Bright Bohemian Beach Home with Rita Chan Interiors

We instantly fell in love with interior designer Rita Donahoe’s work upon glimpses of it in neighboring Manhattan Beach homes. So, when we stumbled upon this bright bohemian beach home, we just HAD to tour it. Thankfully, Rita is here to tell us all about it and the inspiration behind the beautiful space! But you’re in for another treat too – because this working mom is also sharing how she left her big time corporate job for the world of design, and all the successes that followed.

Tell us a little bit about Rita Chan Interiors!

Rita Chan Interiors is a full service interior design firm specializing in residential projects. We work on everything from new construction and renovations to furnishings, to one-time consultations. We recently relocated from Manhattan Beach to Santa Barbara, but have projects up and down the California Coast.

How did you get into interior design?

I grew up loving all things art and design, but never considered it would be more than a hobby for me until my husband and I bought our first house in 2007. While I had a great career in advertising sales at the time, all I wanted to do was work on our home and read design books & magazines! I became obsessed, and eventually had that “what am I doing with my life?” moment, which lead to some soul searching and the epiphany that I had to be apart of the design world. As cheesy as it may sound, it really did feel like a calling! After some cautious planning and preparation I made the jump. I quit my job, went back to school for Interior Architecture, and the journey began!

Where did you start your career?

I started my career at Waterleaf Interiors in Manhattan Beach. My first job there was working in the shop on the weekends selling furniture and accessories. I was in design school at the time and still had my full time ad sales job, so it was a crazy year to say the least! Once I quit my sales career, I joined the Waterleaf design team. There, I was a design assistant that evolved into a project manager/designer role and eventually I started to take clients of my own. I learned so much and had the best time working for Waterleaf. It was so fun and inspiring to be a part of a team of strong, creative women.


Why did you decide to start your own business? Was there something that ultimately pushed you to take that leap?

Starting my own business happened pretty organically. I was at the tail end of design school and a few years into working for Waterleaf when I started doing little things here and there to help friends with their homes. Eventually, a bigger project came along to renovate a friend’s orthodontist office, which was intimating to me at first, but I decided to go for it. It was a nice success and made me realize how much I loved seeing my ideas come to life. After that, it was referral after referral and I had to establish my own business to keep up with the jobs that were coming my way. I feel so fortunate that it’s been such a natural process. Although, I do feel like I’ve been running at full speed since day one just to keep up!

You’re also a mom! Do you have any words of wisdom for other moms also running their own business?

Yes I am a mom of 3 girls! 4, 2 and 4 months… we are in the thick of it, but are actually happiest when it’s chaotic! Having your own business gives you a flexibility that is truly amazing when you’re a mom, but the danger can be turning all hours of the day and night into work hours, which ultimately means you aren’t 100% for either role. I’ve learned the importance of keeping business designated to business hours and protecting family time with little to no work interruptions. Easier said then done of course, but it’s what I strive for!

This home is beautiful! What was your inspiration for the project? 

Thank you so much! The inspiration for this project was “bohemian, beach glam.” The clients are a hip, young couple with 3 little ones in Manhattan Beach, who embrace the beach lifestyle but who also spend time in Los Angeles as entertainment industry execs. So while the overall vibe is beachy and bohemian, there are also some simple touches of modern Hollywood glam, which the client had a great eye for. I think the combo of styles makes the house feel so unique and full of personality!  

Do you have a favorite element?

I have two favorite elements! I love the patterned grasscloth wallpaper in the dining nook, which elevates the space with a subtle texture. And I also the laser cut marble backsplash in the kitchen. I still haven’t found a backsplash I like better than that gorgeous tile.

Do you have any design rules to live by?

I think my favorite design rule to live by is to remember that there really are no rules. Once you free yourself of the confines of standard rules it’s much easier to be authentically creative and come up with ideas that are truly unique to you or your client. But for people that might find that obnoxiously abstract, I’d say you can never go wrong with “less is more” and “nature is the best source for inspiration”!

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