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Rising Stars: 3 Female Designers to Watch

Looking for fresh design ideas this year? We’re highlighting three powerhouse female designers hailing from New York City to Southern California who are putting their stamp on interiors and providing simple design hacks. Read on to hear about their path to design and what they’re up to now. 

Emily Del Bello, Principal of Emily Del Bello Interiors | New York City

We love your work. Tell us your backstory and how you got started.

Emily Del Bello: “I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I went to college at Indiana University and earned a bachelor’s degree in interior design. Even as a very little girl, I was always rearranging my room. At one point, my mom allowed me to work directly with her designer to design my room. She let me have full creative control. In high school, I ended up working for that same designer in my town. It’s safe to say I have always had it in my heart.”

Your first big design break?

EDB: “My friends in New York City needed to complete a renovation and they allowed me to help them.”

A rich blue study on the Upper East Side. Photo by Max B Photo. 

Favorite job perk? 

EDB: “I love that every day is different. I’m never at the same place on any given day. I also love connecting with people, solving problems, and making them happy. There’s nothing better than families making memories in the spaces you help create.”

Most memorable project to date?

EDB: “My beach house project. The clients were beyond kind and really trusted our vision. They let us bring a more creative, artistic view to the spaces and it shows in the completed project. It was such a pleasure designing for them.”

Dream project or collaboration?

EDB: “I have recently had some pretty incredible collaborations—ones I never dreamt of. A fabric collaboration with Hubbard Textiles and a lighting capsule with Blueprint Lighting. I still can’t believe those are a part of my portfolio and I’m forever grateful to have brought them to life.”

Textural artwork, marble side tables, and cozy armchairs add layers of texture in a living room space. Photo by Marco Ricca.

Easy design hacks for any space?

EDB: “Have the rug floating under the furniture in the space. Test your paint colors out in a room and never trust from a deck. And hand-measuring spaces is critical. Never trust someone else’s plans.”

Design philosophy or mantra?

EDB: “I never go by ‘rules’ in design. I truly believe there are no rules in design and each space requires something different. I always say ‘trust, believe, and receive.’”

A serene bedroom retreat with a four-poster bed in Southampton. Photo by Marco Ricca.

Top sources for accessories and artwork? 

EDB: “LES Collection and Montana Labelle.”

What’s in the works this year? 

EDB: “Some pretty special new builds, penthouses in the city, and beach homes. We keep our job count and schedule pretty tight so we can provide the attention that is required for each project.”

A fresh dining room design in New York. Photo by Marco Ricca.

Amber Sokolowski, Owner and Principal Designer, Soko Design | Seal Beach, California

Thanks for sitting down with us! Tell us your backstory and how you got started.

Amber Sokolowski: “I received a bachelor’s degree in marketing from California State University Long Beach and an MBA from Pepperdine University. I worked in corporate America for years and found myself wanting a different life. I always loved renovating my own homes and wanted to take a chance at making that my career. My husband and I sold our house and moved into his grandma’s dilapidated back house in Silver Lake. It was the best and most freeing time. I enrolled in UCLA’s interior architecture program and started my interior design business in 2016 while I was pregnant with our first child.”

Your first big design break?

AS: “A friend hired me to help with his mother’s house in San Clemente. That job, combined with a renovation I had just completed on my own house, got noticed on From there, HGTV found me and I did two episodes of ‘House Hunters Renovation.’ In the early days, Houzz and HGTV were my biggest lead sources.”

A light and airy living room with hints of earthy hues by Soko Design. Photo by Yoshihiro Makino.

Favorite job perk?

AS: “What’s cool is that I’ve actually become good friends with many of the people I have worked for. Renovation can be such a stressful process, and it feels great to come out on the other side with not only happy clients, but new friends.”

Soko’s own California kitchen with soft tones of white and cream. Photo by Yoshihiro Makino.

Your most memorable project to date?

AS: “If I had to choose, I would say my own home remodel that was completed last year. I designed the layout so quickly and everything came together smoothly because I was able to trust my instincts. I love designing my own spaces for that reason. I can make decisions quickly, and it usually works out. If something doesn’t end up the way I expected it, there is always a workaround.”  

Dream project or collaboration?

AS: “A furniture or accessory collaboration. Also, everyone says boutique hotel, but yeah—a boutique hotel would be something to get excited about.”

Three easy design hacks? 

AS: “My first tip would be to update the lighting. There is such amazing lighting out there that can create a wow factor in any space at any budget. Next, a fresh coat of paint. It can improve anything. Finally, make sure to include anything that can show a bit of your personality. This could be artwork or a wall hanging, or furniture in a fun color. Make your space unique.”

What’s your design philosophy or mantra?

