Photography by Sarah Marcella.
It’s easy to imagine that a day in the life of an interior designer would revolve around reviewing the latest fabric samples and selecting luxe lighting fixtures, and to a certain extent this is true. But as we recently gleaned from spending a day with Asha Maxey, founder and principal designer of the Alexandria, Virginia-based full service interior design studio Asha Maía Design, a lot goes on behind the scenes that isn’t quite so glamorous. Here, the award-winning designer takes us through 24 hours of sconce installations, showroom visits, and calming Sleep Stories.
6:17 a.m.: I awake. Random time, right? I got into the habit of not setting an alarm during the COVID-19 quarantine. I loved it so much, I decided it was something I’d keep doing. It allows my mornings to be a bit freer and a bit more organic. I still typically wake around the same time every day, but it feels much more natural and not like I’m being startled out of my sleep every morning by a buzzing phone.
I reach for my phone, as I always do. There is always so much on my mind when I wake up, so I like to get started with a bit of work. I had an idea for a wallpaper design that I want to incorporate into a master bedroom project I’m working on, so I spend a few minutes researching it. I’m also worried about whether I’m overthinking a chair selection I’m making. I already have two options, but I feel like they aren’t quite right. So, I take a few minutes to research another option, ultimately reassuring myself that my original options will work great!
6:38 a.m.: I skim through my emails to see what I need to respond to once I get into the office, noticing one, in particular, that happens to be a referral from a fellow designer.
6:47 a.m.: I pop over to Instagram for a bit. I love taking time in the morning to browse my feed for wonderful design inspiration and fabulous new trends. Also, I just love watching Instagram Stories of some of my favorite accounts for inspiration, a bit of fun, and entertainment before starting my day.
7:08 a.m.: I finally get out of bed. I love an easy breezy morning, so I pop on my morning playlist. It’s filled with classics from some of my favorites, like Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Nina Simone, Etta James, and the like; it’s such a vibe. Of course, I can’t forget my little fur baby, Poppy, so I put food and fresh water out for her before hopping in the shower. And you better believe my showers are my own personal concert and I’m singing out loud!
I mentally map out my day while I get ready. On today’s agenda, I have site visits, client meetings, and a visit to the Washington Design Center, a collection of showrooms and workspaces where designers can select, see, and feel how elements of our designs will ultimately come together. After that I’ll head back to the studio for some design work.
8:10 a.m.: It’s time for Poppy’s morning walk. She’s always so excited. We keep her harness and leash in a drawer in the kitchen island, and as soon as she hears that drawer open, she flies across the living room, ready to go!
8:30 a.m.: I head out to my first appointment for the day. On my way, I pick up a smoothie for breakfast from Tropical Smoothie; the Bahama Mama is my absolute favorite!
9:00 a.m.: I arrive at my Drake Street Project to drop off sconces to my contractor and electrician. Today, the gorgeous brass library sconces are being installed in the kitchen to add detail and visual interest over the sink. We chat for a bit to make sure we’re all on the same page concerning the proper positioning and spacing of the sconces before I head into the studio.
10:00 a.m.: I arrive at the studio. While making myself a cup of blueberry tea, I chat with my design assistant about the status of current projects and get caught up on what she’s working on. We discuss the discovery call scheduled for tomorrow and consultation scheduled for Friday, and confirm we have all the necessary details to be prepared for each. Next, I reply to emails and follow up with new leads. After that I call my rug manufacturer to follow up on a damage claim. Many people think the interior design business is all glitz and glam, but things go on behind the scenes that you don’t see or expect. Product comes in damaged or defective, or late, or doesn’t come in at all. This is the part of the job I could stand to do without, but it has to be done to ensure my clients get the exceptional service that I promise Asha Maía Design will provide.
12:00 p.m.: I arrive for trade day at our 16th Street Project. I meet my contractor and window treatment installer on-site to talk through some design elements and allow them to get the measurements they need in order to provide estimates.
1:00 p.m.: I arrive at the Washington Design Center, where I have several tasks to accomplish— fabric, trim and embellishments, wallpaper, sit test a few upholstery pieces, pricing. I head to the Kravet Showroom to pull fabric memos for drapery and upholstery pieces for a couple of projects. While I’m waiting for my fabric memos to be pulled, I run into a fellow designer and we briefly chat about how crazy things are in the industry right now. Foam shortages, metal shortages, container shortages, backorder dates getting pushed further and further out, etc. Sometimes it’s nice to identify with others who are going through the same issues you are; it helps you not feel alone.
Next up I go to the Sutherland Showroom to select patio furniture for a project. I then head over to Osborne & Little to browse through some beautiful Chinoiserie wallpaper, and then on to a few of my other favorite showrooms. By this point my stomach is screaming at me, so it’s time for lunch!
2:30 p.m.: I walk over to PAUL, about a block from the design center, and order their Quinoa Chicken Salad. Over lunch, I respond to a few emails.
3:30 p.m.: I arrive back to the studio with all my design center finds and start to lay out and organize them by project, storing them away in our client project drawers until they are needed. I have to finalize sourcing for the 16th Street Project, so I dive into that for a few hours. Presentation day is slotted for next week, so I want to review everything and make sure I have all the furnishing selections and fabric/finish samples I need.
6:30 p.m. I head out to meet my boyfriend for dinner at one of our neighborhood favorites, Busboys & Poets. It feels like our very own Cheers! I’m obsessed with their Poached Pear Salad, so naturally, that’s what I order. Over dinner, we talk about each other’s day, gossip a bit about what popped up on TMZ alerts throughout the day (we always get a good laugh on this topic), and just enjoy each other’s company. After dinner, we order my other absolute favorite, their Banana Bread Pudding, to-go for dessert, and head home.
9:00 p.m. There’s a new episode of The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu, so after we take Poppy on her walk we settle in for the evening and unwind with a glass of wine and bread pudding. I’m on pins and needles wondering what June, Moira, Serena, and the Commander are up to this week!
10:30 p.m.: I call it a night and head to bed. I watch a couple of A Different World episodes before turning on my Sleep Stories on the Calm app. There are always a thousand things on my mind when it’s quiet—Is that wallpaper going to work with that upholstery? Are those samples going to arrive on time? I hope that rug in-stock date doesn’t get pushed out again! I love Sleep Stories, they are life-changing. Kelly Rowland reading about Princess Abigail and that Baby Dragon do just the trick. Someone will have to tell me one day what happens with that darn baby dragon. I don’t think I make it even 10 minutes before I doze right off to sleep…zzzzz!