HEART TO HEART
Featuring Elaine Turner
by Natalie Ariz
MEET & GREET
Please tell fellow Impeccable Find readers about yourself.
My name is Paloma Contreras and I am a Houston-based interior designer and entrepreneur. I launched my design firm, Paloma Contreras Design in 2013. Prior to that I launched my lifestyle and design focused blog, La Dolce Vita in 2007.
In the years since, I have grown my business to service design clients in Houston as well as in various other cities in the country including Chicago, Palm Beach, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York, and The Hamptons. I released my first book, Dream Design Live in September 2018 and currently working on my second book, both of which are highlights in my career. In my free time, I love to travel and hang out with my incredibly supportive husband Fabian and our sweet Cockapoo, Tate.
Where did your journey begin and your greatest reflection thus far?
My journey has been a long and winding road! I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Italian Studies and worked as a high school Spanish teacher for a few years. After about four years, I found that I felt very creatively stifled, so I started my blog, La Dolce Vita as a respite for summer boredom in July 2007. The blog started to gain traction and I decided to quit my teaching job.
At that point, I was miserable and had also experienced a stabbing and shooting at the two campuses at which I taught during my short tenure as a teacher. Enough was enough. I decided life was too short to stay in a job that didn't make me happy! I didn't know exactly what I would do. Blogging wasn't a career back then and I had no idea what the future held. I took some freelance creative jobs, continued to growing my blog, and did a little tutoring. Eventually, I landed a gig as Director of Marketing for Visual Comfort, the lighting manufacturer based in Houston. It was a wonderful experience that taught me a lot about the product side of the design industry. We launched Aerin Lauder's collection during my tenure and worked closely with the marketing team at Ralph Lauren experiences which taught me invaluable lessons about branding, marketing, and strategy.
I eventually came to realize that I missed being self-employed, so in 2013, I took a huge leap of faith and founded my interior design firm, Paloma Contreras Design. I now know that this is my true calling in life. I live for design and love working with our wonderful clients. In the time since I founded my firm, I have written my first book and launched my first licensed product collection. Finally, last January, we opened our store, Paloma & Co. I really felt called to pursue my passion for design and have been fortunate to shape my career as a result.
Paloma Contreras work, photographed by Kerry Kirk
“I live for design and love working with our wonderful clients.”
— Paloma Contreras
Paloma Contreras work, photographed by Brittany Ambridge
What sparked your business idea and company name?
I really felt called to pursue my passion for design and have been fortunate to shape my career as a result. My company names are pretty straightforward-- just my name. I remember about 10 years ago, I attended a conference on the business design and one of the speakers spoke about branding and naming one's firm. She said prior to naming her firm after herself, her company was called "An Inside Job" which she had thought was clever and cute. She wasn't wrong, but she soon realized that cutesy names don't get taken seriously, attract one's ideal client, or get published in a magazine's list of top designers. She had a good point!
What best motivates and inspires you?
I am inspired by beauty in all of its many forms which is why my career as a designer has been such a wonderful fit for me. As clichéd as it sounds, I find travel to be incredibly inspiring. Whether it is strolling through the streets of Paris and shopping for treasures at the Marché aux Puces or admiring the architecture in New York or Los Angeles, my eye always gravitates to new details when I am away from home. I am motivated by the desire to rise to new challenges & to prove to myself that I can do the things I never thought I could. I am not one to rest on my laurels & am constantly working towards the next goal.Although, I don't think that is always a good thing. I need to work on taking the time to enjoy and celebrate my victories along the way.
“I am motivated by the desire to rise to new challenges and prove to myself that I can do the things I never thought I could do.”
— Paloma Contreras
What was your greatest challenge and how have you overcome it?
The greatest challenge in the beginning was just learning how to run the business day to day. I was 30 years old at that point and knowing my very type A personality, I didn't want to start as someone's assistant, so I just went for it. I invested in design conferences, business coaches, and also
had access to a wealth of mentors, many of which are among the brightest designers working today. I suppose that because I had promoted their work on my blog over the years and we had established true friendships, they were very kind and willing to lend advice when I started my design business.
Describe your proudest moment in your career.
One of the biggest honors in my design career has been my inclusion in ELLE Decor's prestigious A-List of the top designers in the world in both 2018 and 2019. When I received the call the first year, I nearly fell out of my chair and spent the rest of the day trying to figure out who would play such a mean joke on me.
How did you take the leap of faith to launch your business?
I mentioned previously that I held a position as Director of Marketing at Visual Comfort. I formed a lot of great relationships there, learned about the process of taking a product from concept to market, and had the opportunity to work with some of the top talent in our industry. It was an invaluable experience, but ultimately, I know myself and I missed the flexibility of being self employed. At the time, I was helping a few friends and family members with small design jobs, so I decided to take the leap and open my design firm.
Paloma Contreras work, photographed by Max Burkhalter
Who do you accredit as your greatest influence in your life?
The greatest influence in my life and career is definitely my husband, Fabian. He is my biggest cheerleader and has supported me unconditionally along every step of my career.
Where did you get your entrepreneurial spirit?
I've always been a dreamer! My parents encouraged me to chase my dreams and made me believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. They also instilled a very strong work ethic in me and showed us the value of hard work.
Words you live by?
"To thine own self be true”, by Shakespeare
Paloma Contreras work, photographed by Kerry Kirk
THE IMPECCABLE FIND(S)
List your favorite(s) for each category:
Favorite Instagram Account:
@garyjanetti and @punk_history for a good laugh
The Business of Home and Second Life
Favorite Book or Movie:
Favorite Thing to Collect:
Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley and Round Hill in Jamaica
Three things you are currently coveting:
3 full days of sleep, a trip to Paris, and a bigger office for our team!
You're an Impeccable Find, Paloma!
Thank you for having this "Heart to Heart"!
For more information on Paloma Contreras, visit www.PalomaContreras.com