#BellaBeautyTribe Feature No. 4: #SisterBella

What makes you beautiful?
This is a love story about the women we know and the women we want to know.
The go getters, the humble souls, the women who inspire us to be the best version of ourselves.
The true goddess who is centered in love and joy.
The women to whom you can relate, who find humor in their own flaws, and who tell it to you straight—when no one else will.
A celebration of beautiful women who shine bright from within.
They don't follow the pack, they lead the crowd.
Their beauty is contagious.
They lead with their heart and follow their dreams.
They balance so much, and they do it with grace and beauty.
They are the true definition of Bella.

Elaina and Susanna are sisters and partners in their design business, 4 Corners International Design Concepts. Elaina lives in Bali, while Susanna lives in San Diego. They work on various design projects all over the world, and split their time working between the states and Bali, like my husband Jim and I. I met Elaina on a trip coming back from Bali a few years ago, and her sister Susanna shortly after. Both of these women are that special type where when you’re with them, you feel warm, open, and calm- like you’ve known them forever. They are easy, lighthearted, and compassionate and they shine from the inside out; they are true Bellas. 

Aside from their inner beauty, Elaina and Susanna are an incredible duo in business. They are so inspiring to me because they have found the perfect balance between business, family, and travel, while fusing their passion and business in a way that is so harmonious and inspiring.

 This balance is translated into their design projects as well, as their aesthetic fuses traditional Balinese style with modernism for the perfect marriage of international influence and chic urbanism. When we wanted to bring back antique furniture from Bali to re-decorate our home, Elaina and Susanna were so incredibly helpful and professional in helping us do so. They generously connected us with enthusiasm to amazing resources and shared sourcing tips- a testament to their open hearts, generosity, and love-filled spirits. I would recommend these Bellas to anyone looking for an interior designer; they will transform you home, touch your heart with their beautiful spirits, and have a whole lot of fun along the way! 

