When Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters met, the two were both young designers with a passion for interiors and an entrepreneurial drive. Fast forward to now, and the two are not only successful business partners, but also friends and roommates. Now what do you get when two talented interior designers share a space? You get a gorgeous home, complete with both cohesive design and unique personal touches. Tavia and Monet let us into their home to discuss all things related to starting your own business with a friend, creating a decor style that’s all your own, and the trends they wish would just go away for good.
Name: Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters, Owners / Principal Interior Designers at Forbes + Masters Interior Design
Age: 31 and 30
Rent or Own: Rent
Square Footage: 1,064
What were your first jobs, and how did you land them?
Monet: My very first job was at a seasonal Halloween store. They were getting the store ready for opening day and were looking for someone who could stage and do the window displays. I lived practically next door and walked by every day while coming home from school and decided to apply, as I was so eager to work and be independent. As for interior design, the first job I held related to design was assisting an interior designer while at SCAD completing my bachelors in interior design. She had a showroom in a part of town that was recognized as the design district. At about 24 years old I walked from showroom to showroom looking for an opportunity and that’s exactly what she offered me. I learned about wallpaper, fabrics, and furniture and had endless opportunities to converse with other designers who visited the showroom regularly.
Tavia: My now mentor walked up to me at an event I helped design and said, “You did an amazing job, you’re designing my townhouse.” My mother, standing next to me, quickly gave me up and left me in her hands. Serendipitously, I was two weeks into my one-month notice I had given my current job, as an Operations Manager for airport spas. She was instrumental in framing my mind for “My So Called Freelance Life,” pun intended. My So Called Freelance Life, along with The Anti 9 to 5 Guide were gifted to me and pulled me out of thinking like an employee. Myleik and I worked together on the design of her space with big ideas and a small budget. We thrifted, D.I.Y.ed, stenciled our way to an eclectic, stylish space that fully represented her. She referred me to her friends and my business grew exponentially from there.
How did you two meet?
Monet: Tavia and I met on a project that I was working on. It was my very FIRST commercial project and it was rather large. I had barely any commercial experience at that time but the client loved my style and commissioned me anyway. Long story short, I was in way over my head and it began to cause tension between the client and myself. Therefore, I was let go from the project. Tavia was the designer who they brought in originally to mediate our dilemma but they eventually hired her to complete the project. Through the awkward transition, I called Tavia the next day after meeting her for the first time to reintroduce myself and let her know that I wanted to stay in touch with her. The rest is history.
What made you each want to start your own design firm?
Tavia: I don’t know if I had a choice, nor saw another route. My first interior design experiences were as a freelancer. Interior design projects have so many moving parts, and over time I learned that it is impossible to do it all on your own.
Monet: After graduating from SCAD, a school that encourages creativity and independence, I made my way to the corporate world. This was everything against my character but I enjoyed the convenience of stability, being the only designer at the small firm, and having my own office. I was at the company for a few months before I realized that my creativity and independence were not accepted and the work was boring so I began to take up projects on the side to fulfill my desire to design. I ended up leaving a year later and truly struggled for the first year until work became steady. I stuck it out because I believed that there was no other option.
What is it like running a business together?
Tavia: Running a business together is rewarding, comforting, complicated and fun all at the same time. We have opposite personality types, opposing strengths, and very similar design styles, so our ability to listen and compromise is tested each day.
What advice do you have for other co-founders who work together?
Tavia: Know that you will often not see eye to eye. Remember why you are together in the first place. How you handle the tough and uncomfortable moments is the measure of your business. Active listening, communication, and respect should always be present. Monet and I have each had some hard lessons learning from one another and growing together.
Monet: My number one advice for other co-founders who work together would be to communicate regularly about personal life as it relates to the business as well as work needs. It’s important to also understand each other’s weaknesses and strengths.
What strengths do you each bring to the table?
Tavia: Monet and I usually fall into separate roles per project. Overall, with a background in business, I handle the budgets and finances. Monet, being very fast and organized, handles logistics and project management. I sometimes naturally take the lead on commercial projects and Monet does so for residential projects.
Monet: Tavia majored in business so she excels in spreadsheets and the finances of the business and for each project. She actually loves working with numbers. I help to keep projects and the company organized as well as keep us present on all social media platforms.
How would you describe your respective design styles? Additionally, how would you describe each other’s?
Tavia: I am partial to neutrals, natural elements, and rich textures. I secretly want to live in a yurt on a cold Nordic beach. I love living without much color. This puts my mind to rest in a dream-like state to then create. Hearing Nate Berkus speak live for the first time; I learned that we share this need. While Monet and I describe ourselves as eclectic, we express ourselves differently. Monet loves bold patterns, deep colors, and cultural elements layered over a modern space with clean lines and symmetry. Her space looks like how she dresses. It’s either patterned pants or a flowy dress with her, while I’m in jeans and a white shirt.
