ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Marisa Saavedra-Gutierrez is an Albuquerque interior designer who just won an international award, but she’s probably OK with you eating on her sofa.
While she has made beautiful the interiors of million-dollar homes, she wants her own family and friends to relax and enjoy movie nights without worrying about the furniture.
“I made a deliberate decision while my kids are growing up (that) I don’t want to live in a museum,” says Saavedra-Gutierrez, who owns Spatial Harmony Color Consulting + Design, LLC. “Even though I tell them a million times not to eat on the sofa, I know it’s going to happen, and I don’t want to worry. I just want our house to feel like a home.”
Home for Saavedra-Gutierrez, three of her kids and her husband is a 1930s-era former triplex in the Downtown area that the New Mexico native has lived in since her college days.
It was in the process of completely renovating the home that Saavedra-Gutierrez decided to turn from her longtime job as former District Court Judge Ross Sanchez’s administrative assistant to her dream of a creative career.
“Renovating this house … that’s what prompted it all because I was having to draw, and I was having to sketch,” she says. “I was enjoying the process, but I was also frustrated because I kept thinking it would be so much more helpful if I knew what I was doing.”
After obtaining a degree from Santa Fe Community College, Saavedra-Gutierrez got her business license in 2014.
“It was terrifying,” she says. “The way I described it constantly is that it felt like I was just free-falling for a good year.”
Business boomed during the pandemic when people were at home “just looking at their ugly walls.” Now, Saavedra-Gutierrez is considering hiring some employees, beyond the contractors who handle certain parts of her business.
“I’m getting growing pains now,” she says. “It’s a good feeling.”
What do you like about your job?
“My No. 1 reason for doing it is just transforming spaces into a creative space, a healthy space, a space that clients obviously will love, but that they can feel comfortable in that works for them. I really feel strongly and passionately about functional spaces, because I know for me personally, if my space is cluttered or even something as simple as not being able to have enough clearance past the table, it’s not functional and it’s hard to live in. And then there’s the big reveal moment where the clients walk in after I’ve worked with them from the very start and say ‘This is amazing.’ That’s kind of like the cherry on the top for me.”
How do you spend your free time?
My everyday therapy is my exercise. I do barre classes and Pilates, and then I’ll do strength training and weights. During the pandemic, my favorite gym … shut down, like so many, and I ended up finding an app that has live classes. So I do that every day, and it’s been life-changing. They’re real hard classes; they’re physically challenging. I think that leads to me being able to go through obstacles in my own business. It’s a literal translation for me. If I can do that, then I can do this. And I still have my friends from college, so we hang out.”
Whom do you look up to?
“In our own family, my mom’s brother (the late author Rudolfo Anaya). I have a lot of experience with him – just Saturday night dinners where we would just talk about him growing up. He and my mom would share stories. Just to hear him talk about how many manuscripts were rejected, rejected, rejected … And he was such a humble man. He loved his community. And I realized that that’s really important – if you’ve made it, you’ve arrived, great. Good for you. But how are you going to help other people? He would talk about it constantly, how important community is. Making sure that you’re the next person who’s going to bring someone up, not drag them down.”
What are your pet peeves?
“When people spell my name wrong. And I think because I have a little OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), chewing with the mouth open. It unnerves me. I just can’t be around that. My family already knows, because I’ll just stare. Another pet peeve socially is when people don’t respect boundaries or space. I think this goes back to me being an only child. I need my space, my bubble.”
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
“When I was taking a creative writing course in college, I guess I didn’t get the memo that the story was due. We were all to read our stories out loud, and I didn’t have anything and it came time for me to read, and I had a blank paper. I just ad-libbed the entire story. My voice was shaky, and it was just a really dramatic story, but I can’t even remember what it was. But I made it up, and my professor said, ‘Wow. It sounded like you were going to cry.’ She was a really tough teacher. I was actually impressed with myself after. I don’t know how I pulled that off.”
Do you have any regrets?
“Not ever moving from Albuquerque. Before children and all that. Not being able to experience a new city as a young person. So for that reason, I am always telling my daughter: ‘Just go. Your home is always going to be here. You can always come back.’”
What’s a splurge for you?
I spend small fortunes on my vitamins and supplements. Everyone knows – ‘Oh, God, her supplements.’ My morning routine is obnoxious: probiotics, prebiotics, collagen. Vitamin D. I do like to splurge, even just spa days. I think now that I work so hard, I think it’s really important for me to just be able to relax and just kind of self-help stuff in whatever form it is. Spa, or a massage. Or maybe a nice purse.”
Tell me about the award you just received from BUILD magazine.
“It’s this magazine out of the U.K. It was for most client-focused firm and best rustic interior, for a home in Corrales that won several awards in the spring Parade of Homes several years ago. I had new clients as a result of this award. It just kind of confirmed, ‘OK. She knows what she’s doing.’”