Santa Rosa-based interior designer Cesar Chavez started his career as a 16-year-old by planning a remodel of his family’s Stockton home. Chavez, who had learned basic design principles by watching HGTV, had plenty of ideas for how the family home could be improved, including removing a wall to create more space and adding an eat-in counter, which he designed for the kitchen.
The remodel was a success and Chavez, encouraged by the experience, headed off to study interior design at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University a few years later. After graduation, he gained further experience at a design firm in Marin County and he also started a YouTube channel with DIY design tips.
By closely monitoring the analytics for his YouTube channel, which measure amount of views for each video, Chavez learned what people were interested in and he created more of that kind of content. Some of his videos now have thousands of views; one video, “DIY faux beams with wood grain tool,” has over 270,000 views.
Now, a principal designer at Salt Shed Studio in Sonoma and at his own Cesar Chavez Design Studio, Chavez has developed his own unique style and design preferences. He likes simple and modern design but also appreciates a mix of styles.
The Santa Rosa designers main goal when working with clients is to translate their preferences into a cohesive look, which helps tell their story. For a client who loves to travel, for example, he incorporated a Moroccan motif into the interior design by using tile the client had brought back from a trip to the North African country. Other clients, who had lost their home in the Tubbs fire, wanted a replica of their old home’s original door — a 1990s design with sidelights. After a long search, Chavez managed to find just the right door and make it work with the overall look of the new home.
Chavez also likes to design with practicality in mind. Many clients may love the look of marble countertops, for example, but for those who like to bake, it’s not the best choice because of how the stone wears over time. In those cases, quartz is better. He also likes to suggest plain-faced kitchen cabinet doors to clients who would like to avoid having to regularly wipe down surfaces — these cabinet doors collect less dust than the framing of Shaker-style cabinets. If you’re worried that your kitchen might look too plain, interesting light fixtures can add instant style and can also be a great way to mix traditional and modern design.
“Many times clients have an inner designer,” says Chavez and mentions how many know more about interior design and decoration, thanks to TV shows and the internet. His aim is to help them navigate all their different ideas and preferences.
Working closely with clients, Chavez is always happy when he receives updates and photos from their new or remodeled homes or invitations to housewarming parties. He says it’s been particularly humbling to work with people who’ve lost their homes to wildfires; to try to incorporate some of their memories and stories into their new homes.
“I appreciated every client meeting to hear their story,” says Chavez. “The process was difficult for them because of what happened. I’m very grateful that I was able to create something beautiful for them.”