The Perks of Mentorship | Architectural Digest


Some say it’s all about who you know, and for the talented cast of design newcomers AD PRO recently interviewed, that sentiment couldn’t ring more true. Touting the importance of connective threads and opportunities seized, the crew of designers and makers elaborate on the industry titans who pushed them to take big risks, design with confidence, and help enable success in the next generation of creatives.

Turning heads with his Japanese woodworking style and beautifully crafted furnishings, Corey Eichenberger threw caution to the wind when launching his debut furniture brand, Corey Joseph Designs, in mid-2020. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified—beginning dead smack in the middle of the COVID-19 madness and having to rely solely on myself, pushing me way out of my comfort zone,” explains the Los Angeles–based designer. 

Corey Eichenberger, furniture designer and mentee of furniture-artist Casey McCaffertyMichael Dozal

But before taking the leap to go out on his own, the Nakashima and Maloof admirer wandered into the Venice studio of famed furniture artist Casey McCafferty for his first industry gig. Eichenberger muses, “He let a young surf rat who knew nothing about fine woodworking soak up any and all knowledge available.” And after months of Eichenberger sweeping floors and paying his dues, McCafferty finally hired the young woodworker to be part of the team, and in turn set Eichenberger on a distinct career trajectory. 

McCafferty is known for his sculptural works of art that dance between form and function, noting, “I’m always hesitant to bring in folks who have no experience because it takes a lot of time to get someone up to speed, especially in the high-end furniture business.” But this emerging artist stood out: “Corey was different—he has a very positive attitude towards life and work; he takes constructive criticism very well and he seemed to get more skilled with each project that passed.” Now Eichenberger is making waves of his own with his 1960s surf-culture vibe meets wabi-sabi technique. McCafferty adds, “I am glad he is off on his own venture now, and I am sure he will build some amazing pieces for lucky clients.”

James Bianca, wardrobe stylist, closet designer and mentee of Michel BoydChristopher Pitts

For in-demand fashion stylist James Bianca, her transition into high-end closet interiors was a natural progression. “When you spend as much time as I do editing clients’ closets—and adding in a bit of my own OCD tendencies and need for organization—it was inevitable that I would spot design flaws in the typical builder-basic closets that come with a rod and shelf,” explains Bianca. “And thus, a new branch of my business began.” 

But it was her best friend and mentor, renowned interior designer Mikel Welch, that encouraged her to move forward. “After years of being by his side at show houses and design events, it finally clicked that my greatest resource for shifting into closet design was the very person who introduced me to Thibaut wallpaper, Farrow & Ball paint, and Tufenkian rugs.” The two met over a decade ago in a dimly lit corner of a Container Store stock room—and the rest is history. 

Welch echoes Bianca’s sentiments of her career move: “Closet design was a no-brainer for James,” states the on-air personality and interior designer. “She has a natural flair for design and anything that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.” The two even recently collaborated. Welch explains, “She helped me narrow down a few key design elements for my current room in the 2021 Kips Bay Show House.”

From best friends to family ties, our next pair goes way back. Canadian expat Townsend Lloyd recalls forming a penchant for design early on thanks to her mentor’s Long Island home. “I was 10 years old and my family had just moved from Western Canada to New York City, and we trekked to Long Island to visit a dear family friend, Eileen Kathryn Boyd. The moment I stepped into her home I was in complete awe of her sophisticated, fearlessly colorful, and elegant, assembled interiors.” 

Townsend Lloyd, interior designer and a mentee of Eileen Kathryn BoydKirsten Frances

Equally enamored with Boyd’s charming design studio, Lloyd would later intern for the acclaimed fashion-forward designer, learning the ins and outs of the business side of the industry. “While Eileen is exceptionally talented creatively, she also has great business and people sense, which has allowed her to turn her artistry into a thriving career,” says Lloyd. “I can say with complete confidence that I would not be where I am today if not for her support and mentorship.” 

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