Unapologetic Design: Alyssa Demilio’s Approach To Exceptional Interiors

By Clay Imports
Caution: you may never want to leave this designer’s airbnb’s

Alyssa Demilio interior designer

Chances are you have scrolled through Alyssa’s delightful Instagram feed before. The Charleston based Interior Designer focuses on updating Airbnb and vacation rentals, and she does it her own way. Demilio Design tackles everything, from new builds to complete guts and restoration. At Clay Imports, we are most intrigued by how the designer can hit refresh on any space without changing the entire layout. The secret: push your boundaries. And choose bold tiles.

Own Your Style - Unapologetically

My style is a little all over the place, which is the only way I would ever want it. If I had to decide one word to describe it though, I would say it’s unapologetic. The second word would definitely be funky, lol. That being said, I don’t like to focus too consistently on one specific style. Being an Airbnb designer a lot of my projects end up being in direct competition with one another, so I like to continuously change it up so that every project is unique. Even within a project I never like anything to be too much of one thing. I find that when you create too many boundaries and barriers things seem to fall flat. Also, I am working with a lot of historic homes here in Charleston. This brings in so many unique characteristics and personalities. I tend to let the home sort of tell me what it wants to be, and then go from there. I think every home has its own story, and I am just there to make sure it gets told in the most functionally fun way possible.

It’s OK to Go an Unconventional Design Path

I had always been interested in design and ended up getting a job as an assistant to a designer in NYC for 6 months. Together we did a full gut renovation of a restaurant, and I loved it. But as many stories go in NYC, I couldn’t make rent. So I put my design dreams aside and went into real estate. I kept my creative side alive by helping my clients figure out how to functionally design their shoebox apartments. But my heart was never really into the real estate hamster wheel, and in 2016 I had had enough of the cold weather and high tailed it back to Charleston.

When I got back to Charleston, I had to take the real estate course all over again. That is when I truly realized just how bored I was with that career path. I thought about going to design school. But I was almost 30 years old and to be frank, school was just never really my thing. So I said, you know what, I am just going to go for it. And I am so glad I did.

While I feel like I missed out on some technical training school would have provided. Nothing prepares you for the challenges of design by just going out there and getting your hands dirty. I had some friends managing and operating Airbnb that were in serious need of some revamping. I got in on the first floor with them, mainly refreshing decor, then doing full furnishing jobs, and finally getting the opportunity to do full renovations. And 4 years later, here I am with over 50 projects under my belt including over a dozen full renovations.

Anyone who thinks you can’t be a designer because you didn’t go to school for it, you are wrong. If you have the confidence, creativity, ability to learn from your mistakes, and the perseverance to keep going and work your tail off. Then you have what it takes.

Must Have: Bold Tile

If you could have an unlimited amount of our products - which would you choose?

Wow, this question couldn’t be tougher. I love all of Clay Imports products. Clay Imports gave me my first opportunity to work with terracotta, so that will always hold a place in my heart. But I would have to say anything from the Artist Series.

I love the idea of being a designer and getting to create beautiful moments from things that were created by my peers. I have really loved working with the outside series. Furthermore, I love how many ways you can go with those tiles. It’s like having unending possibilities, which just really get the creative juices flowing.

There also just really aren’t that many companies out there creating colorful and unique tiles with the durability of clay. This has been so freeing for me as an Airbnb designer, working with high traffic areas and still having the freedom to create unique spaces. So I am pretty sure I just said everything, but that’s just the truth.

Prove Yourself

What’s your favorite project to date?

Ah, this is so tough. Probably The Monroe on Spring. It is a 100-year-old Queen Anne Victorian that had so many nooks and crannies and odd shaped beginnings and ends to rooms. There were a million things to consider at every turn. My clients also really took a chance on me. I knew they were shopping for designers who had more experience with that style of project under their belt. But although I hadn’t done anything like it before, and my style up until then really didn’t give them great confidence in my ability to pull it off. I begged and worked my tail off to prove it. And I couldn’t have been happier with the way it turned out or more proud of myself for pushing my boundaries.

Current Design Vibes

I am loving all the retro styles making a comeback. Checkerboard anything, arches, curves in furniture, the muted tones. I feel like everyone is starting to appreciate eclectic and classic things again, and it’s very exciting to see.

Where do you find Inspiration?

I find my inspiration everywhere. Designers I love, places I've traveled to are big ones, old architecture, movies, nature. Inspiration can really come from anywhere. It’s really looking at something and saying wow, that’s so great…but what if it was this instead.

As a designer, who are your favorite designers?

Another tough question, as there are so many. Locally, I have admired and looked up to 3 in particular. Cortney Bishop, Angie Hranowsky, and Jessie Vickers of JLV creative. Their styles are all different, but they all have some of the same qualities that are really motivating as a designer. They have an amazing use of color and texture, and they are all bold, daring, and push the boundaries in their craft. Outside of Charleston. The queen - Kelly Wearstler.

Bathroom and shower room with green subway tiles

Kitchen backsplash with white and grey tiles

Bathroom with yellow hand painted tiles
Make sure to follow Alyssa and her work. You will feel empowered to go your own way.  And remember, if you have any questions or require more information, don't hesitate to reach out to us at contact@clayimports.com or chat with us here.