Moms We ❤: Designer Elena Calabrese on Creating Inspired Spaces in Suburbia

May 27, 2019

Meet the ultimate creative force, designer and entrepreneur Elena Calabrese!

Our Mother’s Day series continues with this inspiring Bay Area mom and entrepreneur, Elena Calabrese. This creative powerhouse shifted her focus from fashion to interior design and, now, has her own sought-after firm in the Bay Area suburbs.


Designer, entrepreneur and busy Bay Area mom Elena Calabrese has always been inspired by her surroundings—and that inspiration has only grown as she’s settled in the Bay Area suburbs. After moving to Sausalito as a newlywed, then-fashion designer used to take the ferry to work each day. “It was amazing!” Elena says. “It definitely wasn’t your typical ‘suburban’ experience!”

Now, though, Elena and her family live in Mill Valley—and she’s shifted her focus from fashion to interior design. “After a decade in the fashion industry and a remodel of my first home in Sausalito, I knew that I wanted to change my career to be an Interior designer,” she explains. “I always had a love for it, but I just kind of fell into the fashion industry after art school.”

After getting married and remodeling the couple’s first suburban home, Elena’s passion for interior design took hold and she was ready to make the leap. “While pregnant with my son, I went back to school to learn all of the skills that I needed to switch careers,” she says. “Then while my son was an infant, I built up my business, going from part to full time as my son grew —that was 11 years ago!”


Now, Elena Calabrese Design & Decor is a sought-after interior design and decor business, with Elena as the Principal and Creative Director. Still in Sausalito, her firm brings Elena’s uniquely California look to her projects, creating beautiful, inspired and effortless spaces based on her diverse clients’ unique specifications.




Today, Elena still loves being in suburbia—as both a mom and an entrepreneur. “I tell people to look in the suburbs to find a house closest to either the ballpark or schools,” she says. “It’s great when kids are old enough to walk and ride their bikes to all of their activities.” By looking now, you’ll set your family up for success—and easy before/after school transportation—down the road. Some other insights from Elena? Find your people and make “me” time every day, even when you’re elbow-deep in business commitments.



1. When did you move to the suburbs? Why did you decide to make the move?
“I actually moved to Sausalito when I was newly married before children. Frankly, I was tired of the fog in San Francisco—and the parking!”

2. Why Sausalito—and now Mill Valley? What was most important in deciding where to call “home” then and now?
“I love to be close to nature, while also enjoying the proximity to the city. When I moved to Sausalito, I was a designer at the time and working in the city—that’s when I would just hop on the ferry, which was great. Now, again, I live in Mill Valley, which is in Southern Marin. The closeness to nature, and the proximity to the beach and the city is the most appealing part for me. I also feel it is filled with open-minded, entrepreneur-spirited type people.

3. How has your community impacted your creative career path?
“I love the ‘California’ look, especially the vibe in Northern California and how it impacts our interiors. Much of my work is affected by the outdoors, it’s the indoor/outdoor lifestyle that is so appealing to so many. From a design perspective, I do enjoy interiors that feel very calming and inspired by nature. I also love modern, which I think is a natural fit for this environment as well as chic comfort, which is also very ‘Marin.’ It’s a casual place with great style.”

4. What would you tell aspiring mom-preneurs looking to launch THEIR businesses?
“Do something a bit each day that is for you and your business only. Also, it’s OK to start small, be true to your own voice and find a support system. I’d also suggest setting up an office in a co-work space so you can network and get out of the house. Even just as a way to create ‘you’ time. Working in places like The Hivery is a great start.”



There are hundreds of towns to choose from. How do you figure it all out? You simply don’t, without getting a Suburban Jungle Strategist to help you through it all. Schedule here for your strategy session with our innovative suburbs strategy team. All services are completely free.



Images: Michelle Drewes


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