The jitters Angela Rodriguez had about starting her own interior design business in 2009 settled down the day a client handed over a check for services — the first one.
“That was a big moment,” says Rodriguez. “That’s when I really thought this could work.”
That company, Space as Art, is now a thriving commercial interior design firm, with clients that range from offices of tech firms in Tampa to downtown Sarasota restaurants and coffee shops. Rodriguez has also launched Angela Rodriguez Interiors, a boutique interior design studio specializing in luxury residential interiors.
A graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, after college Rodriguez worked for bigger firms in Orlando and Miami, where she designed luxury hotels and resorts. That experience helped her grow her own businesses. “I try to give my clients the best of what I learned from the big firms I worked for,” she says, “but with one-on-one attention.”
Space as Art has four employees, including Rodriguez and her husband, fellow Ringling grad Pablo Rodriguez. Angela Rodriguez has plans to grow the business, and recently expanded into larger space. She also targets clients in other parts of the region, such as Naples.
Rodriguez traces her passion for art and design to a creative childhood, when her grandfather, a sign painter, taught her how to draw. A native of suburban Philadelphia, she later took classes at Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, where her studies included photography — learning old school, in a darkroom.
That desire to learn, and be better with every project, remains the key driver for Rodriguez today. “The process of creation,” she says, “is what inspires and motivates me.”
— Mark Gordon
(This story was updated to reflect the timing of the office space expansion and the correct spelling of Angela Rodriguez.)
Name: Angela Rodriguez
City of residence: Sarasota
Twitter handle: No twitter, but finally got on Instagram @AngelaRodriguezInteriors
Employer: Space as Art, PLC and Angela Rodriguez Interiors
Title: Owner, Principal Interior Designer
Birthplace: Langhorne, Pa.
Years on the Gulf Coast: 10
Marital status/children: Married to Pablo and a proud “boymom” of two (ages 2 & 4)
Alma mater/degree: Ringling College of Art & Design, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design
Best place to network: Lectures or seminars on any interesting topic
Messy desk or clean workspace: Clean-ish
Eat lunch out or at your desk: Usually either on the road or a quick break in our studio’s lounge space. Either way, I disconnect from my desk.
Best business lesson ever learned: That it is possible — and even critical — when providing a “custom” service or product to still have consistent operational processes. Analyze the actions and components, design the process, and stick to it. Then if something goes wrong, determine where the process broke down and make it better. Creative businesses are no exception, if they are going to be successful.
Weirdest job you’ve ever had: My high school in Pennsylvania had what you might call an egalitarian work-study program, where every student in the school was assigned a job on campus. At 14, like all freshmen, I scraped dirty dishes in the kitchen. At 15, I was the backup telephone operator when the regular operator took her break. I sat in a dark little cubicle and watched her daytime soaps on a tiny TV until the phone rang, and then sometimes I pushed the right button.
A website that makes your job easier: Studio Webware. It makes managing our most complex interior design projects possible, and has helped us expand the furnishings procurement side of our business for both residential and commercial projects.
App you use the most: At my desk, Safari and AutoCAD. Away from my desk, I’m always logged into my TSheets mobile app for real-time project timekeeping when I’m bouncing between meetings and project sites.
One thing you do everyday: Hug my kids
Community group you’re most involved with: I volunteer at Ringling College where I review portfolios and love to guest lecture for Interior Design Business Practices class.
Favorite off-hours activity: Hanging out with my family or checking out local restaurants with friends
Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Tough one! Are these two people at the same dinner? Then, my Nana and Jesus. They could carpool.
What you would be doing if you could pick another career: I love my career so probably something related, like creating an awesome line of high-quality furniture and textiles.
Top item on your bucket list: I’m not into bucket lists, but I would love to design and build our dream house someday with my husband
Your happy place is: Outside on a beautiful day, eating something delicious
Your biggest fear: Nothing in particular, just the usual, human condition type of stuff. Though I do get irrational about cockroaches.
Favorite Ted Talk: “The Happy Secret to Better Work” by Shawn Achor
Skill you’d like to learn: Speak a bunch of languages
Who would play you in a movie about your life: I would be computer animated, as it would be one of those funny yet sentimental Pixar films.
Describe yourself in three words: Caring, creative and driven