-Angela O'Brien


  How were you introduced to Cleobella?
E: I met Angela in the Bali airport about 3 years ago. We were on a delayed flight out to LAX. We both had kids and because our flight was delayed, we were doing laps around the airport to keep the kids occupied.  At the time the Bali airport was one of the worst airports to get delayed in; completely boring-- and so after the 3rd or 4th lap where we kept passing each other, eventually our kids started to play and naturally, we started to chat.  I was struck by how beautiful Angela is and loved what she was wearing, and of course she had this adorable bag that I was coveting.  But once we got to talking she was just the sweetest thing and I knew she was someone I wanted to know better. We chatted until the flight boarded and once in LA we swapped info so we could stay in touch.  I was so happy to hear from her a few months later when she returned to Bali.  We have since become close friends who spend time together during her Bali trips.
S: I met Angela via my sister Elaina in Bali.  I frequent Bali as much as maybe Angela does. Our trips seem to coincide with each other even though I am based in SD and Angela in LA.  I see her more in Bali than on the state side. 
What does the word "Bella" mean to you?
E: It means beautiful. When I think of Bella I think of a woman who is not just beautiful on the outside but more beautiful on the inside. I think Angela is a true Bella.
S: When I hear or think of Bella, I think of our Spanish/Mexican roots, as in our culture that’s a term of endearment or admiration.  Our grandmother and our father have been referring to us as Bella’s since we were born. So It’s a meaningful word for me/us. Like Elaina says, a true beauty is a Bella!
In a few sentences, how would you describe one another?
E: Susanna is the most generous of spirit.  She is truly thoughtful and she has an incredible light that brightens any room she walks into.  She’s fun and funny and knows how to laugh and she’s not afraid to cry.  I admire her design intellect and feel blessed to work with her.
S: Elaina is a strong and passionate woman.  She is funny and doesn't know it.  She has a way with people that I do not.  She can look inside you and really take on your thoughts or feelings. Therefore she is genuinely compassionate (I try to be more like this).  She is fun, and up for anything.  She is someone you want to be around.  She is so darn intelligent that rely on her brain power often! Ha! She has a great sense of style and to top it off, she is f*ing gorgeous! XO
 Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you both ended up in the interior design world? 
E: I went to UC Berkeley and studied Buddhism and Psychology. After a few years of saving money and a few wonderfully fun years being a nanny my boyfriend (now husband) and I left our place, sold everything and took off for a year around the globe.  We had an incredible adventure covering 9 different countries. Once our money ran out, we scored a job caretaking a mansion in Malibu with our own private beach.  Not bad for jobless, moneyless youngsters. Long story short we eventually moved back to Encinitas and I started working for high wealth individuals managing their homes, building projects and personal shopping.  The job I had before Susanna and I started 4 Corners and before I moved to Bali I was working for a high profile individual managing his estates, staff, and overseeing all of his building projects, including a yacht retrofit and a G5 interior remodel, working as his rep on all personal projects.  I was interfacing with the architects, builders and designers, and it was here that I really fell in love with interior design.  I then began sourcing for him as he was a collector and I would oversee decorating projects throughout his estates doing the work myself.  It was an incredible job.  It was like construction management 101 and interior design crash course all in one. I learned from experience, which is how I learn best. I was thrown into the fire not knowing much but came out confident enough to start my own business with my sister.  My previous employer was a mentor to me.  I’ll always be grateful for that job and what he taught me.
S: I was a theatre major for 3 years in college.  In my 4th year of college I realized I was lying to myself.  Instead of going through the motions and graduating, I signed up for  Interior Design 101 and after day one, I walked into the counselors office and changed my major to Interior Design.  It took me another 2 years to graduate, and most my friends were long gone, but I finally started to focus, became close to my teachers, and found my passion.  I stuck with school and got a degree. I have been in the design world ever since.  Worked for architects and now myself.  Loving it!
How do you divide the roles of your business, and what makes you two a dynamic duo?
We manage the projects in our location, however we refer to each other on ideas, concepts, paint colors etc. We communicate via Skype phone calls and Viber text messages. Pinterest is a huge tool for us as well, as we both develop a concept together via our boards.
Susanna is an amazing interior architect, and the trained one with a degree. So, she handles all of the technical drawings and plans that are required. Elaina's experience lies in project management, sourcing and decorating--she excels at executing a concept.
What is the best part about working with your sister?  
E: There is a strong sense of loyalty with us. We come from a loving and strong family and so I know she has my back no matter what. There is something really comforting knowing that I can be myself with her and that she’ll always support me.
S: Work is always better with a partner.  We are lucky because we are sisters.  Therefore there is no break up or break down.  She and I will always be sister’s first.  And some day when this is all done and we are retired old ladies….she will still be there!
What is the most challenging part about working with your sister?  
E: We can butt heads.  We are sisters after all :)  We may have different opinions etc.  But because we’re sisters there is a certain vulnerability there, and on a bad day we may take it out on the other, or we may take things too personal.  But we’ve gotten good at letting these moments dissipate quickly.  
