Meet Our Design Team!

November 17, 2020

You know the old adage, “it takes a village”? Not only about raising children, this holds true at Centered by Design, too. Far from a one-woman business, I have to hand it to my amazing team that helps to make our Chicago interior design firm a success. I truly could not do what I do without this crew, who inspire both our clients and me every single day. We thought it would be fun to get a little personal today and share more about who we are, how we got here and what makes our design-loving hearts flutter.

Claire Staszak

Title: Principal, Owner and Creative Director

Chicago interior design firm

What I actually do: As a small team, we all wear a lot of hats! I consider myself part entrepreneur, part creative director and part personal renovation coach at our Chicago interior design firm.

Where I grew up: North Shore of Chicago

Education: BA in psychology and journalism from University of Dayton; certificate in kitchen and bath design from Harper College; and several years in the business learning the ropes (this is where the real lessons are learned!).

How I got into interior design: In my late 20s, I felt unsatisfied in various jobs I’d held. I worked in marketing and events for REI, and development and marketing for a local art center called Lillstreet. Long story short, my now-husband and I took a year sabbatical to live and travel in Australia and New Zealand. All the down time during our travels made me realize I was extremely creative and visual and that I wanted to be an entrepreneur/business owner. When we returned stateside, I went back to school and started this blog at the same time. Centered by Design naturally grew as I gained experience and eventually went out on my own.

Favorite color palette: I could never pick just one! One of my go-tos though is classic black and white; it looks good with a pop of any color. I’m also always drawn to blues, greens and pinks.

My personal design aesthetic: I like to think of Centered by Design as old souls creating timeless interiors, helping you find your personal sanctuary. We design based on the client and the architecture. I’m driven to help people determine how they want to live and what feels like sanctuary to them. Sanctuary is not reserved for the yoga studio or mountain top—we can derive a great sense of peace from our home. This can look colorful and bright to some clients, or neutral and soft to others. My aesthetic comes from training my eye over the years and understanding what does and does not work in a space. We also love millwork, antiques and designing spaces to not feel brand new.

Favorite room in my home: I typically love the rooms with the most sunlight! I really like our bedroom (it’s very relaxing) and our dining room, which is lovely and soft, but has lots of movement from the wallpaper.

Dream design destination: India or Morocco

Photo that inspires me: Designer Beata Heuman is not afraid of the word eclectic! I love how she uses every opportunity and infuses her spaces with design details, from the crown molding to the ceiling detail to the herringbone floor and everything in between. I love work that’s a bit different but still beautiful and functional, and that challenges your point of view.

Chicago interior design firm

Credit: Beata Heuman

Extracurriculars: Family time (my husband and I both have big families in Chicago, so there is always a lot going on!), and yoga/exercising is my favorite “me time” activity!

If I could only shop at one design store the rest of my life, it would be: Nickey Kehoe, because there is a mix of new, well-designed pieces and collected antiques. I love their relaxed, lived-in vibe (they use the word “sanctuary” too!), and they’ve got everything from beds to sofas to accessories and more.

On my holiday wish list: I am really into tea and a great cup of chai. Samovar is my favorite San Francisco tea shop, and I buy all my tea leaves in their online shop. I need a beautiful tea pot, and these vintage copper kettles are so pretty.

Iga Soszyńska

Title: Lead Interior Designer

Chicago interior design firm

What I actually do: I design, draft, lead my team, support Claire with running the business, and create systems and procedures to make Centered by Design a well-oiled machine. My boyfriend calls me a Renaissance woman!

Where I grew up: Warsaw, Poland

Education: BA in interior design and exhibit design from Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw; MA in product design from Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany

How I got into interior design: I always loved being creative, and I wasn’t afraid of expressing that (I kept drawing with my crayons in the hallway when I was a kid, and my mum couldn’t get me to stop! I was fortunate enough to find an amazing painter and mentor, Andrzej Podkanski, who taught me about finding my own artistic identity and passion. This led me to apply to art school. Interior design always fascinated me, but I ended up being interested in other fields like graphic design or product design. All of those experiences made me who I am today, and I’m very grateful for them!

