Consider this a public service announcement: If you're in need of an aspirational female figure/BFF/girl crush, look no further than Zoe Feldman. To put it not-so-mildly, we're obsessed with this girl-about-town and interior designer with a rad Georgetown pad and enviable closet (think classic Chanel pumps and vintage Halston caftans from the '70s), and you should be, too.
Aside from being a boss (which we mean in the badass, started-her-own-successful-business, Rick Ross kind of way), this gal is as downright likeable and hilarious as they come — Jennifer Aniston meets Chelsea Handler would be about right, if you ask us. We guarantee you'll want to get to know her — especially after you get a load of her charming personal space. Click through to peek inside her eclectic digs and get some savvy advice on everything from career challenges to designing on a dime.
Photographed by Dominique Fierro
How did you get into interior design?
"I worked in advertising for a year (and not on the creative side) — I was actually really bad at it. I’ve always had an interest in design and architecture, starting with the elaborate Barbie homes I used to construct as a child. I was living in New York City and decided to go back to school at Parsons and pursue interior design. From there, I was lucky enough to get an internship with Mark Hampton, Inc. under Alexa Hampton, which luckily led to a proper job in just a couple of months. I stayed there for about five years."
When did you decide to make the leap and start your own business?
"In 2003, I had an opportunity to work with a family friend on her apartment in NYC, as well as a beach house she was building in the Hamptons. The opportunity was big enough to have the confidence to do my own thing — and, thankfully, I was naïve enough to go for it."
Theory Blazer, Tibi Top, J Brand Jeans, Tory Burch Booties.
How would you describe your personal taste in interior design?
"I like to think that I am a modernist, in that I update any look to be relevant today. As for my personal aesthetic, it is always changing. I think all spaces should start with a classic foundation through something like symmetry, the color palette, or the bones of the space — this helps a space to not trend so easily. Currently, I would say I am into organic modernism with a touch of glamour. However, I always like to keep my spaces eclectic and 'undecorated', as ironic as that may sound. To me, homes should be effortlessly chic and constantly evolving, so as to allow room for them to grow with us."
What about in clothing?
"Like my design, I’m quite classic at the core — I like simple silhouettes, tweaked with a bit of the unexpected, like a bold color or a contrast of masculine and feminine elements. I also love vintage in both my clothes and design."
The dresser is a Miss Pixie's score that Feldman had painted with a Kelly green lacquer.
What were some of the challenges you encountered in starting your business?
"I was young and naïve, so there were loads of challenges at first. I was a terrible businesswoman in the beginning — you may know that creativity and business acumen are not always a natural fit. I had to learn how to properly price things, how to spend my time wisely, how to interpret my client’s needs properly, etc."
What have been the biggest rewards of being your own boss?
"Being my own boss is the absolute greatest gift I have given myself — the freedom, the autonomy, the independence — it’s all just awesome. Even when it's scary, it’s awesome."
An enviable shoe collection includes pairs from Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Kate Spade, Devi Kroell, and more.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
"Just go for it. Don’t think through it too much. There are a million reasons you can find to hesitate, but most of those are just fear-based. Go into it with the idea that failure isn’t an option. Work hard. Be flexible — don’t be hyper-committed to a plan. A lot of growing a business is an organic process.
What do you wish you'd known when you started out?
"I wish I’d understood how spending money wisely can actually save lots of money. I should have taken a few business courses before starting, and also hired an office manager much earlier than I did — it’s worth the money!"
What do you like about living in D.C.? What could you do without?
"Having lived in the high-paced chaos of New York and the slow cadence of Florida, D.C. is really the perfect vibe for me. I like that it feels like a small 'big city.' I also enjoy the intellectualness of the city, though I wouldn’t mind just a bit more emphasis on aesthetics. The museums are amazing. We need better sushi restaurants!"
What's your favorite neighborhood in the city, and why?
"My home and studio are both in Georgetown. I have never lived anywhere else in the city, and so it has my heart. I love that I can walk to nearly anything I need — shopping, restaurants, markets, nails, yoga. And the architecture continues to inspire me."
An antique vanity table in the dressing room makes a pretty backdrop for beauty tools and statement jewelry.
What are some of your favorite places to eat/drink/shop/play?
"My favorite restaurant is the upstairs lounge at Bistrot Lepic — it’s a hidden gem with great food, a great vibe, great staff, and a great wine list. I love a neighborhood feeling in a restaurant. Baked and Wired is the best coffee shop/bakery in town — besides having some of the best baked goods EVER, it has an irreverent vibe that I totally dig. I love the clothing boutique Wink
in Georgetown — a great selection of fun, flirty, modern clothes and jewelry. It’s my go-to local spot for shopping. GoodWood
is great for affordable, well-edited vintage buys for the home."
What's your perfect day like? And what about the perfect evening?
"A perfect evening for me is a low-key dinner with great friends, too much wine, and great conversation — and maybe a little homegrown karaoke and dancing to finish off the evening! A perfect day starts with yoga and the farmers' market, works in some bad TV, and ends with the aforementioned evening."
A vintage Halston caftan serves as wall art, alongside her favorite handbags.
If a person has, say, $100 to spend on something to spruce up their place, what's the most worthwhile way to spend it?
"Great bed and bath linens are important to me. For $100, I would say splurge on some lovely towels and soaps for your bath. Create a luxurious moment for you and your guests. Throw pillows are another great, affordable way to change the look of a space quickly — you can never have too many, and they can be swapped out seasonally for a quick transformation."
Elizabeth Cole Earrings from Wink, Zara Top, Chanel Skirt.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, what should people drop big bucks on? What is your personal favorite splurge?
"I love art, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. In my opinion, a space is not complete without art, as great art will transform any space. On a more practical note, it is important to spend a bit more money on large upholstery pieces, such as a sofa. A good sofa will grow old with you — you may need to give it an occasional facelift as the years go by, but who doesn’t need that? My personal favorite item to splurge on is bedding. I love great linens — nothing is more decadent than a beautifully dressed bed."
What's one super-cheap trick for making a place feel pulled together?
"Books, books, books! Style your bookcases — I like to color-coordinate them and mix objects and books. Also, de-clutter tabletops, then create a vignette of coffee table books, flowers, photos, art, and objects. I just love decorating with books — they are functional yet still decorative, without being frivolous. Books also add intimacy to a space, as they offer a peek into the person’s interests, travels, etc."
We were delighted to spot some Foo Dog sculptures, since they're our newest decor obsession.
Has there been a moment when you thought, "Okay, I've made it"?
"Have I made it? I don’t think we ever get to that place, right? I have this perpetual feeling that I should be doing more."
What's in store for you for the next five to ten years?
"I actually have no idea — as I think I mentioned, I’ve never been very good at a plan."
Fill in the blank: If I wasn't an interior designer, I would be __ because __.
"A journalist, because I’m an activist at heart. I have a deep passion for justice, and would love to spend my time living and telling the stories that may otherwise go unheard. It would be great to know you were helping to make the world a better place."
Necklace from Wink.