When it comes to designing the layout of a space, selecting practical but affordable pieces that match the dream theme and vibe can be rough. Luckily, interior designer and rockstar Ali Budd pulls back the curtain in her show House of Ali, available in the U.S. and internationally on Hulu, where she gives the inside scoop on the electric world of luxury home designing. After opening Ali Budd Interiors in 2010, Ali went on to work with professional athletes and influential business leaders to make their dream multi-million-dollar visions come to life. With the endless support of her friends, family and her all-businesswomen team, embark on the journey as Ali hones her passion for interior design to transform these houses into homes.

Ali Budd gives us the inside scoop on her Hulu show, House of Ali, as well as her design philosophy and business ethos.

See also: Behind The Scenes: Bianca D'Alessio On ‘Selling The Hamptons' Season 2

117_007_176.jpgYou’ve come a long way from founding your firm in your basement. What inspired you to become an interior designer all those years ago?

I grew up with insanely creative parents. My father was an art director for the Four Seasons. I think probably somewhere in his soul, he was an interior designer in some capacity. My mom was creative, too. When I was small, one of our favorite things to do with my dad was go to different antique stores, or what you’d call junk stores. We would go in and treasure hunt together, find pieces and learn how to refinish furniture. From there, I just developed this love for space. I used to reorganize my house all the time, and instead of playing Barbies, I built them houses.

I ended up going to university, and I majored in English because I love to read and I didn't know what I was going to do with all of this. I wasn't good at school, but I was good at talking. I would always talk my way into good grades. And it was such a beautiful foundation for where I'm at now.

After undergrad, I ended up going to design school. I think designers have become like rockstars. You know, it's this coveted thing. On the same level as fashion, to be honest. Back then, that was not a thing. So I took this leap of faith and went to design school for a couple of years, and I got my degree, and that's how it started.

117_007_501.jpgWhen presented with a new project, what are the initial steps you take to transform any space?

All of our projects are creatively really different. I'm really proud of the fact that our portfolio is diverse, but we run our jobs always in the same way. When we're onboarding a client, initially, we do a proposal outlining the project so that everybody's on the same page. To be set up for success, you need to attend to the business aspects as much as the creative ones. From the get-go, make sure your relationship with your client is understood to help manage expectations and responsibilities. In the first step, it doesn't matter if you like pink and hate blue. What matters is what you are hiring us to do and I like to carve that out first.

Once we onboard a new client, we then sit down and go through in detail their likes and dislikes. We always encourage people to communicate with us visually because what I think is modern and what you think is modern might be different things. We always ask people to show us things they love and hate because I think both are important. We then want to get a good understanding of the functionality of the space. We work for families of all different sizes and different stages in life. Aesthetically, I want to understand what makes you feel good. And that's how we jump in.

117_007_320.jpgWhat makes you feel at home? What do you prioritize in the spaces you create?

Oh my god, I'm like the shoemaker's shoes. My bath has been broken for two years. I'm finally doing a few little things in my house now. I personally prioritize luxurious beds. Your bedroom is so important because it’s where you start and end your day. With a delicious mattress and bedding, it’s a beautiful place to do both of those things. One of the most important investments you can make is durable, comfy furniture. I have three kids and two dogs so my house is totally chaotic. Nothing's precious. I think your house should be lived in. I like having parties, we love having people over and I want my kids' friends to be around all the time.

Good interior design doesn’t need to look like a magazine every minute of every day. I had an idea to do a photoshoot of what my house looks like day to day because I still think it's beautiful. That's why we always talk about livable luxury in my own house. I also think useful storage is important. Open shelves are not storage, that's a display. We have tons of drawers everywhere so the kids can just throw in their toys and we can clean them up in 10 minutes if we need to. That's a luxury to me.

117_007_266.jpgWhat are some fundamental everyday values your company lives by?

We are intentionally a business of women. It's been an amazing experience to gather these 13 brilliant women together and mentor them. There's no bullshit competitiveness. We all genuinely care about each other. We laugh a lot. Everyone shows up for one another, and I believe in a work-life balance for my team. I believe in bringing them up and being grateful to them for everything that they do.

