Declutter your physical and digital space. I am the type of person that comes home from a vacation and immediately unpacks, runs the laundry, and tucks my suitcase away. When I cook, the meal prep is cleaned up before anyone is served; my email inbox must be cleared out, before I can get to work; my computer files need to be tucked into a folder, within a folder, within a folder. I believe that when there is clutter around you, it makes it harder to focus on the present and can overwhelm your mind. By keeping your space neat, it allows for a blank space in the mind to create and execute your to-do list without any physical, digital, or mental clutter.
As part of our series “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Elyssa Dorf of Cheery Designs. The New York based designer owns the design-centric lifestyle brand and creative studio. Her mission is to spread cheer and encourage people to add a pop of color into their lives with her trendy, metropolitan designs. She tells us about the journey so far, and how people can step up their interior design game to spark more joy.
Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to join you! Ever since I can remember, I have always been interested in art and design. Art was my favorite elective in elementary school, which turned into extra art classes after school, which turned into camps and private lessons, which turned into pre-college programs, an undergraduate degree in design, and a masters degree in design. I am happy to say that the more I learn, the more passionate I become about the art and design space. While being a student in such a subjective field was a challenge, it has built my backbone and prepared me for the professional design world. Although the hours are long, and I am my worst critic, there is nothing I would rather spend my life doing. The “Earth” without “art” is just “eh.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
This unfortunate time of the pandemic has allowed us all to take a minute to stop, re-evaluate, and reflect on both our lives and careers. For me, I have used this time to continue to grow my brand and do all of the miscellaneous tasks, projects, and ideas that have been on the back burner. Pre-covid, there were so many instances where I wished there was “more time” to make a project better, update my website, etc. This period of lockdown gave me the “more time” I had always needed and I’ve been working day in and day out to ensure that when the world reopens, Cheery will be the best it can be for myself and for my customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I live in an apartment in New York City, so space is hard to come by. However, this doesn’t stop me from doing what I love. I spray paint on my balcony so you may see some neon pigeons in the neighborhood, the only time you find me in the kitchen is when my pots are filled with tie dye, and my bathtub will never be the same ever since I decided to use it as my splatter painting studio. Needless to say, I am looking forward to expanding and getting a home office/studio space.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Just to name a few… I am excited about a collaboration I am working on with Sophie Bickley to help her remember and honor the life of one of her friends who is no longer with us, I am building a website alongside style extraordinaire Carolyn Englefield to showcase her many years in the design industry, and my mom and I are hand tie dying masks for one of my favorite clothing brands Mailbu Sugar! There is always a lot going on behind the scenes that I cannot wait to share with you all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. Art and design are, and always have been my passion. Of course we all get those occasional Sunday scaries, but at the end of the day I love what I do. When your job and your hobby are the same thing, you know you made the right career choice.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My mom is my inspiration for my Cheery. From a young age, my mom always taught me to celebrate both the big and small moments in life. I grew up with a mom who made every meal and moment memorable. From widely celebrated birthdays, to the more unique April Fools celebrations, Pat Kohlhagen always reminded our family that there is something to celebrate each and every day. That is where my idea for “Cheery” was born. I wanted to bring these fond memories from my childhood into my adult life to share with my ever-growing family and friends.
Now that Cheery has grown, my mom is my style director. She sends me inspiration for future projects, keeps me updated on the latest trends and colors, and ideates and executes all of Cheery’s packaging, gift wrapping, and shipping.
Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Declutter your physical and digital space. I am the type of person that comes home from a vacation and immediately unpacks, runs the laundry, and tucks my suitcase away. When I cook, the meal prep is cleaned up before anyone is served; my email inbox must be cleared out, before I can get to work; my computer files need to be tucked into a folder, within a folder, within a folder. I believe that when there is clutter around you, it makes it harder to focus on the present and can overwhelm your mind. By keeping your space neat, it allows for a blank space in the mind to create and execute your to-do list without any physical, digital, or mental clutter.
2) Decorate! Living a clutter-free life does not mean your walls should be sparse. Blank walls, and blank shelves make a house, not a home. In order to make a room truly yours, the walls should be adorned with colors, shapes, pictures, memories, anything and everything that makes you smile. This, however, does not by any means have to happen overnight. Over the years, as your family grows, your interests change, you repaint or redecorate, your art collection can continue to evolve to match the current “you.”
3) Live in your space for a while before fully furnishing. I received my undergraduate degree from Skidmore College. One of my favorite tales about our campus is the way the paths in our quad were created. After the campus was built, the grassy area was left alone with no paths to walk on. Over time, the walking patterns of both students and faculty were tracked, and paths were later put in based on the natural way that the users walked. Instead of telling people to conform to a space, you can adapt a space to conform to you.
4) Fill your home with conversation pieces. Don’t buy coffee table books, art, or vases just to check the box that you have “decorated”. Each and every piece that you buy should bring you joy, make you proud of this home you’ve built, and serve as a conversation starter when guests are around. Your art, much like your home, should be a reflection of yourself both in actuality and on an aspirational level. Your art can reflect who you are now, who you have been, or who you would like to become.
5) More expensive does not mean better! Just because a piece is thousands of dollars, it doesn’t mean that this is the right piece for your home. Maybe it’s a painting you bought from a street vendor on your best family vacation, a portrait of a loved one that brings back feelings of nostalgia, or a gift from a special friend, that your room should be designed around. Your home is not meant to be a museum, and while your art collection should be curated, the most important thing is that the art brings positive feelings, emotions, and stories to your space.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
This is such a fabulous question! The whole purpose of Cheery is to spread as much cheer to my followers and customers, as making art brings me! I would love to collaborate with non profits and B Corps to help them raise awareness for their cause via eye-catching graphics, fun products that will allow them to raise money, and overall help them strategize how best to grow their organization through design. This could be anything from the layout of a donation form, a refresh of their logo, social media strategy, how to design processes that allow their employees to work smarter not harder, the sky is the limit!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them.
I am infatuated by Bethenny Frankel. I have a similar mentality as her, being a “yes” woman. We both like to accept any project, no matter how big or small and put our work first, and ourselves second. Between watching The Real Housewives of New York, Bethenny Getting Married, Bethenny Ever After, Bethenny (the talk show), reading all of her books, and now listening to her podcast Just B with Bethenny Frankel, I hope to follow her path and grow Cheery the way she grew Skinny Girl into the empire that it is today. I think her messaging, by living out her dream through blood, sweat, and tears, and then later taking the time to be so philanthropic, using her platform to do good, is everything you could ask for in a mentor.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
Elyssa Dorf is the creator of New York design studio Cheery Designs.