Alexis Manfer knew she wanted to be an interior designer the moment she started her first internship for Kelly Wearstler during her senior year of undergrad. After graduating from USC with a degree in Art History, she immediately enrolled in the UCLA Extension Interior Architecture Program in 2005 and graduated with her Masters Degree in 2008.
“Once I completed the program, I moved to NYC and worked for two well established design firms where I gained invaluable client and project experience. Working under the NYC designers and firms was great, but after a couple years I was ready to start my own firm and design my own projects,” which she did in 2012.
We are thrilled to spotlight Alexis this month and gain some valuable insights, seeing that she runs a very successful design firm that she founded on her own, 4 years out of school.
What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?
Working under a seasoned design professional. The experience and knowledge gained from working under a seasoned design professional is invaluable. Find a mentor you admire and respect, and ask to work for them.
Best career advice you’ve gotten?
Get up, dress up, show up!
What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today, professionally?
Professionalism, team player, resourcefulness.
What does your typical day look like?
My mornings are always spent on my laptop. My brain is sharpest in the morning and it’s the best time for me to complete tasks that require focus such as responding to emails, executing floor plans in AutoCAD, and finance related items like budgets. My afternoons are when I become more social and creative.
What is one of your biggest challenges?
Having enough time in the day! I love what I do and can easily get caught up working all day every day. Managing my time and prioritizing tasks has been something I’ve learned after many years of designing.
Why did you go on to get your Masters, and how has it benefitted you?
Education has always been important to me. My years of schooling helped guide me to find my artistic passions, that’s where I learned my strengths and what I enjoy doing. When I decided I wanted to pursue a career in interior design, I knew to be successful there was information specific to the industry I needed to learn about. I knew if I wanted to be great, I would need to understand the history of the subject, gain the technical skills required such as space planning, drafting, AutoCAD, and drawing.
The UCLA graduate program taught me everything I needed to know about interior design including proper lighting layouts, fabrics: what types to use for upholstery vs. window treatments, color theory: the science behind colors and why certain colors work well in various settings. We learned requirements regarding building codes, clearances needed for hallways, walkways, kitchens etc. These are the skills I use every single day in my business.
The UCLA Interior Architecture masters program is where I honed my skills and gained the confidence to go out and work in the interior design industry. The program training prepared me to be creative and to be a knowledgeable and proficient designer. When clients hire me, they know they are working with a trained, educated professional and interior design expert.
Something you wish you knew when first got started designing?
As a young professional and new business owner I had to really work to figure out how to manage and build a business and set aside a little time for myself just as passionately as I would engage in projects and time with clients.
What type of work do you typically do?
I’ve worked on a wide range of projects at different scales, budgets, and all across the US. I’ve completed residential projects ranging from 1,500 sq. ft. to 6,000 sq. ft. I’ve completed commercial offices ranging from 1,000 sq. ft. to 20,000 sq. ft. I’ve worked on projects with teams that included architects, contractors, and structural engineers.
Some projects have been complete teardowns where clients hired me to not only remodel the aesthetic but also create an entirely new layouts and space plans: moving walls around and completely updating kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom layouts. I’ve also had clients hire to me to come in and furnish their existing space, helping them with selecting goods that properly fit the space and adding area rugs, art, and accessories…the décor that really brings the overall design together. Every project is exciting and I absolutely love working with each unique client to come up with designs that fit their specific needs and aesthetic preferences.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently designing five projects – Venice Beach, CA, Westhampton Beach, NY, Brentwood, CA and Aliso Viejo, CA. Most of them are gut renovations but each project is completely different from the other. The styles are different, the scope of work is different, the scale is different, and the clients are different…and I love them all!
The Westhampton Beach remodel is 4,000 sq. ft. residence with a neutral color palette. It’s located on the bay and the clients want the interior to feel calm and soothing. We’re selecting finishes, furniture, and accessories that are organic in shape and outfitting the home with lots of yummy layers and textures.
The Venice beach gut renovation is a 1,600 sq. ft. Spanish style bungalow. The clients want to update the original layout by expanding the kitchen and refreshing the style to be more modern, functional, unique, and eclectic. We’re implementing incredible details including one-of-a-kind custom cabinets and gorgeous custom tile.
What is your favorite ‘thing’ in your own home?
My white sectional sofa! I’ve always wanted to live somewhere large enough to accommodate a huge sectional sofa. They’re comfortable and spacious enough for lots of friends and family to gather. After years of living in small apartments in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City, I finally have a place in Newport Beach large enough to accommodate a sectional sofa. I made sure to order a size that perfectly fits my Living Room. It brings the space together making it feel inviting and well balanced. It’s my favorite place to hangout with friends, watch movies, read through design magazines, or scroll through instagram. I love it!
What is something on your bucket list?
Designing a boutique hotel, jet, or yacht!