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‘Every room tells a story’

Alexis E Barton

THE WASHINGTON POST – Between coastal grandma beach vibes and grand millennial chintz-covered fever dreams, it can be hard to find a design style that doesn’t feel cliche.

Atlanta-based interior design team Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters have earned a national reputation and attracted a diverse client list with their eclectic, personal work that defies easy characterisation.

“Every room tells a story,” said Masters. “Everyone can romance their space and see it as art. They just need to know how and know that they can.” The duo behind Forbes Masters spoke to The Washington Post about navigating the industry as young Black women, sourcing art, and designing meaningful spaces in which to dream, create and entertain.

CREATING CUSTOM SPACES THAT REFLECT CLIENTS’ PERSONALITY AND TASTE

Monet Masters: It’s easy to get a room that looks different every time when you truly are catering to the client. We get to know our clients, their function, their style of travel, their quirky pieces of furniture or heirlooms that have been passed down. And that is the start and inspiration to our spaces.

With that foundation, you could never have two rooms that look alike. We’ve had a lot of clients reach out to us and say, “I didn’t see my particular style in your portfolio, but because I saw so many different styles (reflected), it made me feel confident that you’re able to execute.”

Tavia Forbes (L) and Monet Masters in the home office they created for CurlBox founder Myleik Teele in Atlanta.
PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST
A Forbes Masters design for stylist Sherri McMullen

That’s how we’ve (developed) such a diverse portfolio, because we truly do cater to the client – collecting information and getting to know the client at the start of the project.

TELLING A COMPLETE STORY DESPITE THE UNEXPECTED

Masters: Tavia and I were doing a basement remodel for a client’s husband, as his festive gift.

The only thing that we had to consider was this hideous cockatoo side table. The husband loved sailing, which is why he had a cockatoo table.

The entire table was an oversized red cockatoo with a piece of glass on top, and the cockatoo held the glass. When we saw that table out of the context of the space’s full story, it was hideous. We were kind of upset that we even had to use it.

In the end, it made the space and it was our favorite piece because it’s what held everything together. We (thought of) elements that you would see on a boat or yacht and implemented some of those things throughout the space.

So all of the same elements are there – wall art, texture, fabrics, table top accessories – to cater to the narrative that’s telling the story. That’s why there are no missing pieces. We consider the room from every angle. Sometimes we’ll randomly walk to a corner and then look at the room from that view and say, “Oh, we need a piece of art on that wall” to ensure that the room is full and complete.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOURCING AND SELECTING ARTWORK

Tavia Forbes: We use some local galleries here in Atlanta to help our clients curate art and to source art, particularly Black art.

We have some favourite Black artists and discover new artists every day as we source for projects.

Or we work with a gallery in terms of placing a piece, particularly when we do show houses because we get to borrow expensive pieces, and with sourcing art for a client.

When we don’t have a great budget for art, we do use a website called Society6. It’s a collective of a bunch of artists that we sometimes narrow down depending on what we’re placing.

Also, Etsy is a great source for art. We try to tie in something close to the client. Or we connect a client to a curator that’s going to pull pieces that will appreciate in value, work with the home and speak to their family.

Masters: Buying art is an investment, and that was new to us. Most of our clients now have large art collections, and we always advise that they work with an art curator or go to places like Tavia mentioned, specifically Society6 and Etsy, because those artists are putting their own work up themselves, or work with an art curator because you should have a tie to that piece.

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