Grace Blu is a boutique interior design firm that thinks outside the box and creates unique and bold spaces for residential and commercial projects. When Rona Graf launched Grace Blu in 2007, she made the intentional decision not to use her own name. From the beginning, her vision for her design studio was a “collaboration of creatives” that would combine her team’s skills and experiences to create one-of-a-kind spaces. This month, we asked Rona to tell us more about her and her business, as well as some of the current trends she’s seeing in Lido homes and throughout the interior design business.
Tell us about the events that led up to where you are now.
I grew up in a small town called New Castle in Pennsylvania (about an hour north of Pittsburgh). After visiting my aunt in California when I was 14 years old, all I knew was that I wanted to move there and live by the beach someday. I moved to Newport Beach 22 years ago, just two months after I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with my Master’s degree in teaching. I got a job as a 6th-grade elementary school teacher at Eastbluff Elementary and taught for about five years until I realized that I should have been an art teacher, if anything. I decided to go back to design school at the Interiors Designers Institute in Newport Beach to earn my interior design degree. I worked for a large model home firm before making the move to start my own firm in 2007.
What inspired you to start your business?
I have always been extremely creative and entrepreneurial ever since I was a child. I decided to start my own boutique design firm and name the firm something different from my name. I have always thought outside the box and decided to dedicate my brand as “Designing Outside the Box.” Creating a name for the company other than my own was appealing because I have always envisioned my firm as a team effort. We joke that Grace Blu is off traveling in Europe and getting inspiration for us here while we are designing.
What is unique about Grace Blu?
I think what sets Grace Blu apart from the rest is that no two of our projects are alike. None of our clients have been the same, so, therefore, each of our projects tells a story about their personalities and who they are. It’s not about me; I just use my talent to make their dreams happen. We approach every project as a unique and creative artistic experience. It’s a blank slate that our clients allow us the opportunity to paint. And we always Design Outside the Box!
What inspires your designs?
Being able to tell stories or feel the emotions that clients want to feel while in their homes or spaces inspires my designs. I gather something from our clients that speaks to their hearts, and I am able to translate that into my designs. Another thing that is imperative to me for inspiration is nature and traveling. I love traveling, seeing other cultures, and creating designs that have influences from my travels.
What are the current trends that you're seeing in your business?
I am seeing that more and more people are wanting to have a collection of mixing old with new. I love the juxtaposition of blending the old with the new, as I feel like this makes the design more timeless and looks collected and gathered rather than appearing like the home or space was all purchased new.
Tell us about some of the Lido homes you've worked on.
I have had the pleasure of working on some amazing and beautiful homes on Lido! I absolutely love working with the residents of Lido Isle and have found that these clients have been some of my most enjoyable. We recently completed a home that will be in the Newport Harbor Home Tour, and it was a transformation of a Mediterranean home that needed a fresh and updated twist with pops of color and drama. Another project that is probably our wildest project to date was a gorgeous renovation of a very traditional home that is now a blend of Miami meets Palm Springs in the ‘80s! This home has white lacquered cabinets, black and white marble flooring, bold stones and prints, and a see-through bathtub that lights up! It’s one of the most fun and creative projects to date!
Anything else you would like to share?
Grace Blu consists of a small but mighty staff of seven who are highly creative, organized, and talented designers. We pride ourselves on excellent customer service and going above and beyond to make our clients happy and give them their dream spaces! I love working locally with our coastal clients, and I am personally a resident of Newport Heights. I have a 14-year-old son who will attend Newport Harbor High next year. I can’t believe I will have a high schooler! I love to watch him surf and just absolutely love our community.
If you are interested in collaborating with Rona and her Grace Blu team on an upcoming design project, give them a call at 714-549-7770 or visit their website at graceblu.com to fill out an online inquiry form.