Favorite color palette: I love earthy tones with pops of color, although I can go more colorful in some projects when I feel like it’s the right move.

My personal design aesthetic: A balance of forms and textures. A room needs to have a soul, and you find that by carefully filling the space with items that interact with each other. Floor and table lamps, antique case goods, art and little objects are what gives a space that uniqueness I long for.

Favorite room in my home: I’d totally love my kitchen, because I love cooking and I could spend all day in there. But I’m currently in a rental unit, so it’s not designed very well. My living room is where I want to enjoy a cup of rooibos tea, wrapped in a cozy alpaca blanket. It’s full of collected items that make me feel at home.

Dream design destination: I am a big traveler, so this is the hardest question! But because I get very inspired and centered by nature, it has to be Patagonia, Argentina.

Photo that inspires me: I’m a big fan of this interior design firm, Logan Killen Interiors out of New Orleans. I love how inviting and peaceful this breakfast nook feels. There’s a good balance of color, form and pattern. 

Extracurriculars: Cooking! I love feeding people more than anything else. I’m also always looking for little shops that sell something special and challenging to cook. Apart from that, I paint, do yoga and weave. Recently I started singing again, which is one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done!

If I could only shop at one design store the rest of my life, it would be: This is going to be a dreamy one: I’d take then amazing British designer Beata Heuman with me and only shop antiques around the world. One of my favorites is Guinevere Antiques in the U.K.

On my holiday wish list: I’m in the process of buying a house, so, hmm… everything? I do want to get some nice bedding for my new, not-yet-purchased master bed (like this quilt and this duvet set) and a pair of vintage bedside lamps.

Amy Clounie

Title: Design Assistant

Chicago interior design firm

What I actually do: Manage projects and draft architectural drawings, along with all the things no one else wants to do at our Chicago interior design firm!

Where I grew up: Glendale, Arizona

Education: BS in International Hospitality Management from Northern Arizona University, Associates in Interior Design, Minor in Spanish

How I got into interior design: I decided hospitality management wasn’t for me too late in my bachelor’s coursework, so I switched gears after graduating, went back for interior design, moved to Chicago and started working my way into a design job. I got my first role with residential designer who needed a lot of drafting, and I sold her on the fact that I love AutoCAD and am super speedy. One thing led to another, and I ended up at Centered by Design, continuing to learn new aspects of the job I love.

Favorite color palette: I usually find gravitate towards muted tertiary colors mixed with whites and calm neutrals.

My personal design aesthetic: Textural Scandinavian, natural, cozy modern

Favorite room in my home: Hands down, I like kitchens the best. They’re naturally very architectural which is always my favorite aspect of design, and they’re also casual environments where you can feel relaxed. I haven’t had the pleasure of designing my own kitchen yet, but one day I hope to incorporate atypical/organic shapes into my cabinetry design.

Dream design destination: Norway, Denmark or Sweden

Photo that inspires me: As an introvert, I don’t feel at ease in a space that has too much stimulation. I love this inspiration because it’s minimal and calming, yet still interesting to my eye. I’m also a sucker for texture, so the combo of the weathered white flooring and the lovely green seaweed wallpaper makes me so happy!

Credit: Planete Deco

Extracurriculars: Lately I’ve gotten into throwing pottery. But like most creative hobbies I have, I’ll eventually get bored and move on to something else. Marbling paper has been catching my eye so maybe that’s next. I also love obscure sports, so scuba diving has been a fun one to start dabbling in with my husband.

If I could only shop at one design store the rest of my life, it would be: I love the Australian furniture company Jardan because its shapes and textures are so beautiful in their simplicity.

On my holiday wish list: Ever since I moved to Chicago, I’ve missed the proximity to good hiking out West so I’ve been eyeing this minimal mountain print that reminds me of places I love.

In addition to this Chicago interior design firm team, I couldn’t get by without the help of even more remote team members, including my amazing bookkeeper, rendering artist, photographer and blog content consultant. These fantastic support people all play a role behind the scenes in our business, and for that I’m so grateful!

If you are interested in working with Centered by Design, we’d love to hear from you! Our newsletter is also a great way to stay in touch and receive monthly design focused insight direct to your inbox.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

learn more