EMI Interior Design, Inc. is a full-service residential interior design firm, founded by award-winning designer Erica Islas in 2000. Through her years of experience, Erica has developed a unique style of mixing old with new and giving each project a timeless feel. Seamlessly juxtaposing limestone, marble, earthy woods, textured fabrics and organic colors with materials such as metal and glass is what gives Erica’s work a striking and harmonious feel. The always busy Erica dishes on a challenging kitchen remodel and what she loves about vacationing south of the border.
1. Which designers influenced you?
I am a BIG fan of Philippe Starck, Christian Liaigre and Kelly Hoppen. The work of these three designers is timeless and very tailored. I love Starck for his bold, innovative designs — he is truly unique. Liaigre and Hoppen are just classic. Their attention to detail is very similar to my approach.
2. Show us a picture of the room you most enjoyed designing and tell us why you love it.
I enjoy all of my projects. I have the most amazing clients who love my work and trust my design choices. Kitchen and bathroom renovations are my favorites. One of my prized projects is a kitchen renovation in Silverlake, CA.
I love a challenge and this kitchen had them, such as existing posts that we had to work around and windows that the client hated.
I was able to enhance the windows with new horizontal cabinets and brought in other warm woods to tie the design together.
Function was also a challenge. We had to completely redesign the layout by moving the sink from one side to the other. This is never easy to do when you are on a slab-style foundation. I also enjoyed giving the client what they asked for PLUS more. The client loves cooking, so incorporating her dream AGA stove into a modern kitchen was a MUST and took center stage.
It was my job as an interior designer to keep with the rustic-modern architecture of the house and not let it get old or traditional looking. It was also very important to the client that we use sustainable materials wherever possible. I did not compromise my vision but still gave them exactly what they wanted.
Bet you can’t tell this kitchen has a hidden washer and dryer and a hidden ironing board, too. We custom designed all cabinetry to the very last detail. The clients were a true delight to work for.
3. What’s your favorite design style?
I love modern interiors. I also enjoy contemporary design when it is NOT trendy. I like classic designs that you cannot put a period label on.
4. What’s the essential home accessory (or piece of furniture) you use in your designs?
There should always be something reflective in a room. Whether it be a mirror or silver tray, a glass globe or any metallic finish, something in the room must catch light and reflect. It should happen casually in at least two spots in a room, so that your eye travels.
Another one of my design must-haves is textures — layers are important. Again, this ties in with the textures and different finishes. A room that is flat is boring. You can always tell a designer has been there when the room looks complete. It’s because we layer, layer, layer — almost if by second-nature. The easiest layering is playing with textures, materials and finishes.
5. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere in Mexico. I love the people, the culture and the food. The beaches are amazing.
For more lovely designs from Erica Islas, check out HGTV’s Designers’ Portfolio.