Tour This Designer’s Hip and Eclectic NYC Studio
Molly Torres' New York City studio is the perfect blend of feminine and masculine. From fresh flowers and dress forms to her boyfriend's guitars and concert posters, she has mastered the delicate balance between the two.
After Molly graduated from the University of Delaware, she began working for Theory and Helmut Lang. And after she had completed their six-month rotational training program, she took on her new role as the digital marketing coordinator over the two brands. Thus she began her climb up the fashion industry ladder that so many envy. But she started to realize that maybe this wasn't what she really wanted. When her parents moved to Long Island and gave her full permission to remodel their new home, those feelings were validated. So she took a big leap of faith and left her fashion insider job to pursue a career in interior design, which would begin with an education at FIT.
Molly is now pursuing her Associate's degree in interior design at FIT. She's wasting no time and applying what she's learning at FIT on projects outside of school, which include design consultations at One King's Lane's new studio concept.
Keep reading to hear more about Molly's brave decision to go back to school, how she defines her interior style, and life in New York.
Name: Molly Torres
Current job/company: Design Specialist, The Studio at One King's Lane
Education: Bachelor of Science, Fashion Merchandising at University of Delaware; Currently pursuing Associate in Applied Science, Interior Design at FIT
You're currently studying interior design at FIT. What has that experience been like?
The best word I can use to describe being a student in the interior design program at FIT is humbling. I've been a hardworking, dedicated, and organized person my whole life, but I can honestly say that I've never worked harder or more passionately than I have in three semesters at FIT.
Whenever I'm talking to someone about my career change and being in design school, their reaction is always so positive and usually followed by, "I'd love to get into interior design," or "I've always wanted to take some classes on the side." I smile and nod, grateful for everyone's support, but knowing that these well-meaning people often don't understand a big secret: Interior design is 10% "traditional" creativity and fun, and 90% extremely meticulous, thoughtful, and sometimes painstaking work.
Interior designers are special because they thrive on the hours of research, sketching, drafting, AutoCAD, Revit, scheming, sourcing, proposals and balancing budgets—and all goes in to each project. I consider myself lucky to be surrounded by talented students and teachers who share my passion and enthusiasm for learning and design every day.
The best word I can use to describe being a student in the interior design program at FIT is humbling.
What does a regular day look like for you?
On a typical day, I start classes at 9 a.m. and often stay on the FIT campus until nighttime, attending classes throughout the day and spending free time doing work in the library. My week is pretty much determined by my Interior Design Studio class and the stage of our most recent project. I just finished a residential project combining two condos into one urban apartment and started my first commercial project designing a contract office space. The conceptual part of the design process is my favorite, and I often spend hours researching my prospective client, refining the space plan, and searching through showrooms in the Decoration & Design Building, New York Design Center and downtown for the perfect furnishings.
During downtime, I do freelance interior design work on Long Island. I love blending school and work by using products I've sourced for school on actual projects, like the Michael Anastassiades' IC LIGHTS I'm currently using for a kitchen update. I also just started a design account, Designing a Tiny Empire, documenting our ever-changing studio apartment and providing small space inspiration. I'd love to start blogging and plan to make the leap with Designing a Tiny Empire soon, so stay tuned!
When I decided to quit my job as the digital marketing coordinator for Theory and Helmut Lang and apply to design school, I felt like I was turning my life upside down.
Have you held internships while in school? What's the most valuable thing you learned at an internship?
When I decided to quit my job as the digital marketing coordinator for Theory and Helmut Lang and apply to design school, I felt like I was turning my life upside down. Up until that point, I'd had a clear vision for my post-graduation career, which included making my way up the corporate fashion ladder, considered a dream job to many. But after two years of working in fashion, an idea started forming in my head that seemed to get louder and louder every day. I kept asking myself why I had always thought of interior design as a "later-in-life" career or why I shouldn't take the leap and try something that might be an even better fit for me than digital marketing. Thankfully, I decided to take the plunge with the support of my family, boyfriend, and friends.
After hearing about my plans to switch careers, a co-worker connected me with her friend who's a designer at the celebrated interior design firm Cullman & Kravis on the Upper East Side in NYC. During my first semester at FIT, I interned at Cullman & Kravis and was able to work with and learn from an extremely talented group of women. I learned so much about the world of residential design and was able to assist with every stage of the design process on multiple projects from conception to installs and photo shoots for Architectural Digest and Elle Decor.
But more importantly, the internship completely validated my decision to switch careers. Even though being a 24-year-old unpaid intern wasn't necessarily in my post-graduation plans, I had never woken up every day so excited to go to work and that realization was priceless!