S: Yes!  We have gotten better at this. Because we are sisters sometime we do take it out on each other, and talk a certain way, because we can and we know we aren't going anywhere.  But we are also good at moving on. You have to have thick skin in this industry.
What does good design mean to you?
Good design flows and is inviting. It reflects the client and makes them feel good. I think a well designed space is a space that you can thrive in on all levels. It’s a feeling. A well designed space feels like home for the client.  It’s a balance of style and comfort.
Tell us about Bali; how did you end up there, and how does Bali shape your work and design aesthetic?
E: After traveling to Bali many years ago and falling in love with the people and the culture, my husband and I always knew we wanted to return someday. Eventually we decided to throw the dice and see what happens if we moved to Bali.  At the time Susanna and I were just starting 4 Corners.  It was a perfect place to start a design company given the incredible amount of goods.  It’s the most creative place I’ve ever lived.  People are willing to take beautiful and creative risks, which has helped shape my own design aesthetic.  You can make or do anything here.  It’s inspiring.
Tell us about San Diego and how you ended up there, and how San Diego shapes your work and design aesthetic?
S: San Diego will always be home for me.  We grew up here.  There is a sense of family here and I feel blessed for that aspect.  It’s a support system.  The casual beach vibe here really influences my design and the directions I take.  Most of the SD clients are here for a reason and I feel like that is a common thread that all us SD folks have in common. Good weather, good waves, good food, and easy lifestyle.  When designing in SD, inspiration is almost everywhere! Plus the resources are easily accessible since we are so close to LA and influenced by NY and other metro cities!
Tell us about your two boys:
E: They are wild and free.  Thoughtful and imaginative.  Passionate and smart.  They’re my greatest teachers and my biggest love.
Any tips for balancing motherhood and business?
Meditate!  I had to train myself to wake up that early but it didn’t take long before I would just wake up.  It allows me the time to clear my head, tune into my heart and be grateful.  If you practice gratitude everything else falls into place. It’s the one thing that keeps my heart rate down, my voice calm and my mind clear.  It’s not easy and I still have my moments but its something I can always come back to.  It centers me.  Oh and move.  You gotta move your body.  You don’t have to run a marathon or sign up for the gym but you gotta do something that requires movement. It allows energy to flow better through you and you’ll feel better from it.
  Tell us about the home photographed above and the design inspiration behind it?
E: The photos were shot in my home in Bali.  It's a home built by the Balinese.  The family that built it live in front of us and really look out for us.  I wanted the house to feel light and fun as we're a young family.  I used a soft neutral gray throughout the house and threw down some bright fun accent colors to liven certain areas up, such as the kid's room and the guest bedroom.  I'm not afraid to experiment with color.  I created the house to be safe and play friendly for the kids, as well as keeping my own special things to make it feel nice. We love our location right in the middle of a rice paddy and walking distance to the beach.
Favorite design project you’ve done?
E: This is hard because I’ve been blessed to have done a lot of really fun ones.  I would say the Jumpsmith Villa.  It was for good friends of mine and the whole process was so colorful and creative. It just all came together.
S: I would say the Cormier Residence for me.  I learned alot!  We had a handful of hurdles to jump and it was intense but I LOVE the way it turned out.  An eclectic blend of furniture styles with a fresh and modern twist! Great materials were used!
Dream design project?
E: Boutique Hotel. We’ve done a renovation of one. It would be fun to do from the ground up.
S: A small cottage (beach or mountains) with no budget.
Tell us your essentials or tips for frequent travel between Bali and the US?
E: After having kids it’s all about making it as simple as possible.  Traveling alone if a piece of cake.  Traveling with kids is an entirely different ball game.  I stock up on gifts in my bag to bring out at opportune moments to avoid meltdowns.  I always have snacks handy. Ipads are a life saver.  And just take a deep breath and try and enjoy the ride.  You can’t control anything.
S: Pack your own food. vBring a change of outfits for when you land in Bali. I go from yoga pants and a sweater to flip flops, shorts and a tank top. vAlways pick up a bottle of alcohol at Duty Free. vDrinks are expensive in Bali. vAnd movie marathons!
What is your astrological sign?
Aries, both of us!
What inspires you?
E & S: People, fashion, architecture, coast lines, My kids, my husband’s mind.
What are your top three favorite things about life in Bali?  
E: Freedom, the smiles of the Balinese people, the rice paddy views.
 What about San Diego?
S: The Beach! My Family and Lifelong Friends!
What’s the best thing about your day job?
E: It doesn’t feel like a job.
S: Our motto is: Love what you do. That’s what we are doing.
What item would you never part with?
E: The first gift my husband ever gave me--a small wooden sculpture of two people embracing.
S: This may sound shallow but my one of a kind area rug I purchased about a year ago. I have no kids, this may be my child.
Favorite City - E: NYC S: SF
Dream Vacation or Destination - E: Morocco S: India!
Guiltiest pleasure - E: Red wine S: Nachos and online shopping!
Awestruck by - E: My husband S: My Life!
Most proud of - E: My kids S: 4 Corners!
Favorite Decade - E: 1990 S: Ha! I love that you said the 90’s!!! I would say the 50’s decor wise and the 70’s fashion wise, and Now!!!! No better time than now!
Favorite way to unwind - E: Good music, good wine, good company S: Ditto!
You can’t live without - E: My family S: Ditto! And dry shampoo!
E: Beauty is… everywhere.
S: Beauty is... my sister!
Photography by Taryn Kent // // instagram: @taryn_kent
Elaina and Susanna are wearing our Dalla Kimono, Sisley Dress, Dali Playsuit, and Ibiza Kimono (in order of appearance)