Designing at the Pace of Her Life: Dominique Gebru

Cool Stuff, Cool Spaces

Julian Wright

Tenlie Mourning: Could you just tell us a little bit about who you are and what you're working on and where you live?

Dominique Gebru: I'm Dominique. I live in Washington, DC, but I'm originally from California. I am a writer. I'm a creator. I've been thinking a lot about the term homemaker and wanting to reclaim that a little bit. I'm very much in a state of rebirth, it's an exciting time to be creating a new space to live in.

Make home feel good.

TM: I feel like every time I talk to you, you say the thing that [Dendwell] has been talking about, which is so great — the idea of like "homemaker". We were written up in a newsletter and they called us a homemaking startup and I was like, whoa that's great. There is something to that. So I totally hear that. So can you talk a little bit more about how you're thinking about reclaiming that idea?

DG: I’ve sort of taken this tagline for myself. It's a phrase that I ruminate on a lot lately and it's “make home feel good.” I think the word make is really important here because creating a home that feels good to be in is not a passive thing you do. I don’t think there's necessarily a clear-cut framing that makes sense to everybody. One thing that rings true as I talk with people on Instagram and on the internet, in general, is that this is not something that they have ever really poured energy into either from a creative lens or a setting themselves up for success in the world lens. Making a home, homemaking is an important thing that a lot of people recognize as valuable.

TM: What is the difference between homemaking and home design or interior design?

DG: I think you can make a space that looks good, but it's the difference between entering a space that is designed for you versus entering a well-designed hotel room. Recently I took myself on a little staycation, at a hotel. I was just there for one night and I remember feeling a sense of relief to be in a space that was sort of not bland, but was well-designed for their target customer. One that was sort of void of my own personal flare. In part it felt good to be there because my home was a disaster because we are very much in the process of moving into our house. I think something can be designed, but for it to really be made into a home, it has to reflect you and it has to reflect your base of strength. It has to be that place, that you go and refresh or recharge.

TM: I love that. It seems like this idea is very closely tied to what you mentioned initially of rebirth. Can you talk about the relationship between your space and what role your space is playing in this rebirth?

DG: I think in a lot of ways my space has been my canvas for personal rebirth. l recognized just how unhappy I was with my job and I really came to accept the fact that even though I knew this before, it was not a place that I wanted to give energy to continually build someone else's vision or journey. I really wanted to do that for myself because I just felt like my time was precious. My time is so precious. I just was always left at the end of the day feeling like I didn't have enough of it for myself.

So for my home, recognizing that, yes, this is for me, but also that it's a place where I can play and share new ideas with other people because, at the end of the day, that's what really brings me that sense of satisfaction is the fact that other people seem to be getting a lot from what I share.

TM: I think that makes a ton of sense. This idea of like, you don't have to be an interior designer to have a great space, but then it was so accelerated by COVID with everybody being home. And then also the way in which I feel like we're all really being forced to reckon with who we are and what matters to us and how we want to spend time. I've certainly grappled with that and gone through that myself as well. Why home as your canvas? Why not fashion? Why not beauty? Why not art something else? Why home?

DG: That's a really good question. I stray away from putting that kind of energy into my personal, physical appearance. I think staring at all of these walls, I just feel called to do something with it, to play around with it. It's just always been something that I have really loved doing. My grandma was always a really big proponent of basically taking literal garbage and making it into something beautiful for her home. And whenever she finished creating a home, decorating her house, she would move onto a dollhouse. I have really fond memories of sitting at her kitchen table painting dollhouse furniture.

TM: Can you talk about your design process and how you think about it? How do you think about it for you but then also how you're now starting to think about it for others?

