By Design Austin

Veteran interior design company officially roots itself in Austin

Article by Jennifer Birn

Photography by Lesson Medrano

Originally published in Austin Lifestyle

Luxury interior design company By Design Interiors has been in business just over 30 years. Originating in Houston, they branched out to San Antonio and in 2020 put boots on the ground n in Austin. Heading up Austin operations are Senior Interior Designer Erika Barczak and Lead Designer Isabel Sarria. We chatted with them at a lake house they took from bare to abundant about design tips and what sets Austin apart. 

How long have you each been interior designers?

Erika: I have been a designer for over 12 years now. I chose Interior Design as a major out of sheer curiosity and fell in love with the possibilities after my first assignment – designing my idea relaxation room. It was the first time I realized all the creative possibilities for just a single room.

How long have you each been with By Design?

Erika: I started as an intern with BDI in 2009, was hired as an assistant in 2010, and promoted to a designer in 2011. I have been procuring, managing, and designing my heart out ever since!

Isabel: I have been with By Design Interiors for 4 years. I actually completed my internship at By Design Interiors before graduating. I worked with Erika throughout my internship and was offered a permanent position as a Junior Interior Designer. I’m now working as a lead interior designer, still working with Erika on projects, but fully managing the Austin design scene and projects here! 

What did you do in the space?

Erika: We furnished the entire home. The wife insisted the spaces be as fun as possible for when their kids and grandkids visit. Every room was a complete blank space – the only things we did not select were mattresses, dishes, and some personal affects.

What is the easiest thing people can do to improve the look and feel of their home if they’re only going to renovate one thing or room?

Erika: After living in a tiny home for two years, I have grown to love versatility. I strive to create spaces that serve more than one purpose or can be easily changed and refreshed. That said, a fresh coat of paint can do wonders! 

Isabel: Paint! The options are endless – there are so many colors and finishes to work with that can make a huge impact in a home. It’s a great way to add a pop of color, some personality and contrast to a space. Also, art and accessories are a great way to elevate and update a room with minimal changes.

What do people generally spend too much money on when they’re remodeling?

Erika: I don’t think people realize how much renovating truly costs. In addition to quality materials, you want quality and skilled craftsmen. Quality labor can cost just as much or more than the materials being installed. It is so much better to do it right the first time.

Isabel: My first thought is labor, the ‘measure twice, cut once’ mentality! It's crucial to find trustworthy workers to help a project run smoothly but it can get pricey. The key is to not compromise quality but also to be mindful of the budget. 

Where should people invest in a remodel?

Erika: People should invest in the spaces they use the most! Your home should function well for you. I love pushing clients to really think about how they live in a space – I ask a thousand questions! I want to know where they spend their time and what brings them joy. I want people to walk into those spaces, instantly feel relaxed, and so happy to be home.

How is the Austin market most starkly different than other markets?

Erika: My favorite thing about the Austin market is that it is more colorful and definitely quirkier…. Just like us!

Isabel: Austin is such a fun city! I love how our clients have such diverse backgrounds and personal styles. There are traditional houses but also modern, midcentury, ranch homes, bungalows and skyrise apartments. I love the variety.

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