Coffee With: Tavia Forbes of Forbes + Masters

We chatted realistic design budgets, yurts, and our favorite new furniture trend.

Tavia Forbes happily ruins a good manicure on a DIY project. It’s that back-to-basics (without being at all basic) spirit that makes Forbes + Master’s work shine.

Q&A With Tavia Forbes

Casaza: How did you get your start?
Tavia Forbes: My now mentor, Myleik, walked up to me at an event I helped design and said, “You did an amazing job, you’re designing my townhouse.” My mother, standing next to me, quickly gave me up and left me in her hands. Serendipitously, I was two weeks into my one-month notice I had given my current job, as an operations manager for airport spas.

She was instrumental in framing my mind for “My So-Called Freelance Life,” pun intended. MySo-Called Freelance Life, along with The Anti-9-to-5 Guide, were gifted to me and pulled me out of thinking like an employee. Myleik and I worked together on the design of her space with big ideas and a small budget. We thrifted, D.I.Y.ed, stenciled our way to an eclectic, stylish space that fully represented her. She referred me to her friends and then their friend and so on. My business grew exponentially from a single interaction.

forbes and master designed music room with guitar on wall and light fixture
Music room designed by Forbes + Masters

C: How would you describe your style?
TF: While Monet and I describe ourselves as eclectic, we express ourselves differently. I am partial to neutrals, natural elements, and rich textures. I secretly want to live in a yurt on a cold Nordic beach. I love living without much color. This puts my mind to rest in a dream-like state to then create. Hearing Nate Berkus speak live for the first time, I learned that we share this need.

C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
TF: Nature and culture are my greatest sources of inspiration. I am always inspired to create whenever I am in a new landscape or viewing art from various cultures.

C: Favorite room in the house? Why?
TF: The spare rooms. They often end up as hobby rooms, lounges, studies, wine cellars or playrooms. They are the most lived in and the most fun to design.

C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
TF: Though symmetry has its place, there is more to say for a balanced space that does not come by way of symmetry.

C: Recent project that inspired you?
TF: Our Airbnb project was so much fun. We started with a raw, walkout basement space with an awkward layout. We devised clever ways to conceal pipes, vents, pumps, and secret doors. Every detail of the space had to serve a dual function while remaining light, airy and inviting.

C: Favorite texture/pattern/color? Why?
TF: I love African mud cloth patterns. The organic, geometric patterns remain historic and iconic. This is not just a fleeting trend.

C: What is “good design” to you?
TF: Design that tells the story of its inhabitants. Frank Chimero said, “People ignore design that ignores people.”

ellen degeneres pool house
Move over, Ellen! Tavia is joining you in your Santa Barbara poolhouse. | Courtesy of Curbed

T: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it? 
TF: Tell Ellen Degeneres, I’ll be in the pool house. I feel like we are kindred silly spirits who understand the single most important thing in life is love and compassion. She expresses this very simple concept through her light-hearted actions. In turn, her design aesthetic is warm, organic and thoughtful.

C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
TF: Porcelain, glass or ceramic, rarely paper or plastic. As the daughter of the ultimate entertainer, I have been setting dinner settings since I was 11 for up to 30 dinner guests.

C: Best advice for DIYers?
TF: Create a mood board of your ideas to ensure that they work together. There are so many sites that offer great inspiration and detailed how-tos. Planning your design direction will keep you on track.

C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
TF: Create a budget prior to meeting with pros. Here’s our favorite exercise to give clients. Go online to your favorite furniture store, put all items you think you need in a cart, take the total and add 25% for art and accessories, 15% for labor and miscellaneous, and 10% for shipping. This will help you create a working budget for your project and the beginnings of a constructive conversation.

C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
TF: ’60’s curved furniture and upholstery are back in a stunning way and coupled with the bauhaus minimalistic lines, this trends’ trajectory aims at the future.

C: How do you take your coffee?
TF: Like I like myself, medium brown, not too sweet with a little spice. 2 creams, 1 sugar and a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cream dining room with funky pattern
Design by Forbes + Masters

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