DG: Having to think about how I'll apply what I do for others has really made me consider what exactly I am doing for myself. I'll start by doing a little bit of visioning and a question that I asked my partner when we were preparing to move here. When I was first putting together some preliminary plans for our home, I thought, okay he doesn't really have a lot of opinions or thoughts, he doesn't know what mid-century style is. He doesn't know what would be considered traditional. He just knows this couch is comfortable. It's very bright. So the question that I asked was, is there a place or city that you've been to, that you really love, that you want to feel like you're in, when you're in our house? He said Miami and a lot of the same stuff came up, a lot of earthy colors, muted colors, lush plants everywhere, bright light. That was kind of like the springboard of having a conversation about how do you want it to feel. From there, I'm still a huge member of Pinterest. I've got lots of boards that are pretty chaotic, but I've been doing a little bit better of a job of pulling together ideas. And then from there, I love to just drag and drop pictures into google slide.

When I was a kid, I used to draw floor plans on graph paper and I'm not doing that anymore, mostly because they don't have graph paper. Coming up with different iterations of how furniture is laid out, I try to do early on because that helps me get a sense for what the scale of things are going to be like. I tend to do this stuff really slowly. I do it at the pace of my life. And sometimes that means only working on it when I have energy and my energy kind of comes and goes in bits and spurts. So that's a little bit of my process. I'm sure it's more chaotic than others but that's what works for me.

TM: I love that. There is this idea of doing it slowly. I feel like that there's often a push or a will or a reason that people don't feel excited about decorating their home is because it feels like it needs to be done today. Have you grappled with that feeling? How did you come to the point where you're like, it's just gonna be slow and that's what it's going to be.

DG: I think that it is a constant internal battle for me, because again, like living amongst clutter makes me feel crazy. It makes me want to crawl out of my skin and we have a lot of stuff. Dealing with the fact that we can't just snap a finger and do it all overnight has been really challenging, but it's something I've been constantly reminding myself of. I think sharing that on social media has been helpful for me because, for better or for worse, I really do get a lot of sense of validation from external sources. But yeah, this is a principle that can be applied to a process or a project, having a timeline that's realistic is helpful. Initially, you know, I was doing all this outreach for brand partnerships and I would give a deadline of a month and a half from outreach for project completion. And it's like, what was I thinking? Allowing myself the grace period on the process to adjust has been like really grounding and it's something I continue to work on every day.

TM: I think that's really powerful, the idea of grace. It does feel like something that's needed in this process because it is so much work. I think it's really important to talk about that and I just really appreciate how much you do. I would love to hear a little bit about where you are shopping right now? Where are your favorite places to get things? How are you thinking about finding new and interesting things?

DG: I feel like I haven't been doing a lot of shopping, which is odd because I need things. I still love to rely on Facebook marketplace and Craigslist. I love to buy my accessories, especially on Instagram and vintage resale shops. I have a few that are my go-to’s, but more recently, after I announced I was participating in the one room challenge, I had some other people who sell through Instagram reach out to me and say hey, I'd love to work together and see some of my stuff in your space. With vintage, there are infinite things out there, like weird quirky things that were made in the seventies that just aren't super well-documented online that I would never know to search for.

I would say I stray as far away as possible from buying furniture or home decor from Amazon or Wayfair. I really don't feel aligned with their company values. I try to buy from especially smaller brands that are demonstrating that their manufacturing process is ahead of the curve with regard to sourcing materials and the way that they impact the environment, but also more specific how they treat workers. So recently I'm getting ready to share this thing that I got from Parachute and the bedding that I purchased from them that they gave me was made in Portugal. You can see where it's made, the factory. Those are some things that I prioritize when I'm shopping. I'm constantly browsing.

TM: So something, a question that we've been asking in all of these interviews is what is home.

DG: The first thing that popped into my mind was a feeling. The second thing that jumped into my mind was home is a launchpad. It's the place where you center yourself before you go out into the world, even if out into the world means like this, on the internet.

Find Dominique on Instagram

Julian is an independent contributor at Dendwell.
Photos by Dominique Gebru


Dendwell was a rigorously curated marketplace and magazine for vintage decor. From 2020 - 2022, we dug into the trends, tastemakers, and how-to's of vintage object collection. This is our archive site, and is no longer being updated.