Monet: My personal style is very clean and minimal in reference to furniture but very eclectic and bold with textiles. I like balance. Tavia loves texture and monochromatic color schemes. You can even see our styles when it comes to fashion. We tend to accidentally match with color or category of style but I am normally the wild and eclectic version while Tavia is the modern version.
When beginning a new design project, where do you begin?
Monet: When we walk into a space, there is always something that will stand out more than anything else. That thing is typically what drives the design we present for that room. Sometimes it’s a beautiful window, a dead-on depiction of symmetry, architectural detail, great floors, the list goes on. Other times, while out doing homework (i.e., sourcing), we’ll come across a great fabric or wallpaper, and if we feel it fits a client’s personality, style, or home, then we use that for direction.
What is one design trend you wish to never see again?
Tavia: Damask has always made me itchy. It’s the default glam pattern that I wish would just go away.
Monet: A design trend I would be okay with never seeing again is the brown and teal color scheme. It felt like EVERYONE bought into this and I personally think it was over before it started. I think having very “matchy” rooms in general; unless its a monochromatic room, is outdated but of course if done right I’m all for it.
Tell us about the process of designing your own home. Did you take a different approach than you would take with a client?
Tavia: The process is completely different. Designing for us happens organically, selecting piece after piece one at a time and allowing our space to evolve and change over time. With our projects, all must be done at once. Inspiration + Design + Execution = Happy client.
Monet: When it comes to designing for a client, it’s important to present an entire scheme, design, and style at once. This is easy to digest and imagine. Designing for our home is the exact opposite — the completion of our home happened over time. Sharing the sentiments of Rome… it was not built in a day. lol. We went months before getting a coffee table but the end results, for me, are priceless. I love the style and feel of our home and I think it’s because every piece was selected with much thought and consideration.
What is each of your favorite rooms in your home? Favorite piece?
Tavia: My bedroom is my favorite room in my home and my light fixture is my favorite piece. The gold chainmail casts an ethereal pattern on my walls at night. It’s like being underwater. Seeing that my first career path as a mermaid didn’t work out, this will do for now.
Monet: For obvious reasons, I would say confidently that Tavia’s room is her favorite space in the house as I would say mine would also be for me. The common areas are filled with character, but I love how stylish yet comfortable my room is. I particularly LOVE my Jonathan Adler nightstands. I remixed the base to make them less midcentury and more modern but they make my room look like I spent a lot more than what I did.
It’s evident that you both have unique taste, but your home is very cohesive. What’s your advice for blending different styles into one shared space?
Tavia: Look for common threads in color, cultural references, and art.
Monet: I believe the key to merging different styles is balance. Something has to take the lead in the formula of hierarchy. Once that is established, you slowly add according to that theme’s place in “line.” Tavia and I understood this as we added to the space over time, but it also helped that we shopped together.
What is one thing we could all do to add a bit more style to our homes?
Tavia: Know yourself. Really try to find out why you like the things you do. Most blocks boil down to lack of exposure. Do a little research on Pinterest and you will find so many creative ways and ideas to turn up and enhance your personal style.
What advice would you give to your 23 year old selves?
Tavia: Save more money! You are going to need it when you start freelancing. If I had any foresight into the rough road ahead, I would have nixed some trips, meals and boots.
Monet: I believe I was 23 years old when I was just entering into SCAD. The school was filled with hardworking students, driven and focused on landing a position at one of Atlanta’s top interior design firms. I think by default it was everyone’s goal but I would tell my 23 year old self to pause and really evaluate how you want to use your degree.
Tavia Forbes is The Everygirl…
Guilty pleasure snack?
Sunflower seeds. You cannot look cute destroying those.
Most played songs on your Spotify?
“Paradise Circus” by Massive Attack, “Baltimore” by Nina Simone, movie scores by Clint Mansell, and “I Put a Spell On You” by Alice Smith
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Ellen DeGeneres. She is unabashedly herself, with genuine heart for people. I think we would crack up together sharing our favorite YouTube videos.
Monet Masters is The Everygirl…
Guilty pleasure snack?
Most played song on your Spotify?
Anything that falls in the category of Bonob0
Surprisingly, I don’t drink Starbucks, but probably some sort of tea.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
OMG this is hard. If I could have lunch with any woman it would be Genevieve Gorder because I have followed her career since trading Spaces on TLC and have seen her career blossom. She is one of my favorite designers. Also, she’s really funny and I’m sure it would be a great time, besides, I would more than likely bore Oprah.