Q&A With Albie Knows
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Alberthe Buabeng: Accidentally on purpose! I wish I could say I’m one of those people that has “always been creative” but I’m not. I’m a creator and an idea machine, for sure, but definitely more technical than creative. In high school I studied architecture and that’s what I initially went to college for because I loved using AutoCAD and other drafting software. Two years into undergrad, I switched majors to Advertising & PR, which really tapped into my love of storytelling; but like most flailing new grads at that time — hello recession, is that you? — I was also working retail and took on a lot of freelance marketing work, everything from event production to website design.
While working retail, I was able to leverage what I’d learned in school to pursue a visual merchandising track, which really tapped into my love of creating spaces. I did this for almost a decade before deciding to pivot into interior design.
Preparing for our daughter in a NYC studio apartment forced me to get creative and put to use all my creative energies. That’s when it hit me that people do this for a living, and I traded fixtures for furniture and apparel for accents. The rest is history.
C: How would you describe your style?
AB: Have you heard of Hygge as a lifestyle concept? My style is the aesthetic embodiment of that — cozy textures, layered neutrals, and natural elements. I love a space that gives me the literal “warm and fuzzies” and just feels like a big, relaxing hug, but I also love a little bit of bling by way of metals.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
AB: Remember when I said I’m an idea machine? Most of my inspiration comes from the belly of my imagination. As a mom and wife, I tend to turn inwards to keep in touch with who I am as an individual and that tends to manifest itself a lot in my designs.
But I’m not an island of ideas. I don’t get out much so I have to find inspiration in everyday ways — television, social media, magazines, trade events, and my peers are my muses.
C: Favourite room in the house?
AB: Bathroom! I am a bit of a self-care snob and I believe everyone deserves an at-home spa experience, hence the bathroom. Plus outside of where you’re sleeping, the bathroom is where you begin and end every day so, for me, it’s a no brainer to make it the best it can be.
For design work, though, I absolutely love working with living rooms. They’re typically the first room you see and a culmination of the entire home’s story.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
AB: None of them, to be honest, but that’s probably because I didn’t formally study design. I’m self-taught, and while I am pursuing a Master’s degree in the field now, it’s more technical than it is creative.
When it comes to design, the only “rules” I follow are to go with what looks and feels good.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
AB: I did a studio apartment makeover for the One Room Challenge and it wasn’t just about changing the space — it literally changed my client’s life!
In addition to giving the apartment a stylish upgrade with a new space plan and furniture, I was also able to organize her space and set her up for success with new storage solutions. At the reveal, it was like she was seeing her apartment for the first time and now she’s inspired to maintain it.
C: Favourite texture/pattern/colour?
AB: Oh I don’t like this game because I can’t really say I have one favorite of anything but I do have a “type” — cozy textures like sheepskin, velvet, and chunky knits. Like I said, I love creating Hygge-inspired spaces. Patterns, on the other hand, aren’t really my jam but I have been recently obsessing over leopard & zebra prints…really, the whole safari of prints! When it comes to color, just give me all the neutral, but especially black.
C: What is good design to you?
AB: “Good design” is functional design that doesn’t sacrifice style. It has to fit your life, not the other way around, but it also has to look and feel good. There is definitely no one size fits all answer to this, but when you know, you know.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
AB: It’s a tie between Charlotte York-Goldenblatt’s second apartment (the penthouse) from Sex and The City, and Abby McCarthy’s glass house from Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce.
As a NYC native, I was obsessed with the lifestyle that Charlotte’s apartment represented — a city dwelling with all the luxe interior fixings of suburb living. While, now, some of the decor choices would be a bit dated, her neutral everything palette is a great escape from the hustle & bustle of the city below.
What I love about Abby’s house, on the other hand, its fresh, fun, and mid-century inspired design. Very L.A. living for sure, which totally isn’t me, but would make for a great second home when I am just over NYC.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
AB: Entertain! I’m not a big hostess, but what I notice is that often when people host events, they spend more time babysitting the event and trying to make sure everything is perfect, which leaves them very little time to actually be part of the event with their guests.
Be part of the conversation. Work the room. Partake in the good eats. Enjoy your own hospitality!
C: Best advice for DIYers?
AB: Know your limits! Pinterest, YouTube, and basically the whole internet will have you believing that everything can be DIY’d by everyone, and it’s just not true! I’m a designer and you couldn’t pay me enough to DIY anything and I’m okay with that.
People will take on DIY projects in the name of saving money or worse, creating content, only to later be overwhelmed by the whole thing and/or still have to hire out to fix mistakes.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
AB: Be very clear and honest with yourself about everything, but specifically how much time, money, and trust you’re willing to invest.
When you go to the doctor, you don’t just say “hey figure out what’s wrong with me?” and let them run a bunch of random tests. You tell them what you’re feeling and where the pain is, and with that information, they’re able to give you the right diagnosis and treatment.
From the designer to the contractor, you don’t want your pro just walking into your home and guessing. Like DIY, the internet gives people a very skewed perception of how home-related projects really work, but knowing exactly where you stand from the start at least makes getting the information you need easier.
C: What is one design trend you’re most excited about this season?
AB: I don’t know that any particular trend excites me but what I have noticed has become more prevalent in the design space is the realization that not everyone owns and that not everyone lives large. I am seeing way more nods to small spaces and to renter-friendly design and this excites me personally as a renter, but also as a designer, because so often I would get inspiration photos from clients of spaces that they couldn’t really relate to.
While it is my job to peel back the layers of the inspiration to get to a design solution that’ll serve my clients no matter what, I’m noticing that the days of people feeling left out when it comes to design just because they rent or have a smaller footprint home are finally starting to be a thing of the past.
C: How do you take your coffee?
AB: Daily and with a straw. I am a sucker for a freshly brewed cup of Bustelo, with a cinnamon stick, coconut oil, and frothed creamer.