Do you know what it takes to be a product designer for a major Canadian furniture brand? Carla Zacharias does. From working on a product’s inception (inspirational stages and all), to the material design, working with suppliers for manufacturing, and even making decisions for the final product display, Carla does it all. Her specialty is accessories, and in her role this is defined as textiles, lighting, tableware, bedding, and more. Cool? Very.
Admittedly, Carla does have an advantage when it comes to designing her home because of her profession. But that didn’t stop her from being budget conscious (we love that about her!) during the design process. Built in 1929, Carla and her husband first fell in love with the house’s character and have spent the past year adding their personal touch. Carla’s favorite? Block prints from India in the dining room and decals on the wall in her baby’s nursery. Carla’s inspiration comes from exploring the world, seeing new cultures, and meeting new people.
Always a work in progress, Carla says her house is still undergoing changes; she is currently searching for the perfect pendant for the dining room. But that doesn’t stop Carla from dreaming of having it all, as she is the proud new mama to a two-month old little girl. And as for finding balance? We agree with Carla when she says, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way!”
Full name: Carla Zacharias
Current title/company: Accessory Product Manager at EQ3/Mother
Education: Bachelor of Environmental Design specializing in Interiors
First off, congratulations on the new addition to your family! You are on maternity leave from your dream job as an accessory product designer for Canadian furniture company EQ3. What drew you to EQ3?
EQ3 is a Canadian company based in my home town, and its strong reputation in design and quality was an attractive quality to me. The opportunities for product design at EQ3 are very unique. A product developer gets to work on a project from the beginning inspirational stages of a product, to designing the product, working with the suppliers to manufacture the design, and finally to being involved in how the design should be displayed on the showroom floors. Being hands on in each step of the design is what drew me in.
What an amazing career opportunity! Tell us about your duties and responsibilities for EQ3.
As a project manager for accessories I am responsible for all categories which fall under accessories (hence the title), such as rugs, textiles, lighting, tableware, bedding, etc. I have to manage each range and be aware of products EQ3 is missing, seasonal products, and products which are no longer relevant. Once a need is in place, it is my job to either work with designers to fill that product need, or take on some of the designing myself or with other member of the product team. I then have to see the project through to the very end. We have teams in China, India, and Indonesia that I work with to find the most appropriate supplier for the production of the design. This often results in travel to these suppliers during the sampling or production stages of a design. Once the product has been sampled, the team at EQ3 determines if this is the right product for our stores, and if it is, I then work with the in-house teams such as the graphic department for the packaging, all the way to the visual team in how the product should be displayed on the floor.
Give us a glimpse of your typical day as an accessory designer.
A large chunk of my day is spent responding to emails with our teams overseas on each project and making decisions on how to guide the project along. I then spend time working on new designs for the next season. Time is also spent in meetings with the product team so our ideas are all cohesive from upholstery to case goods to accessories.
Where do you find inspiration? Share your creative process when designing a new piece from conception to reality.
It starts with determining a need for a product in our range. Once that need is established, we have to determine a target price the product should retail for, and the season we are going to launch the product. Time is always spent researching current and future design trends and colors. From here, I focus on the function of the product, colors/pattern, and materials. Material is a huge factor in cost of the product and how the product is manufactured. These play big roles in the design of the product. Once I have a finalized design, I will get input from the team which will often result in slight adjustments. Once the design and drawings are confirmed the product is sampled. Most of my design inspiration is taken from my surroundings, and oftentimes when I am not even thinking about design!
What is one of your favorite designs that you’ve created for EQ3?
This is always changing but at the moment I would say the Sweater Rug or the Stumpy Wall knobs.
What fuels your creativity outside of work?
I enjoy spending time out of the city, especially in summer at the lake. I enjoy going for runs, bike rides, cooking, playing soccer, and hanging out with friends and family.
Will you return to work full-time after maternity leave? How will you balance working outside of the home and motherhood?
Right now the plan is to return full-time, however now being a mom for two months this sounds impossible to balance. So to answer your question, I have no idea! But with support from my husband and family, I know where there is a will there is a way! And to be honest, being at work full-time is probably easier!
Let’s chat about your home! You and your husband recently purchased your first home, which was built in 1929. How have you adapted your style to compliment an older home?
I like the character in homes with older elements and the warmth and quality from the materials, but I am always drawn to modern furniture for clean lines and simplicity. When mixing the two together the contrast often emphasizes the character of the older home, which can sometimes get lost if everything is the same style. I am in love with anything modern Scandinavian design!
Where do you shop for home decor items? Do you prefer to design your own pieces, buy new, or refurbish antique finds?
All of the above. I like the mix of new items, with old refurbished items, with unique DIY, one of a kind items. I buy a lot of my stuff from EQ3 and Ikea and a few pieces from second hand stores and Kijiji, a site that is similar to Craigslist.
Any advice when searching for antiques or pieces on Craigslist?
You have to be open to what the item could look like with a little love and care. For example a new color or new hardware can completely change the look of an item.
What do you think are the most important home decor items to invest in?
A Kitchen Aid mixer (ha!). I use mine all the time and it makes baking so much quicker! My sister is always making fun of the amount of muffins I make weekly, and you can also make your own ice cream which landed me a spot in the ice cream club at work.
I think a dining room table is an important investment. Much of the day (at least for me) is spent around the table. I work at my table, sometimes bake, eat, and entertain both family and friends. I bought a large wood table so I can have many people crowd around it, and due to the imperfections of the table (such as the cracks) I am not worried about getting it dirty, scratched, or stained. Since it is solid wood, I can sand it down back to new.
What advice do you have for decor shopping on a budget without sacrificing style?
Use Craigslist, wait for sales, and/or be open to DIY projects.
Carla Zacharias is The Everygirl…
I wish I knew how to…
Favorite place you have travelled?
India. But I also loved Portugal!
Best advice you’ve ever received?
After being a new mom everyone told me “it will get better.” It didn’t help in the first few weeks, but it does get better!
Tall Americano with soy