The magic of a room can be found in the tiniest of details.  From delicate brass fixtures adorning black matte furniture to eclectic assorted dishes layered atop a family harvest table; these simple finishing touches blend together at first glance but create a story the longer your eyes settle into your new space.

For interior designer Marcy Mussari, it is all about bringing this kind of life into a space; creating a look, along with a story, for each room that is as vibrant and alive as the people she is designing for.

The last year has been a whirlwind for the 24-year-old Niagara native; this down-to-earth embodiment of the girl next door found herself quickly swapping her home grown YouTube videos for network produced reality television and design contracts with international companies.

Fascinated with design since she was a child, the Fanshawe College graduate has quickly taken the design world by storm. Mussari says her passion is rooted in the design of homes and seeing her clients’ faces light up when they walk into their new homes – describing her style as a mix of traditional, classic elegance with a love for contemporary are and clean, feminine touches.

Following a friend’s insistence, Mussari applied for a Hallmark Channel and quickly found herself being own to Hollywood as a top 25 finalist on Hallmark’s Home and Family Show. Chosen as one of the DIY Stars, Mussari excelled in front of the camera – winning the hearts of Hallmark through her DIY bar cart and creative eye.

Mussari said she rapidly found that she had been bitten by the camera bug. Mussari decided to take the leap and pitch herself to the Marilyn Denis Show as a possible segment. Shortly after, one of Denis’ producers contacted her about their new reality show Canada’s Next Designer, urging her to send in an application video. It was not long after that Mussari found herself yet again as a top six finalist, chosen amongst hundreds of trained design applicants.

“It all happened so quick, I still cannot believe it,” said Mussari. “The things that have come from the show; the people I get to meet. Going into it, sending in a video, I never knew that it would take me here.”

Labelled the sweetheart of Canada’s Next Designer and the youngest competitor on the inaugural season of the series, Mussari was challenged to work exclusively with IKEA products in a series of themed decor challenges.

The Challenges

Challenges included a throwback-themed episode where contestants worked to redecorate a room from the past – keeping intact key pieces from their given era; designing vignettes to be on display at Ikea in order to inspire shoppers, and to transform staple pieces from the Ikea repertoire and alter them to show creative alternative uses for the classics.

These challenges not only tested their design skills, but their ability to work creatively under a strict time restraint and budget – Mussari said another true testament to the amazing prices and products found at Ikea.

“The challenges were extremely high pressure and stressful,” said Mussari. “Not only are you thinking about what you are going to do for this challenge on such a short timeline but you’re trying to put out your best work, you’re trying to impress these judges, there is a camera in your face, all while producers are asking you questions – it was really overwhelming. And you’re on camera so you have to keep it together.”

There was no camera magic, no secret help from behind the scenes; Mussari said the challenges were actually as long as they were described and in turn, she became really good friends with Ikea’s signature tool, the Allen Key.

“They wanted [the challenges] to be real and have us under pressure,” said Mussari. “If the show said we had two hours to race around Ikea, find what we wanted and design and finish our room, and that was what we really had.”

And not only were the challenges true to their time frames, the designers were also tasked to shop as regular Ikea shoppers; battling the back to school crowds and navigating the store filled to the brim with customers.

“I thought we were going to have the IKEA store to ourselves but no,” said Mussari. “It was [shot] in September, it was back to school time, and it was packed, and we had to run around. Before the show, I would look through the IKEA catalogues to get an idea of my favourite products and I would look into the layout of the store. So I would go in with a game plan and my sketches, but to be honest, it never went as planned. But I learned to grab what I saw and then later at the cash take things out and edit and work from there.”

Mussari said a tactic that helped to keep her on track while she made design decisions was to envision a client for each room she designed.

With each project I had, I pictured a story line or client,” said Mussari. “It helps me create a space I am passionate about.”

Sophisticated bedroom pieces with a limited palette and various patterns and textures contribute to overall design By using a limited palette and incorporating different textures and patterns Mussari artfully arranged and carefully selected items to be in her sophisticated bedroom.

