Here is the Next Generation of Women Influencing the Way We Live

published Mar 26, 2020
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four women on colorful background
Credit: From Left to Right: Korbin Bielski, Tory Williams, Shayne Gray Photography

Zaha Hadid, Elsie de Wolfe, Martha Stewart: these are just some of the women who have made their mark in the home space and changed how we live in them. You can also thank countless inventors for which our current comforts would not be possible.

For Women’s History Month, it’s fitting to honor these trailblazers. But here at Apartment Therapy, we also wanted to look to the future. Our next generation of Home Heroes are just that: women who are changing the game right now, in 2020. Meet four of them below.

Credit: Shane Gray Photography

Clean Commander: Melissa Maker

Credit: Laura Hoerner

With over 1.4 million YouTube subscribers, there’s no one out there keeping our homes sparkling quite like Melissa Maker. The Toronto-based founder of Clean My Space and Maker’s Clean actually hates cleaning, so she reengineered how she did it to be more efficient, she says in the intro to her 2017 book.

The “How to clean a mattress” video has 13 million views alone, so people are paying attention. But her “How to clean a toilet in 3 minutes” video sums up why viewers keep coming back.

“This is a seemingly simple topic—something we’re almost expected to know how to do,” Maker tells Apartment Therapy. “Yet, many of us have no idea how to do it. “So, I take the job and make it simple—I teach people my core ‘PTT’—products, tools, and techniques. By the end of the video, they leave empowered. They’ve stuck a new life skill in their back pocket. And if that’s all I can ever do for someone, I’ve done my job.”

Since starting her business 15 years ago, a lot has changed. “I never would have imagined people wanted to read a book or blog or watch a video about cleaning, let alone subscribe to a YouTube channel about it,” she says. “I believe cleaning has become front and center because there’s so much turmoil outside of our homes that we realize our home is the one place we can have control over. If it is clean, calm, curated and welcoming, we can relax and get the break we need. It wasn’t seen this way before; it was seen as a crappy job that someone (generally a woman) had to do just because. Now, it’s seen as a way for people to achieve zen in their space, whether it is cleaning, organizing, decluttering or practicing minimalism.”

“Cleaning is starting to transcend gender—we still have a ways to go—but I’ve seen so many men step up and talk about cleaning in a way I never would have heard 15 years ago. I have also noticed a big trend in people paying more attention to environmentally-responsible and more sustainable cleaning practices, which years ago wasn’t even a consideration. “

What does the future hold? Homekeeping will only continue to grow in popularity, she posits. “When you see how wonderful your home can look after a few minutes of work (unlike exercising!), you want to do more and you really bask in the work you’ve done. It’ll lead to cooler products and tools coming out that we get excited for. I think we’ll continue to see a push for zero-waste, more sustainable or regenerative options for cleaning products and tools, too.” 

“I realize that whether my staff is in someone’s home or I am teaching someone how to clean through a video or blog post, cleaning is about mental health and wellbeing. When our home is clean, our minds can rest.”

Credit: Korbin Bielski

Style Star: Kara Thomas

Credit: Laura Hoerner

LA-based designer Kara Thomas has what everyone wants: the ability to make a space look cool and comfortable on a budget. She’s done it with her own formerly dated apartment, and offers the same to clients digitally with her “room in a box” service.

The New Jersey native moved to the West Coast seven years ago, enrolling in the Interior Design program at the Fashion Institute, though her love of design started young. “Every few years my mom would let me do a bedroom makeover (which I really wish she documented over the years),” she tells Apartment Therapy. “The makeover included paint, new bedding and a few other updates. Having a bedroom that I handpicked made me feel so proud, I spent so much time in my room and all of my friends would usually prefer to sleep over my house because I had the ‘cool’ room. I’ve gone through the super girly pink phase, to everything purple (which was my favorite color), to jewel tones, to a hippie phase with posters covering my walls, a blacklight and lava lamps.”

Recently, Thomas appeared in HGTV digital series “Fad or the Future,” where along with Orlando Soria and carpenter Justin Swaby, she decided whether iconic redesigns from the HGTV archives were just a fad or had a place in the future. The five 20-minute episodes are available to stream on HGTV’s site.

Since graduating, she’s worked with other designers and her own clientele to create interiors with “an eye for vibrancy” and a style she describes as “edgy.” She has an online shop where she currently sells on-trend pillows and art, and is planning to relaunch the shop later this year.

“Although I would prefer an endless budget, that is not reality,” says Thomas. Her best advice for decorating on a dime? Turn to a spreadsheet. “Allocate a certain amount of money to everything you need to complete your space. Oftentimes the number we have in our head is much less than what it actually cost.”

And don’t worry if it’s not done all at once. “Remember that it takes time! Focus on investing in a nice sofa and a comfortable bed first. If it takes you a few months to be able to afford a rug or other key pieces to complete the space, then so be it! Patience is a must. I would much rather wait than buy a bunch of cheap stuff that is going to need to be replaced in a year.”

Credit: Tory Williams

Hustle Heroes: Sierra Tishgart and Maddy Moelis

Credit: Laura Hoerner

Turns out, stocking your kitchen isn’t all that straightforward, even for a food editor. There are thousands of options when it comes to just pots and pans, all in different sizes and materials—it gets overwhelming fast. So Sierra Tishgart teamed up with childhood friend and startup alumna Maddy Moelis to create Great Jones, a brand that believes that quality cookware doesn’t need to cost a fortune.

“After spending five years reporting on restaurants as a food editor at New York Magazine, I decided I wanted to cook more frequently and confidently. I was surprised to find it was confusing, overwhelming, and prohibitively expensive to figure out what I needed to outfit my kitchen,” Tishgart tells Apartment Therapy.

In under two years, the company has created a niche for themselves among millennial home cooks. “We design all of our products to look as good as they function,” Tishgart says. “It’s not superficial for millennials to want a beautiful Dutch oven to show off in their homes, or on Instagram—if you take pride in how things look, you’re likely to use them more. That leads to increased home cooking.”

Outside of that gorgeous Dutch oven (Moelis tells us that the Broccoli colorway is one of their most popular products), Great Jones also offers sheet pans, frying pans, and stock pots—several of which have made it onto Kitchn Essentials, our sister site’s definitive guide to kitchen tools.

And as we all get (re)acquainted with our kitchens these days, it’s good to have some help. “With everything going on in the world, we’re grateful that Great Jones offers products and services that encourage people to feel confident, comfortable, and supported while cooking at home,” says Moelis. “We certainly plan to continue growing our product line as well as offering more services, like Potline, our text-based recipe service that launched last summer.”