Being in construction, we work with a lot of men. That leads to interesting dynamics in the way that we're approached sometimes or the kind of shit that we have to deal with, but I like that we have each other here to take that on. All the women who work here are so smart and so incredible. I love it when they're schooling all the men. I'm proud that we're all women; it’s wonderful. There are a lot of people who say I'm a mom entrepreneur. But really I’m just an entrepreneur, right? You're just a boss, but it doesn't mean that there are no differences between our genders or how we are seen.

With an outstanding all-businesswoman team, what do you look for in a potential employee/partner? What skills do you value?

I value hard work, honesty and transferable skill sets. We design everything in-house, so my team needs to have the proper tools when issuing their own construction drawing sets. If you don't know these programs, it'd be very complicated to work here as a designer, but I also have a whole logistics team. I do believe that skill sets can be transferable and just because you've done one thing with your skill set doesn't mean you can't do another.

I listen to my gut when I'm hiring. And again, there's no room for drama here and no room to walk on eggshells with anyone. You really do need to be a team player. I also am not a micromanager, so I need people who are going to hit the ground running. At the end of the day, I want people that really want to be here. I want people who are invested in what we're doing and what we're building and feel really passionate about it.


What was the inspiration behind your Cedarvale project? What was the collaboration process like?

Funny enough, that house belongs to two very close friends of mine. A smaller house existed on the property before and they're both wildly successful people. They called me and said, ‘We are going to build a house. Can you do it?’ And I was like absolutely not. We've been friends for 20 years, but it's always kind of scary to work for your friends. I ended up deciding, okay, screw it, let's just do it, and it was an amazing experience.

The inspiration came from them but also from me knowing her so well. They wanted it to feel a little bit country, but also city because they're in the heart of Toronto. She wanted a lot of white in different places, but they have kids and a dog. I felt confident I could give her what she wanted.

You can have all the right concepts, and you can do a beautiful rendering of a space, but that is not the same as executing a build. I think that’s something that needs to be discussed in this industry, especially in the age of social media. When we're talking about successful design firms or successful projects, execution is such an important part of it.

117_007_88.jpgHow did House of Ali come to be and how has it impacted your journey as an interior designer?

I didn't set out to be on a TV show; I wasn't pitching myself. I’ve been using Instagram as a tool to build the business for ages, and an executive was watching my Instagram. They called me and asked, ‘How would you feel about doing an HGTV show?’ And I kind of laughed and said, ‘I don't know what you want with me.’ I'm different from most designers; I'm not a host. Most designers host design series and panels and such, but I don't feel like a host. I went for a meeting to talk it through, and eventually the exec said ‘Well, what if we make this your way?’

I felt like it was an amazing opportunity to authentically illustrate what goes into our projects. Often in reality TV, groups of women are pitted against each other, or painted to be vindictive. I was super proud to show that we have a group of women that collaborate, and are respectful and care about one another, all while still being able to do what we do.

The production team was so incredible and HGTV was so good to us. We filmed with them for almost two years, and I'm super proud of the show. What's interesting is that it hasn't aired in Canada. It's in the U.S., it's in Australia, it's in Europe, it's in Asia, it's in all of these places, but my day-to-day isn't impacted because it hasn’t aired here yet. Now, it's one of those things that’s out of sight, out of mind. My main priority is always the business. We did the show, the show got released, but now it's back to work. It was a very cool experience, so I hope to do a season two and get to do it again.

117_007_325.jpgFor all of the aspiring interior designers, what is the biggest piece of advice you can offer?

Understand how truly challenging this job is. Of course, there are beautiful and creative things about it, but being creative for yourself is very different than working for clients. When you're young, part of your creativity is insecure. Try not to emulate other people, because you'll never be successful doing that. Find within yourself what feels right to you. Working for great designers who share your passion can teach you things that are so important in this industry.

117_007_145.jpgAre there any upcoming projects ABI fans can look forward to?

The last two weeks have been crazy. We were in Miami last week setting up a house, and part of my team in Westport is setting up a house right now. We're also setting up a beautiful condo in the heart of Toronto this week, all while renovating a house in Antigua. I'm finishing up building a house in Costa Rica that's going to be available for rent in the next couple of months. It's my first project like this so I'm excited about it. We just have so much on the go. I pinch myself because of course there's stress in running a business. But I’m so blessed that I get to do what I love with people that I love because that's equally as important.