Through a designer at Cullman & Kravis, I was given an opportunity to help launch One King's Lane's New showroom concept "The Studio at One King's Lane" as its first In-House Interior Designer. Located in One King's Lane's incredible downtown New York office, The Studio is where customers can book in-person or virtual consultations with designers to help with their style needs. The company has an incredibly innovative and entrepreneurial corporate culture and since The Studio is essentially a startup within a startup, it was a unique and exciting learning experience. I worked alongside the company's founder and talented head designer and learned to think fast and rely on my instincts when crafting a vignette, room, or entire home for clients during consultations.
How did you end up in NYC? Do you plan to stay after school?
After working and living in NYC since graduating in 2012 and now attending school here, I definitely plan to stay and work here after finishing FIT. Growing up in Long Beach, New York, a 50-minute train ride form the city, my friends and I always talked about moving to NYC together after college. I consider it a blessing that all of our school and/or career paths enabled us to actually follow through with this plan. Having a great network of life-long friends in this big city makes it feel more like home.
What's your favorite part of living in NYC?
Living in NYC is incredible because there's design inspiration everywhere! The world's most renowned museums, like the Met, the Whitney, the Guggenheim and my personal favorite in beautiful weather, the Cloisters, are all either walking distance or a subway ride away. The constant parade of pop-up galleries, show houses, and design shows are enough to make your head spin!
Even stepping outside my midtown apartment, which isn't necessarily the most beautiful part of the city, all I have to do is look up to notice incredible Renaissance revival architecture details on a ton of the surrounding buildings.
But my absolute favorite part about living in NYC? The food, duh! I'm a foodie at heart and will always travel for a good meal, whether it's for omakase at Sushi Yasaka on the Upper West Side or the best (in my opinion) slice of pizza at the original Joe's pizza in the West Village.
Tell us about the apartment hunt. That process is much different in NYC than in other cities! Did you have any wish list items that were a must?
Luckily, we didn't experience the dreaded NYC apartment hunt that many people do with our current place. Our friends lived in the building before us, which was conveniently located next to my boyfriend's old office and walking distance from FIT. Since we both agreed that convenience was a must, we only looked at studio apartments in that area.
The first thing I noticed, and loved about our place, was the high ceiling in the main room. We're lucky because our floor is only one of two in the entire building that has a 9-foot high ceiling, but it completely changes the dynamic in our small space. Besides opening up the main room and making it feel more spacious, the high ceiling allows for super tall windows, which is the second thing I fell in love with.
Between the incredible natural light we get during the daytime and the unbelievable scenic views (including a dazzlingly lit-up Chrysler building!) at night, it's really tough to pick a favorite time of day or night in our studio.
Let's talk about your home—it's beautifully decorated! How would you describe your style?
A friend once described my apartment as her daydream of what living in the city would look like when she was younger, which was the biggest compliment! I have so many years ahead to decorate my space, whatever that space may be, in a more "adult" or refined way.
But for now, I wanted to create a home that made me smile when I walked through the door and constantly inspired me to be more fun and creative. I would describe my style as a blend of favorite designers like Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors and Vanessa Alexander of Alexander Design continually inspire me.
What was the design process like?
When my boyfriend, Harry, and I decided to move in together, I wanted to create a fun, quirky space that showcased each of our styles cohesively in a gender neutral way. We're both huge audiophiles and I wanted to make sure that you could literally feel a musical energy throughout our place. Harry's a record label owner/accountant by day and a dreamer/collector of all cool things by night, including vintage guitars, records, and concert posters to name a few.
I've always loved pops of vibrant colors and mixing different, interesting styles, so I organically incorporated some of our favorite things, his Polaroid photos and eye-catching guitars throughout the space.
I'm big on "beautiful comfort"—I never want to feel like I'm walking on eggshells in a museum-like home, so I opted for an easy, livable space surrounded by pretty things with a layered look. The only off-limits section of our apartment is Harry's "man cave" (or more appropriately, his "man-nook"), which includes his prized record setup.
Designing the layout of a small studio apartment was a really fun challenge because it forced me to evaluate what I could and couldn't live without. I definitely had a to-do checklist, which included creating a functional entry way and "separate" living, dining, and bedroom areas. Instead of a wall, screen, or curtain, I opted for open IKEA shelving units to physically and visually separate our bedroom area without completely closing it off.
How did you stick to a budget for decor and furnishings?
Sticking to a student's budget for decor and furnishings might seem tricky, but it was surprisingly easy. Always keeping in mind that this is a temporary home, I started searching for the larger furniture pieces first, scoring big at World Market for an affordable sofa and headboard. I utilized IKEA for our shelving units and lighting, which enabled me to splurge on a CB2 coffee table and West Elm nightstands.
