Through the series Creativity Chronicles, we catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse behind the work and vision of the creatives that together shape the collective and what it represents.
Eliza Costabel is the Creative Director and Founder of The Garden Studio and Studio Nomad Interiors. We recently caught up and discussed all things interior and landscape design, while delving into her unique creative vision shaped by her incredible life journey lived across continents and cultures.
Tell us something about yourself, something not related to your project/design or business.
I was born in Malta, my mom is Maltese and my dad was Italian. When I was 3, my father, who worked for a company that builds power stations, started being posted in different countries every couple of years. We mostly lived in semi-remote places in developing nations: no TV, a handful of toys, whatever school could be found. Yet it was the best upbringing ever, because we were always outside, learnt the languages of our international friends and invented all sorts of games. When you grow up this way, you are practically bound to go study and work where opportunity takes you so the globe-hopping continued for the rest of my life.
When was the first time you had any idea about your company?
After graduation I worked a few years at Gensler (the world’s largest architecture firm) on corporate projects and putting in an average of 10 hours a day, 6 or even 7 days a week with relentless deadlines. Two years into this, I longed to take control of my life, the design process and to rekindle the pleasure of designing for clients in a more collaborative and small-scale fashion. I started my first design company with a classmate in Los Angeles back in 2004. Doug and I used to dream about having our studio since our first year in College.
How long have you been working in your field?
I started working in design from day one at university and since then have never stopped. During my time at university, I used to intern as a set designer in the movie and TV industry and worked at some design studios in West Hollywood specialising in high-end residential. After 12 years in Los Angeles I moved to Kenya for 6 years and in 2014, I returned to Malta. In all these places I set up a studio and worked as an interior architect.
Does your company have a significant name? What is the meaning behind the name? How did it come about? What does it mean to you and why did you choose this name?
Both The Garden Studio and Studio Nomad Interiors are pretty self-descriptive and, in the case of Studio Nomad, a reflection of my upbringing. I enjoy leading projects and companies but love probably even more working in a team and with a design partner so I always saw my design studio as a non-hierarchical creative environment.
Did you have formal education in creativity? What, do you feel, played an important role in your creativity?
I graduated in interior architecture from California State University and it was a very thorough 5 year curriculum but in a typically informal American set-up, in other words, the best scenario to learn and grow. The years at Gensler also had an instrumental role in teaching me structure, discipline and the profession of the “designer”, but the most important role will certainly be the exposure to the cultures and places I visited and the innate sense of observation and attraction to the beauty around me.
When you think about your company, what is the first thing that comes to mind? and why?
A relaxed and inspiring environment to work in that produced spaces that fulfil and improve people’s lives.
Where do you get your inspiration?
From nature, my past and current travels and from observing the beauty in architecture, design and craftsmanship.
When you first started thinking about your company, did you think you would be in the place you are now? Is it where you hoped to be?
With the non-linear lifestyle I had, it was impossible to stick to a single vision. I explored and took on design opportunities with an open mind, collaborated with super talented people, gave my best, made a point to finish what I started and learned a ton along the process. Malta is the first place and time in my life where I feel I can realistically make plans for the future because I am finally here to stay!
Have you won any awards, recognition, etc., for projects?
Nothing earth-shattering but little personal satisfactions along the way in the form of scholarships and competitions while at uni, and later in features on several international publications.
What has been your favourite aspect of your business and why?
With The Garden Studio and Studio Nomad, I merge two of my passions: landscaping and the built environment. I love to study space, the interaction of people with space and among themselves, work around architectural constraints, bring back old buildings to life, bring in nature and be surrounded by it. There are no favourite aspects because each one is like a child, I love them all! Perhaps however, the ultimate and most fulfilling part of the process is seeing the end user(s) enjoy the space you created.
What has been the most highlighted event/milestone for you, so far?
Not a milestone but an unplanned achievement of sorts is my ability to have found opportunity in every country I lived in. Starting up a design business from scratch each time and finding clients and projects is not easy when you know absolutely no one!
Do you still feel that same passion about your business as when you first started, or when you had the initial idea?
I now have a more measured and mature approach. It’s passion with planning, design with entrepreneurship.
What most helped you get to where you are now and what helped you follow through with your ideas?
Passion for my job, learning to know your market and determination to make your vision happen.
If you could start the business over again, what would you change or do differently?
I learn from my mistakes so in essence I wouldn’t change anything, but given the chance, I would study better the business side of my entrepreneurial ventures and more carefully evaluate the suitability of potential partners.
What is the one thing that you want people to come away with when they see your design, or get to know of your company?
I want them to viscerally love how they FEEL in the spaces we design. You can quickly forget a beautifully designed space but you will never forget a space that made you feel good.