Marcy’s Inspiration

But the challenges did not sway Mussari’s determination to win. The finale saw Mussari up against Toronto’s Joey Vogel, designing a complete room of their choice from top to bottom. She decided to tackle her favourite room to design – a more traditional styled bedroom – and created a space tailored with her grandparents in mind, specifically her grandfather Zoli whom she had lost early in her life but who had always remained a constant inspiration.

“Throughout this process, I was constantly thinking about my grandfather – he was into artwork and design – and I felt like he was with me through the whole process,” said Mussari. “I never truly got to grow up with him, but my mom always said that we had so much in common. So for the final room, I created a bedroom space for my grandma and grandpa.

“I wanted to have the abstract art that he would love; I had his novels on his side tables, my grandma Paisley’s flowers on hers, I incorporated a tie on the vanity and a couple of things like that,” said Mussari. “It was very emotional for me and I put a lot of myself in that room and I feel like that showed.”

The Victory

In the end, the judges chose Mussari’s bedroom suite as the winner.

“I am still in shock over the win – it doesn’t feel real,” said Mussari. “I know I have the drive and talent to get myself to where I want to be, but you always start second guessing yourself and you put pressure on yourself. I would look at other peoples’ work and say ‘oh gosh that is better than mine, I don’t know how far I am going to go’. But then another week would pass, and another and then I was in the finale.”

Mussari disclosed that following the presentation of her finale bedroom, she discussed her chosen clients in an emotional confession tape; explaining to the producers why her grandparents had been her inspiration behind her finale winning vignette.

Mussari said following her win, she begged the producers to air her confessional – not only for the viewers but also for her family whom she had kept her win a secret from until the finale aired.

“I had to call the producers and beg to put this scene in the episode because you don’t know what’s going to actually make it in each week,” said Mussari. “But they agreed on the importance of it and the impact it had on my win.”

The win earned her a year-long design contract with IKEA Canada, a trip to Europe and the opportunity to participate in Democratic Design Days – held annually in Älmhult, Sweden – alongside hundreds of IKEA employees and top influencers in the world of interior design.

“So far, I have done some behind the scenes watching and shadowing but more is to come,” said Mussari. “I will get to be working on photo shoots [for IKEA], I will be picking and choosing things and designing shoots for advertising.”

Next Steps

Many other opportunities have grown from her time on the show; lately Mussari has found her dreams coming true as a new regular on the Marilyn Denis show [the same producers as Canada’s Next Designer], giving DIY tutorials, tip segments on how to transition your home decor with the seasons, how to organize your home with Ikea products and more.

Mussari said she also continues to post regularly on her YouTube channel and she has found herself venturing into local Niagara classrooms to talk with young students about the importance of setting goals and following your dreams.

“I really do believe that, especially after these past few months and this past year, that if you have a goal and you work hard you put your mind to something and are passionate about something you can get to where you want to be,” said Mussari.

Mussari said that aside from setting goals, she believes that it is this kind of passion and a commitment to being kind that has helped her achieve success at her age. She hopes to inspire as many students as she can with this message.

“I grew up with parents who taught me to treat people with respect which I find is super important,” said Mussari. “I have always wanted to inspire people and show that if you are true to yourself and work hard and are kind you can make your dreams happen.”

“As much as I want to help people not only learn about design and come up with ideas for their rooms, I want to encourage people to follow their dreams and not let other people bring them down,” said Mussari. “It is important to focus on you and be positive and be yourself. That is really something I learned from the show too. You don’t have to be some fake image of yourself; you just need to be true to yourself and be a kind person and follow your heart and trust your gut.”

As for the future, Mussari said her dream is to one day have her own brand – a goal she plans to pursue in hopes of making it a reality.

“To have my own website where you can go to for design, lifestyle, cooking, all that, that is the dream,” said Mussari. “Even to have my own fabric line, wallpaper, design pieces. I am going to reach for the stars and hope for it.”