It’s not unusual to have hours-long discussions while photographing interiors; however, designers tend to focus on what’s at hand—design decisions for the space, procuring a central piece, client successes, funny stories about the process. Seldom can we find time for more wide-ranging talks about our lives and work.
Recently, I had a chance to learn about the career paths of three Pasadena-based interior designers I’ve worked with over the years: Cynthia Lambakis, Emily Hancock, and Jeanne Chung. In the end, my suspicions were confirmed: The Pasadena interior design community is largely collaborative, to everyone’s benefit.
It started with my visit to Hancock’s home—a Pasadena beauty adjacent to the Arroyo, comfortably appointed with rich colors and a collection of nooks and crannies, each begging you to sit and pass the time. Hancock was exposed to the design trade from a young age by her grandmother, Victoria Andrew of Rollins Andrew Interiors. But it was Hancock’s experience designing her own home that was the impetus of her design business. “Once my three children were enrolled in school, I embraced my entrepreneurial spirit and decided to explore my potential as an interior designer,” she says.
Bearing the Rollins Andrew crest, Hancock received support and encouragement from Pasadena designers Dorothy Matthiessen and Roberta Huntley. Huntley even turned over her clients to Hancock when she retired. To cover the increase in business, Hancock brought on Jenifer Aldridge, a veteran of the Pasadena design sphere. “I needed to hire someone with in-depth knowledge of the interior design business and its systems,” Hancock says. “There are many facets to the business and Jenifer was the perfect addition.”
Like Hancock, Cynthia Lambakis, whom I caught up with later that day, believes in community involvement. “One of the best parts of living in Pasadena is that our community has such an incredible history of philanthropy in the arts and education, which goes deep for generations,” she says. “I believe giving back to the community is essential in order to maintain the fabric and rich culture of Pasadena.”
Lambakis is a past president of the Pasadena Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Being involved in the community has earned her many valuable connections. “Through ASID and the Tournament of Roses, I’ve made friendships and professional relationships I’ll always cherish,” she says.
With 10 years in business under her belt, Lambakis reflects on her beginnings. “Coming from a business background, I was drawn into design having completed several of my own projects, and I had enrolled in the popular UCLA Interior Design Certificate Program,” she tells me. Breaking away from her successful partnership with Ederra Design Studio in 2018 was a big step, and frightening at times, “but ultimately it allowed for creative freedom and the opportunity to exercise my skills as a businesswoman,” she says.
Lambakis also supports young designers as an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising; she has taken on several interns over the years and introduced them to the day-to-day design business, including the importance of building relationships.
Like Lambakis, Jeanne Chung shares her expertise with her fellow designers as they navigate the Pasadena Showcase House of Design. “2022 will be my fourth Showcase House,” Chung says. “Design aside, it’s the designer camaraderie I look forward to and enjoy. We have a lot of crazy fun.”
Chung, who grew up in the Pasadena area, remembers visiting the Pasadena Showcase House yearly. However, her interest in design really started in fashion, inspired by her family’s clothing business, where she worked alongside her mother and sister.
“I had been interested in fashion, so I headed to New York, where I attended Parsons, and embarked on a career in the hotbed of fashion, only to learn fashion wasn’t the collaborative atmosphere I had imagined,” she says
She made her way back to Pasadena, degree from the New York School of Interior Design in hand, and began to build her business. “First, I created a design blog, catching the attention of noted designer Kelli Ellis, who selected me as a style spotter for High Point Market,” Chung says. That evolved into a role as an insiders tour leader at High Point Market, the enormous home furnishings industry trade show held annually in North Carolina.
Through her endeavors, Chung built a solid understanding of the interior design business as well as an impressive network of designers and suppliers, giving her confidence enough to open her Dayton Street design service and Cozy Stylish Chic boutique.
Chung also recently inked a deal with Monogram appliances and several architectural fixture, hardware, and building suppliers to create Designer Domicile, a designer co-working space anchored by a Monogram Experience Center. “The original Designer Domicile concept was part of the 10-year plan, she says. “When the opportunity arose four years in, I went for it.”
Chung hopes that Designer Domicile will not only be an incredible design resource but will help solidify the spirit of collaboration in Pasadena.
With so many fields pitting women against each other in competition, the lasting sentiment and overall mindset each one conveyed to me, was that, “there’s enough room for all of us.”