We sat down with Fuigo members Xandro Aventajado and Rachel Kane of Current Interiors. Read on to learn more about their accidental journeys into design, their hilarious struggles with custom-made beds, and their unique use of the sense of smell to close out projects on a memorably high note.
Fuigo: How did you get into interior design?
Xandro: Graduating with a fine arts background, people always told me I’m not going to get a job. I tried to get into the museum curation program at FIT and ended up being a day late handing in my application. I decided to try interior design just to kill time until I could reapply, so I did a semester and absolutely loved it. What captivated me most about interior design was the ability to create an experience. I appreciate the process of working with clients to achieve a vision.
Rachel: My background is originally in PR and Marketing. Xandro and I lived on the same floor in Dumbo when we both moved there 11 years ago. When I eventually moved, I hired the company Xandro was with specifically so we could work together. We realized quickly that this was such an easy working relationship—our strengths are complementary, we’re both passionate about design—and that was it, we were in business.
Lounge area with custom-designed ping pong table, bookcase, and desk - Office in Austin, Texas, photographed by Andrea Calo.
Fuigo: How do you get to know a potential client’s style?
Xandro: An easy way to read a potential client’s style would be their clothes. What they wear, how they carry themselves, how they layer things, what kind of shoes they wear—if they layer colorful socks with shoes, or a sweater and pocket square, I think that speaks a lot about a person. Wearing interesting layers means I know they won’t be afraid to layer patterns in their house. That also gives me a clue as to how much I can push them.
Fuigo: How do you kick off a project?
Rachel: During the proposal phase we always do an inspiration board. That's a good test to see if everyone is on the same page aesthetically. We can tell very quickly if we're able to get in the client’s head.
Xandro: Since art is so important to me, we usually start designing every space with art in mind. The first page of our mood board is usually artworks I’m attracted to that will relate well to the space or client. From there it evolves to shapes and forms, to colors, fabric, and textures, and then it’s an ongoing thought process all the way to the end. Artwork is usually a layer that designers use in the end, but we like to use it as a starting point.
Conference and phone rooms with custom-designed glass and steel walls and doors plus 30’ solid oak desk - Office in Austin, Texas, photographed by Andrea Calo.
Fuigo: Tell me about a project you really enjoyed working on.
Xandro: My favorite project would be this apartment in Chelsea. It was a repeat client and they had an immense collection of modern art in a newer building—4,675 square feet plus a 4,400 square feet terrace. The architect was Jean Nouvel, who I just love and admire. The client basically let me do whatever I wanted with it. Having that kind of freedom but also being on a relatively short leash at the same time made it an amazing project to work on.
Rachel: We have this client right now with a taste she calls “creamy dreamy.” While the trend overall in the industry has been towards a transitional style, this client is so minimalistic and simple. There are lots of angles, but they’re mixed with these soft, lush fabrics. We’re totally pushing the limits with materials for her—there’s going to be a terrazzo floor in the bathroom, we’re exposing this raw cement on the ceiling that people haven’t seen for 70 years, installing seamless doors… everything is going to be super clean and simple.
Master bathroom - Residence in Scarsdale, New York, photographed by Andrea Calo.
Fuigo: Tell me about a time where something went awry with a project or installation.
Rachel: We had a custom bed made for a client, and it somehow was built to a non-standard size—it wasn’t a queen, it wasn’t a king, it was more like a square! We had absolutely no idea how that happened. During the install we had to kind of wedge the mattress into the bed until it could be fixed.
Xandro: Installation can be really tricky. Before we started Current Interiors, I did a project in Miami where the client wanted this daybed that I designed and my friend fabricated. It needed to be delivered in 5 days so I paid extra for someone to drive from NYC to Miami nonstop. However, the delivery people didn’t install it correctly, so I had to get the upholsterer and the fabricator flown out to Miami the same day to put it together, then they just flew right back. At the end of the day, the delivery and installation cost way more than the daybed!
Kitchen - Residence in Dumbo, New York, photographed by Stephen Kent Johnson.
Fuigo: What is something unique you do for clients to give them that extra little burst of delight at the end of a project?
Xandro: At the end of every project we like to leave our clients a candle of a scent that we design ourselves. Entering a space we designed and smelling a candle attracts all five senses. It’s an extra layer. Your nose is the sense that brings you back—if you smell something, you know exactly where you recognize it from. You could be walking down the street and think “wow, I smell my grandmother right now.” The sense of smell is so powerful that if you inject it into design—and I don’t think it’s being utilized enough—the client experiences the atmosphere of the space we created for them more fully.
We work with an artisan in Brooklyn on the scents—they make a lot of scents for Lululemon. Our candle has quite a few different kinds of notes, orange, sandalwood… It’s interesting coming up with a scent. We want it to be memorable enough that you remember it, but we want the general person to be attracted to it, so it can’t be too strong. It needs to stand out but at the same time not be overpowering. It’s very tricky.
Master bedroom with custom-designed bed - Residence in Dumbo, New York, photographed by Stephen Kent Johnson.
Fuigo: What are some of your favorite niche vendors or products?
Xandro: We’re really good friends with Eskayel, and I feel they push the limit on what fabric, wallpaper, and art can be design-wise. The patterns they come up with are very artistic and really relate to me. The resin material made by Wud Furniture in Brooklyn is very unique, we love to use them. It’s a cool material to use, and I don’t think it’s been used enough. They have different kinds of metal finishes that they encase in a resin. They play with curves. You can even take wallpaper, put their resin on it, and then use it as flooring.
Rachel: Wud is doing something that nobody else is doing, and they’re doing it beautifully. They’re setting a new standard for resin.
Fuigo: What’s your dream project?
Xandro: I’ve always dreamed of designing a high-end gallery. I’m attracted to that because I feel that when you’re designing something that’s minimal and functional, something that has to cater to all different styles of art, then architecturally it needs to be super precise and super exact. When you’re designing very minimally, every decision really stands out. That’s always really interested me because I’m OCD by nature.
Rachel: I would like to have a destination project on a really warm island! At least in New York, you don’t get to do that aesthetic that much. I'd love to have a project where we try to create a feeling of departure in every room by integrating the outdoors and indoors.
Foyer with custom-designed bench - Residence in Dumbo, New York, photographed by Stephen Kent Johnson.
Fuigo: Is design an art or a science?
Xandro: I feel like design is an art. Sadly though, interior design is becoming a bit of a dying art, mainly because everything is driven socially now, on Instagram and Pinterest... which I feel a little bit of me is against, but at the same time we do use it as a tool to showcase our beliefs on design. The art of it is lost on a lot of the new designers. It’s easier for them nowadays because there’s so much to see, grab, and take, and I feel like they’re losing the beauty of the process of getting from point A to point B if they're already starting at point B.
Fuigo: What is your advice to designers just starting out?
Xandro: My advice to new designers is to always try to push the envelope, take it to the next level of design, and inject some humor. Don’t feel discouraged or scared to try something different and new. In the end, the final outcome will be better because you’ve already done the exploring. You’ll learn a lot about the project, the client, and even yourself.
Rachel: Be patient! The next project will come as long as your quality of work is there. Start meeting the vendors, start your Instagram account, take photos of your work. Always be documenting, and always put yourself out there.
Now it's your turn to answer—What is something unique you do for clients to give them that extra little burst of delight at the end of a project? Tell us about it in the comments!