Interior designer Sharlene Yaqui wasn’t expecting to move six months into her pregnancy, especially not halfway across the country. But, alas, life happens. She was on a time crunch with a baby on board and found the housing market too competitive to stay in L.A., so Yaqui packed up and flew to Atlanta, Georgia.
She now resides there in a 2400-square-foot home with her husband, nine-month-old son, and two pups. The midcentury modern space turned out to be the perfect place to accommodate Yaqui’s growing family and penchant for design. As the founder of her eponymous interior design company, Studio Yaqui, she’s infused the home with her indigenous Mayan and African American heritage. Lush wallpaper and vibrant artwork are mediated by organic ceramics and soothing earth tones — all an ode to her roots and artistry.
Ahead, Yaqui shares more about her home — from her favorite room to special finds, and more.
Does your home fit in with your neighborhood's vibe or does it stand out?
Our neighborhood is one of the largest clusters of midcentury modern homes in the city. [But] each home has its own unique style — our neighbors take pride in the community. After a bit of research, I even discovered a blog that catalogs each home’s style and the history. The writer affectionately coined our home the “doublestack” because it looks like two ranches stacked on top of each other.
What's your approach to decorating your home?
I like to mix organic forms with light touches of modern elements — every now and then I’ll add something unexpected and unusual to create a unique and original space.
When designing a room, I think about it spatially first [and] then find a layout that flows. After that, I play around with whatever mood I’m trying to evoke. Even if it’s a space for someone else, I still imagine myself living in it.
Who or what are your biggest design inspirations?
I find inspiration when I travel. There’s something about taking in new sights, sounds, tastes, and color combinations that sparks my creativity.
How does your Mayan heritage inform your style?
I believe the ancient Mayans were at an advantage when it came to their design inspiration. Like them, I opt to incorporate unique materials and textures that feel special and rare. This ranges from handmade tile, rich textiles, natural finishes, and materials found in nature.
Any other cultures you take design notes from?
I also love to honor and celebrate my African-American roots by supporting Black artists, artisans, and designers. There are so many talented individuals — from all walks of life — who never get any exposure. Part of the fun in being a designer is discovering a diamond in the rough. So, venture out into other communities’ farmers markets — you might find something your space has been missing.
What were the greatest finds in your home? Can you share a story behind any of them?
I sourced these incredible Kuba cloth pillows from an artisan on Etsy [and] really special dishware from a tiny Mayan ceramic shop in Guatemala. My husband's late grandmother also passed down a collection of signed Keith Haring vases, and [we discovered] a series of paintings from an African artist at the Dogwood Festival in Atlanta.
Do you have a favorite design feature or room?
I fell in love with the floating staircase in view right off the main entrance. It’s an original architectural feature that looks so futuristic, yet it remains elegant and timeless.
My favorite room in our house is my son's nursery. It’s the smallest room in the home and the window faces the backyard. I designed it while I was pregnant, and I put so much thought and love into every corner. I knew I wanted it to feel like an extension of our luscious green backyard and look like a scene from the Jungle Book.
Where in your home do you spend the most time?
These days, I am usually in the kitchen cooking and cleaning for my son, or in his nursery. I wanted the nursery to be an enchanting and cozy room that we would both enjoy.
What was inspiration behind Studio Yaqui and Casa Yaqui, your upcoming decor brand?
The studio is the product of art, culture, and curiosity, with a focus on creating interiors that evoke warmth, beauty, and balance. I created Studio Yaqui to design spaces that celebrate heritage, soul, and craftsmanship from artisans around the globe.
Casa Yaqui was born after a trip to Guatemala while I was 15 weeks pregnant. I visited the most amazing textile and ceramic shops and connected with Mayan artisans to learn more about their process. My mother helped translate, as she speaks Kaqchikel fluently (one of the many Mayan dialects prevalent in Guatemala). I came home from that trip so inspired! I began to sketch my designs and collaborated with the artisans I met to help build a collection. Keep a look out for Casa Yaqui — we are working on a 2023 launch.