics [Elements] 1 & 2 and Color Theory. I loved them all.

Where did you grow up?

I’m a Los Angeles native, however spent 10 years of my early adult life living in San Francisco.


Where do you currently live, and how does it influence your work?

I’m currently living in Highland Park and witnessing firsthand the explosive growth of a changing neighborhood. I’m constantly witnessing how a house, retail shop or restaurant evolves from a run down piece of property to a highly designed space and exciting all those who enter.


What attracted you to interior design?

I love creating amazing spaces that feel really good to be. There’s that magical chemistry that we learn through design school and on the job that enables us to create these spaces that uplift the lives of people around us. I want to continue being able to do that for the rest of my life.


Current occupation within the industry?

I run a boutique Design Firm that focuses mostly on commercial spaces for tenant improvements ranging from hipster office spaces to gyms, restaurants and bars. I also have a handful of clients that I do kitchen and bath remodel.  


What are you currently working on?

I have about 7 active projects at the moment in both commercial and residential. My favorite projects right now are the 21,000 sf office space in Santa Monica that wants to infuse a youthful experience to attract today’s top talent.

My favorite design job right now is for a client that wants us to take a property that was built it 1928, which was originally built as a car dealership and convert it into an office space with 2 retail units out front. The client had rescued 8 chandeliers from a historical hotel to hang amongst the exposed wooden beam trusts at 21’ high. My theme for the building design is what if “Vintage Hollywood and We Work had a baby.” It’s been a fun experience to work with great clients that give me that creative freedom.


What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today?

Perseverance. Determination. Have no ego.


What is one of your biggest challenges?

One of the biggest challenges in this business is getting skilled at having those difficult conversations with clients, contractors and vendors. There’s always a moment in projects where the going gets tough and difficult conversations have to be had. Handling them with ease takes practice, patience and often times putting my ego away. I have to remind myself of focusing on the big picture, the end goal and getting us through the rough patches. It’s like being the captain of the ship and safely getting your team to their dream destination.


What does your typical day look like?

It’s gotten so busy that I’ve had to color code my time.

“Green Time” – go go go! Mostly face to face meetings with clients, vendors, city planners, contractors. 8 am to 4pm typically

“Yellow Time”- Design Time, Paperwork Time, Dealing with running an actual business. 4am – 8am and then weekends.

“Red Time” – I’m asleep and cannot talk to anyone! Ha! It’s also my family time.


Best career advice you’ve gotten?

Be You. I used to always question if I’m doing a good job or not. One of my favorite bosses said “Just be You” Stop worrying and be myself, that’s why they hired me.


What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?

Depending on what kind of design you want to do, invest and attend a tradeshow.

For Commerical, there’s HD Expo in Vegas, NeoCon in Chicago, BD West in Los Angeles,  LightShow West Conference (Los Angeles) and attend all the workshop talks, panelists, etc. You will be able to absorb the latest trends and understand the latest challenges that industry is facing.

For Residential, there’s the Las Vegas Mart and High Point (North Carolina. Locally West Edge Design Fair (Santa Monica) and Dwell on Design (Los Angeles)


Something you wish you knew when first got started designing?

Well, I’m learning something new every single day. One of my favorite instructors taught me that I also need to design the process of how I’m going to get the work done. Design the process!


What has been your greatest accomplishments as a designer?

The ability to check my ego at the door, find really great mentors who believe in me. Right now I carry a tribe of mentors and business coaches who I lean on for support and their expertise. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I have accomplished to date.  


What is your favorite thing in your own home?

My art work. I invested in a Salvador Dali piece that I love to look at while it appreciated in value. Better investment that having stored cash in the bank!

 Also if I can say, my daughter, cause she’s in my home, right?  When growth mode is in full force and the world is spinning, my business coach told me to have an Anchor. I have two anchors, my home and my 11 year old daughter. She makes me want to be a better person and inspiration to her.


What is something on your bucket list?

By next year I should have my first Development in place. Can’t say more right now, but stay tuned.