AS: “‘House first, clients second, designer third.’ The reason I say this is we first need to identify a vision for the house that honors the architecture. This cannot be compromised. Trying to turn a Spanish home into a farmhouse isn’t going to work for me. After that, the client is the one who hired me, so it’s my job to make sure it feels like their own home and why they chose it. I’m not the type of designer who will push something out of budget [or not to the client’s taste] so that it photographs better. I realize that about myself now and can own it. Lastly, it’s always my responsibility as a designer to advocate for what I believe to be the best design or material, [keeping in mind] the two former items.”

Soko’s tranquil bedroom design. Photo by Jessica Alexander.

Design inspirations?

AS: “I love a good house tour. I will not miss an opportunity to see into someone’s house in any style and condition. I get interesting ideas and also identify things I would not want to do. Also, travel. It’s best to be able to see design in different parts of the world with your own eyes. Since I have two little ones, it has been hard to travel internationally much lately, but there are so many amazing boutique hotels near me, and more are always in development. Visiting a boutique hotel is a great source of inspiration even if you can’t get away too far.”

Top sources for accessories and artwork? 

AS: “Lawson-Fenning for unique furniture and accessories, plus a vintage and in-stock section. Midcentury LA; they have a great framed photography selection; Tappan Collective for art and sculptures.”

What’s in the works this year?

AS: “I’m working on mostly residential remodels right now, as well as my own backyard, and a fun commercial office.”

A cozy dining area by Soko with a graphic tiled fireplace surround. Photo by Jessica Alexander.

Beth Diana Smith, CEO and Principal Designer, Beth Diana Smith Interior Design |  Kearny, New Jersey

New Jersey-based interior designer Beth Diana Smith’s living room with colorful artwork and accessories. Photo by Mike Van Tassel.

We’re such fans of your style. Tell us your backstory and how you got started.

Beth Diana Smith: “I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, in a Grenadian household. When I was growing up there, it was very diverse. I was lucky to have grown up in a town like that, because I realized much later in life that that type of diversity would have a significant influence on my design aesthetic and mantra, especially my appreciation for color and culture. 

Originally, I planned on being an accountant and CFO, and subsequently attended Seton Hall University and received my Bachelor of Science degree in business administration and Master of Science in accounting. I worked in the corporate finance departments at various companies, including Morgan Stanley, Johnson & Johnson, and MTV, for more than a decade. I have always loved math and processes and never considered myself a creative, so corporate life seemed like a great fit. 

But after years in corporate, I needed another outlet. It was when I decided to redesign my own home that I discovered interior design. After doing a lot of research and seeing all of these amazing homes, I fell in love with design. The plan was to make it a ‘fun’ side hustle. The next thing I knew, I was going to design school on nights and weekends, and eventually left corporate life behind to do what I believed would make for a much more satisfying life.” 

Your first big design break? 

BDS: “I think this was early in my career, when I landed a pilot for HGTV’s ‘Restoring Glory.’”

A vibrant grass-green door packs a punch in Beth Diana Smith’s own home. Photo by Mike Van Tassel.

Favorite job perk?

BDS: “The ability to transform how someone lives. Home is supposed to be your oasis away from the rest of the world, and it’s an amazing feeling to give someone a home that they love and feel safe in.”

Most memorable project? 

BDS: “My own home definitely tops the list—especially when I look at photos of my home from long before I became an interior designer. That transformation still makes me laugh because the before photos are quite awful. Another project is a bachelor pad that I completed in 2019. I love the way that his home turned out, especially the fireplace. But what I remember most is something that [the homeowner] said during the first design presentation: ‘I can’t believe that I’m going to live here.’”

A striking dining room for a bachelor pad project. Photo by Rayon Richards.

Dream project or collaboration? 

BDS: “A boutique hotel.”

Your three easy design hacks?

BDS: “Paint is an easy and affordable way to make a big impact. Hang

drapery as close to the ceiling as possible and have the bottom graze the

floor to make the ceiling seem taller. Hang art so the center of the art is

approximately five feet from the floor. This will prevent you from hanging the

art too high, which makes the room feel uncomfortable.” 

A kitchen remodel with warm wood tones and subtle global elements. Photo by Mike Van Tassel.

Design philosophy or mantra? 

BDS: “Your home should be your oasis, and that oasis should be reflective of who you are and what you love.”  

The kitchen with layers and texture. Photo by Mike Van Tassel.

Top three places to go for inspiration? 

BDS: “Travel, museums, and decorator showhouses like Kips Bay Decorator Show House.”

Your favorite sources for accessories and artwork? 

BDS: “If I’m shopping retail, I have a long list of favorites. But here are a few for accessories, decor, and art: Lulu and GeorgiaJungalow, and 54kibo.”

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