The concept of what “home” means to people might be the most broadly defined word in modern language. Mostly because the idea of a home is so intrinsically tied to other core human values – family, personality, even morality. For interior designer Abigail Horace, owner of Casa Marcelo, throw in a bit of chaos and uncertainty in with those fundamental notions of family and individuality and you might find yourself with the perfect mix for the post 2020 idea of home life.
Weeks after moving into her new rental home in Northwest Connecticut to start a new chapter for her family and a new business venture for herself, the pandemic set itself upon the world like a winter storm cloud. Casa Marcelo itself was founded in 2018 with a mission to bring interior design to the forefront of wellness and as 2020 turned into a marathon of isolation for many, Abigail’s mission statement became prophetic. With her husband, a youth football coach, and her three-year old son, Ezekiel, suddenly home all the time, Abigail’s vision of the home and health connection became bound by experience.
The start to it all
Abigail’s own journey in interior design began as a teenager watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. After high school, Abigail earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) in 2010. From there, she began her decade-plus year career in New York City in the interior design high-end residential field.
After starting Casa Marcelo four years ago, Abigail sought to escape creative burnout, and the lack of representation and work/life balance of the big city and journey to the lush hills of Litchfield County. Now, after the year that was, Abigail has redefined what it means to be a busy career woman, mother, spouse and first-generation American. In other words, what home means to her.
What prompted your journey into interior design?
I grew up in the arts, playing clarinet and dancing primarily, with a sprinkle of fine arts in there. My father was an electrician and hobbyist photographer and mom was an educator and a singer. When I was in my teens I moved my room around constantly in my childhood home in Queens, NY. I didn’t realize it was a career until I watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and understood the impact of a well-designed space, for my community and beyond. It was intriguing that I could mix business and art in one field. After high school I enrolled in the Interior Design program at NYIT and the rest is history.
Your transition to Connecticut was promptly interrupted by the pandemic, how did that affect your design philosophy if at all?
If anything, the pandemic strengthened my design philosophy. Your home, the one you retire to at the end of the day, should be an oasis. It should reflect and embrace you, it should love you. And you should love it back! A well-designed home is so important for mental health – we all should have a space we don’t have to escape from. It was especially evident during the pandemic when we spent most of our time at home. It can’t be chaotic or depressing, it needs to be alive and peaceful. I believe in creating homes that help you in everyday life, whether that be through beauty, function, or both.
How would you list your priorities when it comes to designing a space?
Space planning is key for me. Throughout my education at NYIT, we really studied how people inhabit a space and how to pick apart our clients’ habits. We observed how they would move in a space and create around that. When you study the client first and foremost, everything else will fall into place. The fun and pizzazz is in choosing the individual pieces, but space planning and client research is the foundation to making it work. Then the accessories and finishing touches give it a little more shine and glitter.
How do you balance family-life with being an entrepreneur?
What balance?! Haha! There are ebbs and flows with everything and I think as a mother I’ve learned most importantly to be flexible with myself and others. Once I’m flexible, I can adjust and move forward with grace. At the end of the day, those who love me require my utmost attention, but I also have a great work ethic which puts my clients at the forefront of my mind at all times. It’s also key to have a really supportive spouse when being an entrepreneur, especially as a woman. I’m blessed to have a husband who prioritizes my life and work and fills in the gaps if I need him to. It’s a great partnership and essential to running my business.
What cultural or personal influences are behind Casa Marcelo?
Casa Marcelo was derived from my maiden name “Marcelo.” Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting a Marcelo (my father’s Dominican side of the family) knows they are dynamic, funny, and overall good people. When I thought of creating my business, I thought of all the working women in my family who came before me who had determined business minds, but never got this far. So it’s an ode to them. I think of Casa Marcelo as an atelier, a studio with many running parts. In terms of design, I have a reference to effortless organic nature in every project, since my family is from the tropical countryside of both Panama and the Dominican Republic, which are full of beautiful natural elements. I enjoy bringing forth my clients’ culture and essence in their spaces, as it’s important to be reminded where you came from daily in your own home, in order to propel you forward.
Is there still room for growth in this ever-changing landscape?
Absolutely! There’s always room for growth. I think interior designers have had to market themselves to be different, now more than ever before. We are being copied through blogs, software, in-house retail designers, etc. – all in an effort to create a fraction of what we can actually offer our clients. Not to mention all the competition we have with all the amazing designers out there who bring it in every project. We now have to sell why we are special and why clients should choose us above the rest or DIY. We have a lot of competition these days, but I value and believe in the expertise and essence of a professional designer above all else.
Discover Casa Marcelo for yourself by following Abigail on social media or visiting www.casamarcelo.co.