At Home with Rosee and Dane Qualls
"Every morning Dane makes coffee and we try to start out drinking sans screens in the kitchen—no phone, no laptop, no work yet. It’s nice to have that consistent moment of pause every morning to not jump right into emails or to-do lists."
We sat down with designer duo Rosee and Dane Qualls to chat about the perils of working from home, how they navigate differences in style, and how food punctuates their daily routine. Somehow, they make co-working with your spouse seem effortless.
Q - So you’re both designers: what’s it like being married to someone with the same profession as you?
R: It’s funny, I feel like it’s not really something we notice, because there are so many other crossovers that happen with our interests. We don’t really get into long or interesting heady debates on design-theory or anything like that. One thing that’s pretty cool is getting to learn from each other.
D: Especially since now we work side-by-side all day. There’ll be times when one of us glances over and sees the other do something in Illustrator or another program and we’re like “Woah! How’d you do that?”.
R: Totally. Or even in problem-solving, like “How would you go about making this edit?”. Or if we’re trying to decide between options for a design to present, it’s great to get a second opinion. We’re starting to collaborate more on design projects as freelance gets busier and it’s been a fun exercise working together. It would be a personal and professional dream to run our own studio one day.
Q - Working from home, how do you create routines or rituals to get into a productive workflow?
R: Working from home full-time is still pretty new to both of us. Dane works full-time in house and I work full-time freelance, so our days look pretty different. Every morning Dane makes coffee and we try to start out drinking sans screens in the kitchen—no phone, no laptop, no work yet. It’s nice to have that consistent moment of pause every morning to not jump right into emails or to-do lists.
I’ll be honest though, some days it also looks like me zombiing from the kitchen to the office with coffee in hand.
D: There’s something pretty comforting that it’s consistent for every morning and helps to signal the start of our day. And it helps to wake us up. We also eat our meals together and that’s nice because it forces us to make time for that and not eat at our desks, specifically lunch. We’ll take turns making the meal to give the other person a break, so it’s not the same person every day.
You can see there’s a trend here: most of our day revolves around our next meal.
Q - Tell me your inspiration behind decorating your home and how you would describe your style?
Dane: Initially I’d say I don’t really have a style—but that’s probably not true. I really appreciate raw materials and finding ways that we can incorporate them into our home and build our own things. A lot of times I’ll see something that I like, like a floating shelf or desk, and think “I can probably build that.” Sometimes it’s a total fail, but every time it’s learning experience and I hope to incorporate a lot more custom pieces into our home. I admire Mason St. Peter and his use of plywood—such a simple material that a lot of people traditionally overlook or don’t think to use in a more elevated way.
Rosee: I would say our home is a mix of California, laid-back style with a few elements of French Country and Wabi Sabi. We want it to feel calming and restful to be here, especially since we are both homebodies and love hosting—we want it to be a place you don’t mind spending time in. I really love Jenni Kayne, Tessa Nuestadt, and Gillian Stevens. I think they all do a great job of creating that feeling of home being put together and thoughtful but not so much so that it doesn’t feel lived-in or you’re afraid to sit on the couch.
Dane: A lot of my style is influenced by Rosee’s lead: we may not see eye to eye on something initially, but I appreciate the way she sees the world and find myself growing to appreciate the same things.
Q - And you’ve been renovating your house, is that right? Tell us about that process.
Dane: From the beginning we knew we wanted to invest in some sort of a fixer-upper. It’s a 1970’s ranch home that needed updating but it had really good bones and I could see the potential in it. It’s definitely been a process and living in a house you are renovating is not for the faint of heart, but I’m glad we’ve done things slower and down it ourselves.
Rosee: A good friend of mine said, something like “Price, Convenience, Quality: Pick two.” It’s been so true in our renovation process. It’s taken us a little longer to get things done and we’ve done a majority of it ourselves but it’s been so rewarding. There have been high highs and low lows and it’s made it feel like we’re a really good team.
Q - How do you think your professions both come into play when putting together your home?
Dane: We have pretty different methods and strengths as designers and I think that comes up in the way we approach our house. I’m a bit more focused on the technical elements and functionality of design. With our home, that translates into wanting to streamline as much as possible and developing efficiencies: no wires hanging out, doing custom buildouts for speakers or other devices, etc.
Rosee: And I’m pretty opposite! As a designer, I’m more of a throw a bunch of ideas out there and sort through them. A lot of the time I tend to work backwards, where I’ll have an idea or a bird’s eye view of what I want to accomplish, narrow that vision down, and then get organized. I’ll see a chair I like and just buy it, which drives him crazy because then we have a random assortment of chairs that we don’t know what to do with. It’s helpful for me to test things out and see them in our space before saying no or writing them off.
Dane: I’m glad we’re so different because we kind of meet in the middle with what’s practical and what’s novel. And my favorite chair in the house, I initially said ‘no’ to—good thing she didn’t listen to me!
Q - You mentioned there’s some creative cross-over there in your work; what’s it like working together on projects?
D: It’s not something we do often, but when we do it’s really nice to get to play on each other’s strengths.
R: Having someone who understands both design principles and how your brain as an individual processes information is a helpful dynamic; they know the right questions to ask to help you get out of a certain headspace. There are for sure times where it’s easier to be open about your frustrations on a project, but in the end that openness helps foster growth professionally and personally.
Q — Your home has some interesting and unique pieces. How you go about finding things?
R: This is actually something we joke about all the time, it takes us so long to find anything. We once had a friend compliment how minimal our house was...when really it was just because we are so picky we didn’t own anything yet, not even a coffee table! That being said, we do a lot of thrifting at second-hand stores or vintage stores, both in Austin or in other small towns. One of my biggest past-times is searching Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, and Craigslist. When we do purchase new, we try to support smaller brands and if it’s a bigger investment piece, we sit on it for a while before going for it.
D: It’s definitely like being on a constant treasure hunt and keeping an eye open for that one piece we have in mind. We’ll fixate on something, like a coffee table, or a credenza right now, and that’s the piece we are looking for. When we do find it, almost every time, we immediately agree that it’s the one and that’s kind of how we know. An initial motive was wanting to find inexpensive things
for affordability’s sake, but it turns out those are actually the most priceless—they are hard to replace if something happens to them.
Q - You mentioned you love hosting—any tips on hosting a great gathering?
D: Weather permitting, hosting outdoors is always the best. We make food on the grill or have a fire going outside in colder months. People can float around and it helps foster a relaxed environment.
R: We have people over often and it’s typically a laid-back ordeal, but as someone who likes to make a lot of things from scratch and cares a lot about the little details, it’s hard to balance that with entertaining guests. I’ve found It’s helpful to have as much prep done before people come over, so that I’m not making a dressing or chopping things in the kitchen while the group is hanging outside. I’ve learned to prep all the little things ahead of time—garnishes, dressings, etc — and they can just hang in the fridge until we’re ready for them. Better to put in a little extra work, so that I can be present with friends and family and still create the meal I had in mind.