3 Hints to Hang Artwork with Alex Alonso

The founder of 35 West Design gives us the design low-down, from Miami to Los Angeles

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What was your path to becoming a designer?

I feel like I’ve always been a designer and teaching myself how to hang artwork.  Even as a kid I was arranging and re-arranging things in my parents’ house…(Does that mean they had bad taste?) After many years working corporate in entertainment marketing in LA, I decided to take the leap.  My friends and colleagues would always ask my advice on their interiors or even their office spaces.  So truthfully, it was more natural progression and a slow evolution.  I think that as a designer your approach and style takes time to evolve.  For some that’s very early and for other it comes later.

I’m a maximalist!  I cherish the things I buy, so I naturally want them to be part of my space.

You have lived and worked in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami, all cities with extremely distinct cultural landscapes. How does this diversity influence your design approach?

Where I live inspires me.  My husband and I love to travel.  It’s the source of my inspiration.  Since I was young, I’ve always had a travel bug in me.  I love discovering new art, places, cultures, and foods. My style definitely reflects this aspect of me.  I love truly eclectic spaces that look layered, interesting, complex.  I love mixing old and new, found and purchased.  I believe that the art of design lies in curation. Each place I’ve lived in has influenced me in some way.  Some places more than others, but they all play their part.

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Tell us more about 35 West Design. How are you helping people with their homes?

35WD is the brainchild of me and one of my best friends. We had both worked in marketing and media throughout our careers and knew we had a passion for more. We really balance each other out in terms of the business. She has a great eye for what’s current and coming, while I bring a curatorial sensibility to design. I love discovering and researching product lines and brands.  I love the details of story of how pie

What are the challenges of virtually designing someone’s homes? What are the unique benefits?

Truthfully, the benefits out-weight the challenges.  The biggest challenge is you can’t really get a true feel for the space by not being there.  So much of designing a space is the physicality of the space and how you feel when you are there.  Sometimes that can get lost or distorted virtually.  The benefit is the immediacy of it all.  It’s amazing to be able to, in real time, share ideas and not have to make it a huge long process.  The convenience for both client and designer to be able to work virtually given everyone’s crazy schedules is a HUGE plus!

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How has your design philosophy changed since you began your practice?

I definitely think it has changed.  It has to if you expect to grow as an artists or designer.  It’s a journey.  Every client is different.  I think deep down you know what your strengths are as a designer and it’s important not to lose sight of that throughout your growth.  But as it relates to my design philosophy in particular, I think that it’s more about embracing inevitable change. Just when you get comfortable with one thing, something changes.  Also, I think that collaborations as a designer are HUGE.  You have to be willing to collaborate with other designers and even your clients; it will ultimately lead to a better end result for the client.  It’s okay to ask people’s advice.  Design isn’t an exact science.

What is your favorite part of your day?

Early morning!  I know, don’t hate me.  I actually LOVE waking up before it’s even light out and start doing things.

Where and when are you most inspired?

2am, whenever I am in the world!

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What do you do in your free time? How does this influence your work?

I watch a lot of TV.  Dramas, reality, foreign films, documentaries, oldies.  I can’t help it, I’m a child of the 80s and TV was king then.  I think it’s more a way of how I unwind and unplug after a long day than anything else.

What has been your most challenging or creatively rewarding project to date? Why?

This may sound a little cliché, but I would say my own house.  When we moved to Miami, I wanted the space to really feel like us.  It took me some time because I wanted it to embody a strong sense of place to feel meaningful and timeless.  I’m an old soul at heart and love collecting.  It makes for great story-telling.

Is the most popular design problem you encounter how to hang artwork?

Yes, people are clueless on how to hang artwork. Most people are hanging art too high!  Easiest answer – hang it at eye-level, usually about 57” off the ground.  Second to that, rugs that are too small for the space!

What is one element that can draw a room together when it feels like nothing goes together?

An amazing rug!  With the right color and proportion for the room it just brings you in!

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How do you make a space feel personal when you are designing for another person’s home?

It’s all about a conversation with the client.  You have to have good communication, otherwise, it just won’t work.  I can try to guess what they will like, but you have to talk/chat/IM, whatever gets you collaborating.

What, in your opinion, makes a space feel homey?

Great lighting, the right color on the wall and objects that matter to the owner.

I just moved into a new place and it’s a mess, but I’m having people over for a housewarming party. How can I make my space look put together in just a few hours?

Make sure the big pieces are where you ultimately want them to go.  Keep everything else in their boxes.  This will help create less visual clutter and keep the space neat. The less clutter you have out, the better.  Besides you can totally make a corner full of boxes rock from a design perspective – Newly-Moved Chic is so in these days!  People should be there to see you and be excited about your new space, not to attend your garage sale!

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