Design Changemakers 2021: Michelle ‘Meeshie’ Fahmy Will Make You Rethink Color on Color and Pattern Play
The Apartment Therapy Design Changemakers Class of 2021 is made up of 24 of the most talented and dynamic people in the design world. We asked an assortment of last year’s Design Changemakers and Apartment Therapy staffers (and you!) to tell us who we needed to spotlight — see the rest of the list here.
Why Michelle “Meeshie” Fahmy is part of the Class of 2021: “Honestly, it was love at first sight for us when we came upon a post of her home bar, featuring custom stools by Jason Koharik and a vintage bar she sourced online. My sixth sense immediately knew we’d be fast friends and collaborators; it was just a matter of hunting her down and letting her know.
“We were shocked to find out she was just starting out. Coming from the fine arts and event planning worlds, and with a deep knowledge of art and design that exceeds many of the more experienced designers we’ve worked with, she is just primed to be one of our unapologetic cohorts escorting back maximalist trends into what has been a very hyper minimalist phase of interior design. She’s not afraid to work hard to make each space shine uniquely, as opposed to trying to do the same thing to each space she designs.
“She is booked up with a number of projects with clients who have sought her out for her use of color/texture/boldness/vintage sourcing and rehabbing wizardry. She is passionate AF and one of the sweetest, hardest working people you will ever meet. She will make a splash, and you better believe we will be right there with her popping the champagne and there will not be a single plain white wall in sight.” —Lisa Donohoe and Brynn Gelbard, the artists behind LA-based design business Londubh Studio
“Eclectically bold with attention for the peculiar.” That’s how Los Angeles-based interior designer and Haus of Meeshie founder Michelle “Meeshie” Fahmy (sometimes credited as Meeshie Snyder, her married name) describes her aesthetic. Completely self-taught, Fahmy simply immersed herself in the design world to hone her craft. “It is an act that I’ve picked up and something that runs through my veins,” she says. “I always had a love for the arts and interiors.”
Fahmy worked in event production before she made the career switch, which was an excellent training ground. “You learn to look at spaces in a critical way,” Fahmy says. “Whether you’re doing a private 20-person dinner or a 5,000-person event, you have to figure out the best flow, the best setup, really taking into account all the different aspects that are needed — food, a bar, having scullery in the back for all of the staff — thinking about it not just for the guests, but for the staff that need to execute the event.” That attention to detail taught her to utilize individual spaces and footprints, a learning she now applies when she designs spaces. “Not every client is ready to knock down walls or has the budget to do a full gut renovation,” she says. “Using the space that you have and using that well definitely is a skill set that came from event production.”
Fahmy never had a big lightbulb moment about becoming an interior designer. When she moved into her first solo apartment in LA neighborhood Los Feliz, she was excited to decorate it the way she wanted and had a lot of fun doing so. “It started off with doing little corners of the apartment and taking pictures of what I thought looked cool,” Fahmy says. “It slowly and organically morphed into figuring out that this was the career I wanted to be doing and taking that leap.”
Fahmy worked at WFord Interiors, where designer Willa Ford mentored her (and she appeared on “Flip It Like Disick” in 2019), before going out on her own last fall with Haus of Meeshie. “She took me on when I didn’t have any experience other than some pictures and little boxes on Instagram, and just a hungry desire to be in this business and community,” Fahmy says. “She taught me so many of the ropes and at the same time was not micromanaging of what I was doing. Her mentorship was one of the biggest catalysts of Haus of Meeshie taking shape.”
Apartment Therapy: What were your design inspirations growing up? What is your inspiration now?
Michelle “Meeshie” Fahmy: My father is Egyptian, so growing up, a lot of Middle Eastern culture. There is a love for pattern and color, and that old world design. There was pattern on pattern and color splashes everywhere. I remember asking my father, “These two patterns don’t match; shouldn’t they match?” He goes, “It shouldn’t match; it’s more interesting when you mix them together.” That stuck with me and fed my curiosity and love for color and mixing patterns, and being really bold with my design.
Now, I am absolutely without a doubt inspired by the country of Mexico and how they are so bold with their use of color. Mexico City was incredible. There are houses that are hot pink with lime green trim. I was shook the whole time walking around that city. Luis Barragán, the Mexican architect, is a huge, huge influence to me. The way he used color blocking and light, and shape, so simply and elegantly, it’s mind-blowing. You can definitely see his influence in my work. Along with Ken Fulk. His beautiful, elegant designs include whimsy to keep it interesting and fun. And I’m a huge fan of Wes Anderson. There’s something beautifully whimsical and very structured yet playful in all of his movies and the way that his sets are designed. If you put Luis Barragán, times Ken Fulk, times Wes Anderson, that’s Haus of Meeshie.
AT: What makes you feel at home in your own space?
MF: Color and eclectic curation. Most of our house is either from Craigslist or thrifted, or found at some antique store. There are maybe three pieces total that were purchased from a traditional store. That lends to a beautifully unique design. When you’re designing with vintage and antique wares, repurposing things, you end up with a design that you can’t even plan on a board. You can plan the direction that you want to go, but then it takes on a life of its own. And that’s what makes it so exciting.
AT: How do you think the past year will impact the design world moving forward?
MF: Personally, I’m really excited to see that there’s a movement toward diversity in design and giving diverse designers from all different backgrounds a voice and a platform to show their work. There’s room for all of us. I remember Justina Blakeney was one of the first designers that I looked at and was enamored by her use of eclectic items and colors. I’m so glad to see more voices and faces that create a more diverse palette in this industry. I think that it’s going to be more of a collaborative industry rather than the old-school, “you can’t sit with us” type. Design can be very uppity. I would like to see it headed more in a direction that’s more accessible for anyone to approach a designer.
AT: How has 2020 changed your perspective on or approach to your work?
MF: I have been really fortunate that it has been so busy because people are taking into account how important their surroundings are, and investing that time, money, or resources into that, even requesting consultations about how they can make their space better. I think what I offer is something different. People are starting to see that beautiful, white interiors are great and some people love that and are drawn to that, but there’s a big part of the population that wants to go bold and feel inspired in their home with eclectic interiors.
AT: What, in your mind, is the power of good design?
MF: Collaboration. Design is not done by just the interior designer or the architect. It is truly a collaboration of the minds, of all the vendors that you’re working with, the contractors. I can’t do my job without amazing artisans and fabricators. Those are the people that fuel my business and bring the design concepts to life.
AT: What is one thing you wish everyone knew about interior design?
MF: That it’s 10 percent design and 90 percent project management. The design part for me is the easy part. What takes the most time is the project management — dealing and communicating with vendors, developing relationships with special fabricators — because a lot of what you do are things that have not been done before that you can’t just go to a store and buy, or order from a website. So, being skilled in project management and communication is key. You’re multitasking and managing 20 things at once.
Interview has been edited and condensed.