Both Benita and Jess had found success independently, but a real magic was sparked when they began to work together. Conceived during a long international flight, the concept for their Zestt brand is one of bringing a sense of ownership in the design process to consumers. Through their interior furnishings offerings, the Zestt blog, and their community of independent designers, Benita and Jess hope to create an approachable sense of interior design that empowers consumers to take charge of the design of their spaces, either through their own innate design sense or with professional guidance. Ultimately, the goal is to create a better quality of life through the incorporation of aesthetic sensibility.
Recently, Benita took time from her tremendously busy holiday schedule to answer a few questions for the art department’s Alumni Showcase.
Tell us about your journey from Shippensburg
-Upon graduation, I entered into a BA program at SU (Shippensburg University) with a major in Marketing, and a minor in graphic design. Although I really enjoyed marketing, it only took one accounting class to realize that the right side of my brain was starving for creativity. After a spring break trip to Florida my sophomore year, I fell in love with the weather and decided the sunshine was calling my name. I only intended to move down here for the summer, but in two short months, I met Michael (my husband 9 years later) as well as some amazing friends. I then transferred into a BA program at the International Academy of Design and Technology to pursue a degree in interior design, a career choice that I was always passionate about.
How long have you been a designer?
-I began working in the field as an intern with Nasrallah Architectural Group during my BA program in 2004. My internship turned into a full-time design assistant position quickly after and I've been working ever since. In 2010, I passed my NCIDQ (National Counsel for Interior Design Qualification) licensing exam and opened BMG Design Studio, my interior design firm here in Orlando.
What influenced you to work in interior design?
-As a child, I had a love for rearranging my room and helping my mom with random projects around the house. We spend many weekends DIY'ing. Throughout college I knew that I wanted to use my background in art in my career and when I researched the industry (interior design) I felt it was the perfect fit. Each new project is like a blank canvas!
What are you doing now?
My life these days consists of suitcases, planes, trains and automobiles...but, I'd have it no other way.
-BMG is alive and doing well. We just broke ground on an 8,000 square foot custom residential project here in Orlando and are in the midst of a mid-century modern renovation on Palm Beach Island.
-My biggest endeavor would be Zestt, the home decor and accessory line that I founded with Jess Misner Diehl in the spring of 2012. Jess and I have worked together to curate the brand, traveling throughout the US and overseas designing and sourcing unique pieces for the home. It has been an amazing process and we've met some very talented people along the way. For our art collection, we wanted to connect with indie artists throughout the country to help bring their work to the masses. The line offers limited edition gallery wrapped canvases and prints of their work. Each artist is also highlighted with a bio page on our online boutique. This gives our customers a platform to connect with the artist, learn more about their work and follow them as they grow.
How did you become interested in Internet retail?
-Jess and I knew that we wanted to bring Zestt to the world, BIG PICTURE, so what better way than through the Internet? By creating our online platform, we can connect with customers across the country, give style advice and continue to grow the brand right from our computers.
Tell us about your bricks-and-mortar stores
-We are very excited to announce the opening of our 2 holiday Pop Up Shops, one located in Georgetown, DC and the other in Philadelphia in the King of Prussia Mall. Both locations will feature an array of our product line, giving our buyers a chance to see the product in person and learn more about the brand. In addition to our full line, we will be featuring a few holiday items including a collection of hand blown ornaments and glassware by Jeffrey Auxer (a former Greyhound, too!). Jess and I will also be on site, working the store and offering complementary style appointments!
What are your plans for the future?
-For Zestt, our plans continue to evolve by the day. Our hope is to spend the next year growing the brand while working toward a flagship brick and mortar location in the near future.
See more of Benita’s interior design work at bmgdesignstudio.com and check out Zestt at shopzesst.com!