THE FOUNDER OF DESIGN FIRM ART HOME GARDEN MADE A NAME BY AVOIDING WHAT SHE DESCRIBES AS A COMMON ERROR AMONG COLLEAGUES—BEING BEHOLDEN TO AN IMMOVABLE STYLE

BY ALEX TAYLOR

Tefania Skrabak’s fascination with boundary testing her interior design firm and avoiding arbitrary rules began with her mom and dad. “My parents owned a machine factory back in the day in New York City, and that’s part of where my business approach comes from,” she said. “Very straightforward, very honest…a firm handshake, etc. But it also means that I love mixing metals [laughs] appreciating the beauty of raw steel against high end brass and copper. When you look at my interiors, you see brass light fixtures, chrome hardware…iron seats.”

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Art Home Garden, her Williamsburg company one that tackles interior and exterior spaces and has completed projects in New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and the Catskills is noticeably distinct from others in its sector. A short look through its sketchbook briskly conveys that the company founder and her crew eschews the one approach doctrine that brand powers other designers whether its minimalist modern, ultra natural, cluttered chic, etc. but instead embraces fluidity and adaptability.

“What drives our design, and get ready for something that’s going to sound very corny, is what I call ‘wellness of living, of life,’ Skrabak said. “It’s not about whether you should get a custom or rare leather sofa, it’s about how you live in your space. It’s not about who designed a chair, it’s about how you’re going to sit in it and drink your cup of coffee every day. Whether via a thrift shop piece or a designer chair, my task is to enrich your life.”

And the company name is no coincidence; Skrabak started her journey with studies at Marist College, Franklin University, Fashion Institute of Technology, and School of Visual Arts, with degrees in fashion, fine art, art history, and design, a swoop of background diversity that has produced a gently obsessive desire to be involved in all aspects of the work.

“First, I design everything, and that is something I am strict about. But whether midcentury or today’s modern, it’s never about me as the ‘designer,’” she said, adding that many colleagues insist upon placing preferred styles in projects, an approach she considers a conceptual error.

KINGS THEATER SPREAD

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“I never get hired to do traditional, and I’m not traditional in any way,” she said. “I have a stay at home mom client, where everything is beautiful, creamy, soft, and elegant, and that’s really fun…but then I’ll have an uber hip couple who are all about the edge.”

Skrabak is also, she quickly added, puzzled by other designers’ seeming unwillingness to think creatively about a budget.

“We are doing a 5,000 square foot McMansion in New Jersey, and they want everything to look like RH Modern [a line sold by Restoration Hardware]. The owners interviewed 10 interior designers. Their budget was $70,000, and all ten said that it couldn’t be done for that amount, I imagine because they came so front loaded with visions of what had to happen. Unbelievable! I don’t do that.” How to make budgets stretch for Skrabak begins with scouring sites like Overstock and Wayfair, and being a regular attendee at craft and furniture fairs like Field + Supply: A Modern Maker’s Craft Fair, held on Columbus Day weekend in Kingston, NY.

“What I’ll have at the end of the search is furniture that’s “off the shelf,” yes, but with great design and quality,” she said. “That’s one of the things you hire an interior designer for.”

“The goal for me is to try to make people think differently about their decisions,” Skrabak concluded. “If I give you exactly what you wanted without coming up with fascinating options, I’m not doing my job.”

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Art Home Garden
917.907.0624 / arthomegarden.com