Rona Graf specializes in elevating the ordinary to extraordinary. Together with her team at Grace Blū Designs, Inc., Graf creates distinctive, artistic designs that mix modern elements with classic staples to achieve stunning, one-of-a-kind results for both residential and commercial clients. As design principal, Graf cultivates close relationships with clients and industry colleagues to create designs built on inspired collaborations. This year, the Grace Blū team was honored to design one of five cottages for Newport Beach's new Lido House hotel development. Learn more about Graf in our Q&A below.
1. Who is your biggest role model?
This is challenging for me to answer. I wish I could say it was one person, but there isn’t just one. To me, any woman who has the courage to go after their dreams, who is a doer, lives it and breathes it, is a role model. To all my fellow women who are considered Lady Bosses and making their mark in the world are who I look to for examples. Working mothers, especially singles moms, who do what they do to set an example for their children and do what’s best for their kids are my role models.
2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?
My love for design came at a very young age. One of my favorite childhood movies was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That probably began my obsession with color and vibrancy, so I have always thought that would be an amazing set to design for.
3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?
I want to work with people who value and appreciate what I do. I love to use my gift as service to others. If I feel that a client doesn’t see or value that, it’s not going to be a fit. You can tell right away from the initial interaction if they the client is genuine. Hospitality is key. I have noticed that clients’ who offer you something to drink or eat in a meeting are going to be great people to work with! Sounds funny, but it’s often a great way to gauge how a project will go.
4. What's your vision for Lido House?
Our vision for Lido House is a fresh, modern, playful approach to how life in Newport Beach was back in the day. Think classic elements, old photos, retro, with a modern twist!
5. What new design elements are you excited to integrate into your work?
I love color, texture, and natural materials. Anything organic that is used in a modern fashion I am obsessed with. Cement, wood, rope, and wall coverings are going to be integrated, and I mean it!
6. How do you completely unwind?
Nature. When I am feeling the need to unwind I love taking my dog on long walks anywhere where there are trees and beautiful environments. I can’t get enough of the sun’s rays shining through branches, listening to nature’s music, sunsets, or the waves crashing. That is my Zen time.
7. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
Prior to becoming a designer, I was an elementary school teacher who taught sixth grade. I loved teaching. I still love teaching…the only thing I would have done differently is been an art teacher. That, or an artist.
8. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
I feel that every job I have ever had has lead me to where I am now. I have learned so much along the way. That being said, I am where I am now, because I knew I didn’t want to have those jobs forever! Being a cocktail waitress in college was probably the worst pre-designer job for me. But, I do feel like everyone should try it at least once to get perspective!
9. What’s your favorite recipe?
My aunt’s oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies. I had them when I was 14 and it may have been one of the reasons I moved to California when I was 22.
10. Create your perfect playlist for us.
11. Who is your designer crush?
I have two: Kelly Wearstler and Kara Mann.
12. Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Vintage - always looking for a diamond in the rough! I see the beauty and potential in items that are overlooked.
13. First celebrity crush?
12. What’s your hidden talent?
Most people don’t know that I love to paint and can pretty much paint or draw anything.
13. Best restaurant in your area?
Where is it? Zinc Café is my all time favorite lunch spot in Corona del Mar. I crave their eggplant parmesan and lemon praline cookies.
SF or LA?
Love the charm of San Francisco!