Folks We Love with Lorena Gaxiola, interior designer
Lorena is an interior designer from Tijuana who immigrated to the United States to continue her studies in interiors, and eventually moved to Australia where she resides and operates Lorena Gaxiola Interiors today. I find Lorena fascinating because she has a bounty of experience and culture from so many different places, and you can see it manifested in the pieces she designs. They're vibrant, soulful, and far far far from boring. She answered so many questions I had about immigration, holding onto your roots, and being a working mom. Enjoy!
contributed by Kacy Byxbee, editor, Your Zen Mama
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Mexico, but educated in the United States. Tijuana, the city where I was born, borders with San Diego, California and both communities interact in a borderless way. We commute back and forwards daily from one side of the border to the other, some of us living in one country and working or studying in the other as we have special documentation that allows us to travel easily between both countries. The Tijuanenses as we call ourselves are raised with a mindset of bi-nationalism and see no boundaries. That makes us very unique to both our Mexican roots and our Americanised way of life.
As we grow and experience life on both sides of the border we eventually settle in one and since 1997, I made San Diego my permanent home. This is where I met my husband Lewis who introduced me to life in Australia.
How old are your kids?
I have three stepchildren Abbey 23, Libby 22, Jacob 20 and my own Demi, who is 6 years of age.
Did you start your business before or after you had kids?
I started working when I was 17 years old. I was one of those rebel children who was hungry for financial independence early in my life and this determination helped me kick start my career at very young age. During my Uni days, I held my first design job with an interior design company in San Diego California and after 5 short years, I escalated from an entry level position to lead designer. Shortly thereafter, in 2000, I was 25 years of age and I opened my own design practice and have been active in the design industry ever since.
How do your Mexican roots influence your design?
I grew up in a country where rules are meant to be broken, and I believe that made me a forward thinker. I apply this sentiment in everything that I do on a professional and personal level. I don’t like to be put in a box, I live outside of it. That doesn’t mean that I am a rebel. On the contrary, the opportunity to grow up on both sides of the Mexican and American border taught me to be free-spirited and colourful whilst reliable and very commercial.
Do you see threads of Mexico running through Australia or is it completely different?
One common thread I see is the sense of cultural freedom. I love the cultural diversity in Australia. The food, the people and the way of life is very reminiscent of Mexico. The fish shops, the bakeries, the pharmacies for example remind me of Mexico because you don’t find local specialised shops like that in the United States. Everything there is massive and excessive but don’t get me wrong, I do miss having the leisure of accessing anything 24/7.
You have spent considerable time growing up in Mexico, working in the United States, and now living in Australia. What similarities and differences strike you between the three countries?
Mexico to me is happiness, the lack or order makes me feel free. I find myself feeling a lot more Mexican in Australia than when I lived in the United States but home to me is the Unites States, (more than Mexico or Australia) because I established my roots there from a very young age. There are not many similarities between each country, they are all very distinct and unique, but I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to experience each country at a different stage of my life. Mexico gave me my childhood, America made me, and Australia has my future.
What was your immigration experience like in the US, and then to Australia?
People don’t know this, but I am a citizen of the world. I have never been in a country long enough to tally days within the required period of time to be eligible for citizenship. Even though I have over 20 years of residency in the USA and 9 in Australia, I am still not eligible for citizenship at either one. I have never voted in my life, not in Mexico, or the United States. I am a citizen of Qantas Airlines.
I do have to say that Australia is much tougher than the United States when it comes to visa applications for Mexican citizens. My Mexican family and friends cannot be bothered to go through the lengthy process of applying for an Australian visitor visa. So, I am the one to visit or we meet half way in the U.S.
What is most important to you about interior design?
I take huge pride in my work. Creating is absolutely my life's purpose, and I find enormous responsibility to service people through my craft. To be able to create living or work environments for people and make them feel safe, happy, and comfortable gives me great pleasure. It is all about the end-user!
What is your favorite interior piece you own?
My bed is my favourite piece at the moment, only because my bedroom is my favourite room in the house. I designed my bed as a giant dream catcher and of course have my blue crystal bedding on it, which is one of my favourite art pieces from my collection.
What is your favorite part of your job?
The creativity. That moment in time when the job is a white canvas and we get to build a concept from nothing to something is incredible.
What is the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
Be happy (Se feliz – in Spanish). It is the best advice I have been given in life and I apply it to everything that I do, let it be personal or business related. If it doesn’t make me happy, I walk away from it. Life is too short, and we shouldn’t invest our positive energy on things or moments that do not benefit our spirit.
What advice would you give to a new mom?
Hug your kids and show them affection. I grew up in a very affectionate family, my parents hugged us all the time. My mother passed away from breast cancer and my last memory of her is cuddling next to her as if I was a little kid, she told me how much she loved me, and I said, "I love you too mommy." I was 41 years old. Your kid is always your baby no matter what age. Now, as a mom, I make sure I cuddle my daughter the same way my mother did to us and I hope to give her the same comfort ‘til my last breath.
What is your favorite thing to do with your daughter?
We love to travel. She is my travelling partner. She is a pro at long haul flights. At 6 years of age she has been to Japan, China, Mexico, and to America at least a dozen times. She travels with me for work and she is absolutely awesome at the process. We try new foods, we discover new cultures and then we write about it.
What is the most challenging part of balancing work and mom/personal life? What do you find works best for you, and how do you stay healthy?
The most challenging thing for a working mother is overcoming the guilt. We need to stop trying to do it all 100%. It is impossible, so I try not to beat myself up if I fail because some days are better than others. If I push myself too hard, I find myself apologizing all the time and feeling like crap.
Here are a few things you can do to make motherhood life a little bit easier :
1. Ask for help. You will be surprise how many people are willing to help you.
2. Be organized. Schedules are your best friend. If it’s not on my calendar, it’s not going to happen.
3. Give yourself a few minutes a day. Whether it is for exercising, being alone, listening to music, cooking or anything, find your zen and enjoy the moment.
4. Look good and feel good. Take pride about the way that you look because your kids will follow your example.
5. Prioritize. Make a list of everything you need to do and then prioritize.