THIS INTERIOR DESIGNER TURNED A NATURAL GIFT FOR THE ARTS INTO A REMARKABLE SECOND CAREER

BY AMANDA McCOY • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH

At an early age, Ellee Nolan Asaro, the principle interior designer at Trade Mart Interiors, became enamored of creating beautiful things. A natural artist, the young Asaro (then Nolan) spent her free time drawing, and recalled that even as a child, she had an eye for cohesively blending colors, patterns, and textures. Once she reached adulthood, she was able to capitalize on her sharp and steady hands and carved out a long, fruitful career as a salon owner and manicurist in Monmouth County, New Jersey. It wasn’t until she met her now-husband, Nick Asaro, that opportunity and circumstance would lead her in an entirely different vocational direction.

“When I met my husband, he was taking over his family’s business, called Trade Mart Upholstery, and I told him I would help him out when I wasn’t at the salon,” said Asaro. “We changed to Trade Mart Interiors, adding window shading, drapery, and interior design.”

That last area of the business is where Asaro found her place. She began working alongside Nick to grow its new components, and realized that with her innate artistic abilities, she had a natural talent for imagining living and working spaces. After a few years, she sold the salon and went to work at Staten Island-based Trade Mart Interiors full time.

Twenty years have since passed, and Asaro is just as excited about the process today as she was the day she saw her first design client. She offers a full range of creative services, from conception to installation. The process typically begins with an in-depth interview, so Asaro and her fellow designer and right-hand colleague, Cathy DiGeorgio, can tap into each person’s vision and translate it into a blueprint. That’s when the real fun begins.

“We take care of everything, from beginning to end. If it’s a blank slate, we need to see the client’s vision,” said Asaro. “We get to know them, pull everything together, and over that process come up with a design concept everything from colors, wallpaper, paint, bedding, accessories, mirrors, etc. We then produce a presentation so they can see how their vision will come to life.”

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Still, as Asaro is quick to point out, there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes legwork that goes into the conceptualization stage beyond blending colors and finding the perfect accent piece.

“There’s so much that goes into the service end,” she said. “We have to check availability, stock, and price. This industry is always changing, and things sell out quickly. We have to be on top of what’s available. If it’s a custom piece, that could take anywhere from eight to 10 weeks, and we have to be responsible for communicating that. We also have to make sure everything will fit into each space, and that all is delivered and installed correctly.”

Even after two decades in business, each day brings new tasks and discoveries. Whether they come in the form of hard-to-find custom furniture, executing funky trends and spaces, or just bringing together every detail with finesse, solving problems, she explained, only fuels Asaro’s creative fire.

“When someone comes to you with a challenge, you have to go out of your comfort zone and your box and figure out how to make it work,” she said. “That’s the most stimulating part of my career.”

One of her key responsibilities, and part of what makes her services so high-end, is to remain involved in the process from start to finish including installation, and, if the project calls for it, contracting and remodeling.

“We once created a Tuscan wine cellar for a client, and when the contractor finished laying the brick on the walls, he sent me a picture,” she recalled. “I immediately thought, ‘No! It’s Tuscan; it’s supposed to look 100 years old, and this looks brand new!’ So I went down there, took a hammer to the walls, and started smacking the bricks [laughs].”

Because the industry is tied to fashion, the colors, patterns, and textures used will continue to cycle in and out of style. For spring and summer, the designer is expecting to see a surge in deep, bold colors, like royal blue and rich green. Florals are also big right now, and gold is making a notable comeback.

Sometimes her job means telling clients what won’t work. When something is going out of style, Asaro is not afraid to speak up. “I hate to be the one to tell everybody, but gray is going out,” she said with a laugh. “It’s not going to be here much longer.”

“It’s going to be interesting to watch the younger generation and see how they will go forward with design,” Asaro said. “I have a lot of repeat clients, and I’m getting children of clients from the past. But as the industry changes, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves. Now customers don’t have to hire us for a whole project anymore; they can hire us for the day, and we’ll spend some time with them, measure their room, and shop with them online. This is becoming a great aspect of business for us. Customers are still getting the security of having a designer telling them what works.”

Trade Mart Interiors
6311 Amboy Road / 718.948.3933 /
trademartinteriors.com