Designer Crush: Barbara Ruckert and William Stuart of Costantini Design

1. How did you two meet and how did you decide to go into business together?

Barbara: We met on Bastille day in 2001 at a friend’s party in Recoleta, Buenos Aires. William’s sister was studying abroad in Buenos Aires and I met him on his second night there. It was definitely love at first sight. Even the host of the party jokingly said, “you two are going to get married!”

William: We both had a history of entrepreneurship, so the idea of taking the plunge and starting our own company came very naturally, even in our early twenties. We wanted the flexibility of being able to go back to Buenos Aires to see Barbara’s family, so we decided to start our business there and source materials from local vendors. Costantini immediately took off, and we got our first commercial contract within a year.  

2. Why the name, Costantini?

Barbara: Costantini is William’s grandfather’s name. We both have Italian families on our mothers’ sides and have learnt the love for art and handmade things from them. We wanted to honor our Italian heritage and our families’ strong influences on our craft.

3. You split your time between the U.S. and Argentina — what are some of the biggest differences in home design, atmosphere, and style between the two countries?

Barbara: As the differences in fashion and design in the world are blurring, interior design in the U.S. and Argentina are becoming more alike.  However, I’ve seen that Argentines prefer smaller pieces with cleaner lines and like to mix it up with antiques and inherited heirloom pieces.

William: Argentines are very passionate people and this shows through everything they do.  While there are antique elements in Argentinian design, there is also a very modern approach and lots of talented architects and designers. For example, you might have a glass and concrete structure on a cobblestone street. Tegui, for example, is one of the best restaurants in South America and is hidden behind a non-descript door covered with graffiti that opens into an enchanting, Alice in Wonderland-like space.

4. How do you define “California style”?

William: The great thing about California is that there is something for everyone.  Barbara and I moved to Southern California in 2003 and opened our first gallery on La Brea Avenue. We love Malibu’s elegantly laid-back vibe, which we feel is really reflective of California style. With ocean views yet close enough to the city, Malibu exudes the perfect blend of casual, modern and effortless living.

5. Where do you draw inspiration from?

Barbara: We’re constantly being inspired by art, architecture, cultural experiences and antiques. Art is source of joy for us. We try to bring artistic elements that speak to us in the furniture we create. We think of furniture as facilitators of experiences in a room. We take into consideration how the piece will inspire the customer and the human interaction that occurs around it through its functionality and the concepts it evokes with its materials and shapes. 

William: I majored in Studio Art in college and love to make things, and the processes that surround creation. It’s one thing to design great products, but quite another to design processes that result in great work.  Life is all about balance and we are inspired by people and the work that embody that harmonious connection.

6. What’s the most challenging part of working with your spouse? The most rewarding? 

Barbara: The most challenging and the most rewarding part of working together go very much hand in hand.  The most challenging aspect is that there are no co-worker boundaries, but that same factor means we get to create and accomplish objectives together. 

William: Sometimes it’s hard to stop thinking about work when you are with your business partner, who is also your spouse. But we love what we do and feel very lucky to be able to travel and build a company together.  Sometimes it feels like a dream.

7. If you could travel anywhere in the world you haven’t visited yet, where would you go and why? 

Barbara: Norway to see the Northern lights.

William: We prioritize visiting places with friends that have ties to the area.  You can learn so much more about a place when you have a connection to the community there.  Next week we’re heading to Chianti for a wedding and will probably rent a car and drive around the Italian countryside for a week or two. Traveling and taking in new cultural experiences is very influential for our work.

Lightning round!

8. First celebrity crush?

Barbara: Roxette.

William: Paula Abdul.

9. Chocolate or vanilla?

Barbara: Chocolate all the way.

William: Chocolate.

10. Best Halloween costume? 

Barbara: A spork that Will carved out of Styrofoam at the last minute before a party we went to.

William: It was kind of a performance piece - I had a Band-Aid on my neck that had a hidden tube filled with non-dairy creamer. As I explained that I had cut my neck shaving, it would start bubbling. The reactions on the people’s faces were priceless.  

11. Netflix or night out?

 Barbara: Night out.

William: Definitely a night out. Get out and enjoy your life!