When we first moved in, I was anxious for everything to come together immediately, from picture frames to throw pillows. But Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are "finished" homes! As with everything, it took time to carefully craft each area of my space and it's constantly evolving.
Is there a particular piece or area of your home that you're particularly proud of?
My biggest goal for designing this apartment was ensuring that both Harry and I felt connected to the space. I think the piece of my home that I'm most proud of is the custom neon "Greenway" sign in our bedroom. I worked with Endeavor Neon in Canada on the sign for Harry's birthday, and it's a tiny little area in our bedroom that shines extra bright.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I can't even believe how different my life is now from two years ago, so it's a little tough to pinpoint where I'll be in five years! But, contrary to what I had always thought, I actually love the freedom of not knowing exactly what the future holds—it's equal parts scary and exciting. I've had so many different dreams of what I can do with my interior design degree, including working in a design or architectural firm that caters to residential and commercial design, working for a home staging company, dabbling in set design for movies, and Broadway plays... the list goes on!
But ultimately, I'd love to start a company of my own, whether that's in two, five, or ten years.
Contrary to what I had always thought, I actually love the freedom of not knowing exactly what the future holds —it's equal parts scary and exciting.
What advice would you give your 21-year-old-self?
When I was a fashion merchandising major at the University of Delaware, many of my close friends were studying to be in the medical or financial field. When asked what my major was, I would sheepishly admit it was fashion merchandising and quickly add "but I'm also in the Honor's Program!" I was self-conscious that others might think a job in a creative field was less significant than one in a more "serious" industry.
Hindsight is 20/20, but if I could, I would tell myself to let go of those stereotypes. The people I surround myself with would never belittle my career choices or think of themselves as better than me. I would tell myself that in a few short years, I'd be telling anyone who'd listen about my decision to go to design school and switch from one creative field to another and how happy and proud I am of my choices. I would tell myself that some of the most intelligent people I've ever met worked in fashion and interior design and that I should feel proud to count myself among them.
Molly is The Everygirl...
I somehow made it to 25 years without jumping on the coffee bandwagon. But, like most 25 going on 5-year-olds, I love a good hot chocolate with soymilk!
I have a lot and they're mostly food related. Considering the staff at the Wafels & Dinges food truck in Herald Square knows me by name and has my order memorized (waffle with spekuloos ice cream, hot fudge, and Nutella), it's probably my biggest guilty pleasure. And yes, it's embarrassing.
I wish I knew how to...
Cook! I know, I know—it's not that hard and it's something I can "easily" teach myself. But I've always enjoyed eating 100 times more than cooking. Learning to cook (and enjoy it) is the one resolution I fail at year after year. But I just started getting into my crock-pot and I'm looking into recipe delivery services like Blue Apron and Peach Dish to help me get it together.
Dream purchase for your home?
I've been obsessed with Lindsey Adelman's lighting designs for a few years, so owning any piece (pendant, sconce, table lamp, literally anything) from her Manhattan-based studio would be a dream. But my all-time favorite fixture is her Cherry Bomb Fringe. It doesn't more glamorous or playful than that!
Perfect weekend in New York City?
As long as it involves great company, food, and weather, I'm a happy girl. I've got summer on the brain, so a rooftop party sounds like a great mix of all three right about now.
Polaroid Frame, The Impossible Project
Runner Rug, Overstock
Stepladder, IKEA (white color dipped)
Sofa, World Market
Chunky Knit Pillows, Bloomingdale's
Chunky Knit Throw, Bloomingdale's
Bookshelves, IKEA (spray painted gold)
Flower Frame, Mackenzie-Childs
Storage Baskets, IKEA
Record Storage Unit, IKEA
Vintage Kodak Camera Lamp, Etsy
Floor Task Lamp, IKEA
Acrylic Coffee Table, CB2
Chevron Tray, Stein Mart
Vintage "H" & "M" Brass Letters, Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Area Rug, PB Teen
Vespa Perpetual Calendar, Ebay
Leather Butterfly Chair, Urban Outfitters
Faux SHeepskin, Lulu & Georgia
Triangle Mirror, Urban Outfitters
Vintage Babar Print, Le Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
Velvet Headboard, World Market
Faux Fur Throw, Bloomingdale's
Nightstands, West Elm
Tusk Knobs, Anthropologie
Mother of Pearl Picture Frames, Two's Company
Acrylic Tray, The Container Store
Area Rug, ABC Carpet & Home
Geode Knobs, Anthropologie
Wall-Mount Jewelry Mirror, Overstock
Wall Decals, Etsy
Polaroid Print, HPortnof Photo
Vintage Dress Form, Abingdon 12 Antique Shop
Bath Shelf, Overstock