In March of 2020, Monica Benavidez was in Paris for her dream trip — but she was sick, the pandemic was starting, and the embassy told her she had to go back home. To top it off, she was supposed to be celebrating her 35th birthday. “None of it was ideal,” the blogger and designer admits. “But, it taught me so much about myself as a person and it really reemphasized and reinforced my design aesthetic.”
Step into her 2,065-square-foot home in Corpus Christi, Texas, and it's not hard to see. A chinoiserie landscape coats the walls, dramatic chandeliers drip from the ceiling, and ornate molding transports you straight to the City of Love.
Paris isn’t the only location that’s influenced Benavidez, though. Growing up in the dazzling Hispanic hub of San Antonio, Benavidez also takes notes from the Latina matriarchs in her family. “My grandmother loved to go thrifting and to garage sales, which mortified me as a child,” she recalls. “But now, it's the whole foundation of my decor.”
These seemingly disparate elements amalgamate into a unique style Benavidez dubs “accessible luxury.” By cultivating her dream home, she’s showing others that they can achieve everything they imagined — and more — with some creativity and grit. I caught up with the designer over Zoom to chat more about her fascination with Paris, love of estate sales, and favorite furniture flip thus far.
What are some memories of your childhood home in San Antonio?
I was raised by a single mom and we also had her mom — my grandma — living with us. So, it was three generations under one roof. I never had my own bedroom until I went off to college. We always lived in small apartments and I shared a room with my mom. Not having that traditional experience of growing up with my own room and style is why creating a beautiful home is such a priority to me now as an adult. I am also Hispanic, so there was lots of Spanish and English in the household.
So, you grew up around Latin American culture?
Yeah, my grandma's from Mexico, so those traditions were always part of my life growing up. Plus, San Antonio is such a vibrant, beautiful city. They have things like Fiesta, which is this whole Mexican Mardi Gras that happens in April. I was also influenced a lot by the fact that my mom and my grandma were both very into gardening, florals, and being budget-minded.
What other design inspirations did you have growing up?
Since I was young, I've been obsessed with Paris. The romance and the opulence always had my attention. In March 2020 — worst timing ever — I took a solo trip there. I was like, 'I am tired of putting my life on hold. I'm going to Eat Pray Love.' Seeing the museums and the architecture — I realized that's always been part of what I like in my home. Even when we had our first really bad apartment to this beautiful house we live in now, it's always had those influences because I've always been a Francophile.
What about Parisian style resonates with you?
What draws me in about Parisian style is that there's a lot of contrast. So, if you look at all of my home, I like to play with new and old and play with contrast. I love how the French can mix this really hard angular light fixture with a beautiful plush velvet clawfoot sofa — and it all works so well and effortlessly. That’s what I want to exude.
You’re a big advocate of accessible luxury, too. Why is that important to you?
For one, we all saw the supply chain issues during the pandemic. So, I liked the instant gratification of going to an estate sale or thrift store. With some elbow grease or paint, you could give thrifted pieces a whole new life, saving them from the landfill and saving money in your pocket.
Also, I think a lot of people see homes in magazines and think, ‘Well, I can't have that.' Growing up poor, I felt like that a lot. So, I want to show people that you can create a magazine-worthy space on a budget. I hope that by sharing my creations, people will start to look at their homes differently and not turn up their nose at thrift shops, estate sales, and those sorts of things.
What part of your home is your favorite?
I love my home office the most. Originally, it was white and then I painted it Sulking Room Pink — this mauve color from Farrow & Ball. Earlier this year, I wasn't digging the pink anymore. So, now it's Oval Room Blue. People were like, ‘Didn’t you just paint that a year ago?' I was like, 'Yeah, and?' I also installed all of the moldings on the walls. And I'm sitting at my vintage antique desk from France that I found on Facebook Marketplace. I have all this artwork behind me that are printed finds and Dutch florals, too. This room is where I get inspired, write my blog posts — where I'm trying to build this empire.
Do you have a favorite furniture flip you've done?
There’s this burl piece I found at a Salvation Army for $28. It's by Bassett and it's midcentury, but it was hideous. It even had some water damage. So, I added some casters to it and painted the whole thing a satin black. I also got custom glass cut for the top that I used some Krylon spray on to make it look like an antique mirror. And now my husband has this whiskey collection on it. That piece is a really good example of how sometimes you have to look past the ugly and see the potential.
Why is it important for you to have minimalist moments in your home?
My minimal moments have come more into play over the past year, especially working from home. For a while, I was nuts about these blue and white ginger jars and put them on every surface. Then, I was like, 'I'm tired of these ginger jars.' Now, I lean more towards having decor that is larger and makes a statement — not so much small little tchotchkes, you know? I try to tell people, 'Don't buy small shit.' Try to get pieces that are at least as large as a cantaloupe or grapefruit. For me, it's less stuff to clean. And I have very tall ceilings, so stuff looks more proportionate.
How have the past few years impacted your relationship with your home?
Before the pandemic, I always wanted to add moldings to our open concept area — like our living room and dining room. I kept putting it off because I was only here in the evenings and weekends. But, being at home so much, I ended up doing more projects during the pandemic than I did in the past several years.
I was like, 'We're here now — let’s make the most of it.' So, every couple of months I do something major to add value and style. With life or with decor, you can't just wait around forever. If you can do something, make it happen.
Where are some of your favorite places to shop or find decor?
I really love estate sales. Sometimes, I go to them and people are so frantic about trying to get stuff. But, I try to remind people that nine out of 10 times, an estate sale is because someone's passed away. To me, it's an honor to get something from their estate and give it new life. Sometimes, I like to do research on the owner — just to honor them. Estate sales are also fun because you never know what you're going to find.
Facebook Marketplace is also a really great one, especially because so many sellers on there will ship stuff. You can find really nice vintage fabrics, small oil paintings, brass things. As for stores that are everywhere, CB2 is just killing it. They meld together modern with traditional really well, and I honestly cannot get enough of it.
Anything else you wanted to touch on?
Just one more thing. I notice with my community that a lot of them want to wait around for their partner to do stuff for them or with them. I really want women to think about what they can do and to make it happen. Like, I love my husband. He's my favorite thrifting buddy. But, if I waited for him to help me paint a room, it would still be white. I want women to stop sitting on the sidelines and — even if it's not home-related — to make life happen.