Women Who MAKE: Rehabitat Interiors

October 10, 2016

Have you ever had a design crush? For me, it’s a situation where I look at the work of said designer/s and:

  • I can’t look away!
  • I love every design detail!
  • and I’m consistently blown away by the before and afters!

My design crush on Rehabitat is about to be fully revealed. I’m lucky enough to know this NY-based mom and daughter design team, through their Chicago-based older daughter/sister (and my dear friend Lauren). Lauren’s hubby and my hubby went to grad school together, and I’ve met Diane (mom) and Emily (younger daughter) on their various visits to Chicago. I’ve been following along as they grow their design business together, and I’m constantly inspired by their creativity, but moreover, I’m inspired by how beautiful yet livable their spaces feel. It’s one thing to see an incredible room, but it’s another to feel like you would actually love living in that space!

I could go on and on about these ladies, but I’ll leave you to enjoy the interview. Don’t miss their newest collection of handmade pillows. They curate the prettiest vintage fabrics! I’ve already bought a floral for my living room and had a bedroom set of indigos made for a client. Here’s more from this fabulous design team…

Centered By Design: Women Who MAKE Interview – Rehabitat Interiors

  • Name/s: Diane Schmunk + Emily Barry
  • Age/s: 60 + 29
  • Current title/company name: Interior Designers / Rehabitat Interiors
  • Years in operation: 5 (Diane was in business for herself for 20 years prior to starting Rehabitat with Emily)

Dining Room by Rehabitat

What are your first memories of making [art]/being creative?

(Diane) My mother was constantly “making”: glittery christmas decorations, pine cone wreaths, prom dresses, baby quilts, top the list as I remember. She encouraged my sisters and I to join her in her crafting-sewing adventures, always having extras for us to be able to “work” with her.

(Emily) My first memories are also with my mom, Diane, making crafts. She passed along her crafting experiences to us! 

pillow prepping

pillow prepping

Diane, was there a moment when it struck you that Emily had inherited your creative side?

That truly is a compliment; but I can’t claim the honor just by myself. She inherited her style sense not only from me, but my mom (they both had pink Christmas trees, 50 years apart), and from her dad. She insisted on dressing herself in wild and crazy outfits as young as 3, which to everyone’s amazement turned into great taste.

How did your education or past work experience give you the confidence to go out on your own as a small business owner?

I (Emily) for as long as I can remember have had the examples of my parents each owning their own small businesses – they’ve passed down their entrepreneurial spirit!

vintage pillow fabrics

vintage pillow fabrics

Tell us about the process of launching Rehabitat. Best parts? Biggest challenge?

(Diane) The best part is working with Emily, and being inspired by her unwillingness to be status quo. The hardest part is time; there is never enough of it.

(Emily) I love the wisdom my mom, Diane brings to our team, especially in working with clients. I also love being our own bosses!

Emily's pretty bedroom!

Emily’s pretty bedroom!

What is your favorite part of the design process? What inspires you and why?

I (Emily) love working with my hands- there’s a lot of computer work with interior design and the nature of the business is creative but within the realm of your client. So our pillow collection is a way for us to work with our hands (hand choosing the fabrics, mapping out each pillow, and styling them once made) and also have full reign over our little creations.

(Diane) To answer the first question, I have to answer the second. I love to hear that we have made our clients’ spaces more functional and beautiful for them. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to hear that we have fulfilled our clients’ needs and wishes. So, my favorite part of the design process is the solving of the puzzle: how can we take all the pieces that don’t work, eliminate them, and fit in new pieces that all work together into a lovely, functional space.

Dining room by Rehabitat

Dining room by Rehabitat

What is the best advice you have for other female entrepreneurs?

It’s so easy to let yourself get down due to a saturated market or compare your talent to others, but we’ve learned to be inspired by those that intimidate us.

Do you have a design philosophy, and if so, what is it?

We love the idea of designing for others, in service to them, not for ourselves.

pillow pile!

pillow pile!

Imagine your business in five years. How would you like to grow?

Right now, we each work out of our home studios, but someday we will have an office! It can be challenging to keep all our samples, styling accessories, and pillows organized out of our homes, so it would be great to make a mess in an office instead! 

What do you enjoy most about the creative community in NYC?

There is a wealth of sources and inspiration coming out of NYC, from smaller makers and artisans to an endless selection of vendors. We feel fortunate to have access to all of them. It’s inspiring to see some of the smaller talents we have followed grow into very successful businesses.

Kitchen by Rehabitat

Kitchen by Rehabitat

Centered By Design is my business name, but it’s also the idea that we can find a bit of sanctuary each day through design, that good design can center us and make us feel great. Does your design process center you in any way? If so, how?

Yes it does. Although the design process can have it’s challenges at times, it satisfies our need to create, especially when we see the finished product that is pleasing to us and our clients! It’s partly why we began designing pillows, because it’s another opportunity for us to create and see the finished product on a smaller scale. And then of course we’re proud to use them in our clients’ homes.

Pillows handmade by Rehabitat and sold online

Pillows handmade by Rehabitat and sold online

EMILY’s NYC Favorites:

  • Favorite spot to get inspired: The floral district on 28th St., or the Nolita/Lower East Side neighborhood. A totally different experience each and every time you go!
  • Favorite florist: This one is tough because we love doing our own arrangements, but two floral designers based in NYC that totally inspire us are Amy Merrick and Taylor Patterson of Fox Fodder Farm.
  • Favorite place to shop for home décor/furniture/thrift: Home Nature in Chelsea, ABC Home in Flatiron, Michele Varian in Soho, and of course the Brooklyn Flea.
  • Favorite place for coffee: The Stumptown on 8th st near Washington Sq Park is beautiful!
  • Favorite place for a sweet treat: Dough – We’re both huge suckers for Dough’s beautiful (and huge!) doughnuts! Also, Levain Bakery gets an honorable mention for their warm chocolate chip walnut cookies, but it’s usually a little too out of the way – which is probably a good thing.


Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your story with us Diane and Emily! Have you missed past Women Who MAKE interviews? You can read archived interviews that I hope will inspire you like this one with a San Francisco watercolor artist, or this one with a Kansas City based potter anytime by clicking the Women Who MAKE icon in the side bar. And don’t forget to tag your creative endeavors #womenwhomake on Instagram so we can connect and I can feature your hard work!


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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!

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