Design and creative director Courtney Fikri has a knack for creating spaces that are inviting, warm and, most simply, happy. Her cozy touches and chic accents play elegantly throughout her diverse projects around the globe, from residences to workspaces.

Raised on the Northern tip of Long Island, her sophisticated taste along with her training in industrial design at Rochester Institute of Technology earned her gigs as the right hand of John Houshmand at his furniture company, creative director of Cenk Fikri Inc., and most recently, as the director of design development at NeueHouse.

Now, Courtney chats with the SBS clan about how to transform any area in your home and why designing your nest is an essential part of wellness.

SBS: Why is working on the design in personal spaces important?

CF: Regardless of whether you’re into design or have no idea how to do it, good design adds value to your life, and when done best, you don’t even notice it: It’s in the background. Whether you’re a nurse in Ohio or a designer in NYC, it’s important because design creates a happy, peaceful space to improve your quality of life for yourself. Think about it: What happens when you walk in your front door? How do you feel? Do you feel stressed out because you have piles of clothes on your chair. Then let’s go to a flea market, find an old wooden chest, and you can throw your clothes in that rather than on a chair. You can change your life with design.

SBS: What are the biggest mistakes in home decor?

CF: Often it’s so simple: For walls, sometimes people choose colors that are too saturated, and it can get a little crazy looking! The paint should be toned back about five steps for a calmer palette, so the mood is most prominent, not the color. If you want a room that’s crazy energetic, perhaps that’s a time to go full force. But funny enough, you can do that by having a black room, perhaps, and toning it down in other ways. It’s like when you wear a short skirt: You balance it with a long-sleeved top.

SBS: What are your dos and don’ts for creating a calm space, perhaps for meditation, and a workout area at home?


  • DO think about your negative space, which means considering where you choose not to put furniture and have open space. What are your needs? Make sure you have enough room to fulfill that. Don’t fill up a space with furniture!
  • DO consider this area to be just as important as everything else as your home. Carve it out at the beginning.
  • DO have good lighting and good window treatments. For meditation, perhaps add dimmers to the areas, and make sure you have something on the windows to shield you from outside issues. You can use candles, and add a pillow to your nook.
  • To use the space for both meditation and workouts, it’s all about finding an area that ensures you have no excuses. You DON'T want to move your sofa around every time you want to exercise!
  • DO consider walls and palettes that are neutral in terms of your basic canvas, like cool greys and warm whites. Use colorful accents.

SBS: What are your favorite quick ways to transform a space drastically?


  • If you have one day, cleaning your space is the first step. Then, go to a flower or plant warehouse and buy as many things as possible, including interesting vessels. Then add some candles!
  • If you have a couple of days, go to your local craft store and find a huge blank canvas to create your own art work: Add accent pieces. Carpets can also be a huge help. They soften the space and make it sound better.
  • Lastly, create layered lighting. If you only have nasty overhead lighting, install dimmers, add interesting table lamps and then perhaps add candles. That’s three layers that you can turn off and on and adjust per your mood.

SBS: What are your favorite spots to shop?

CF: 1stdibs, online, is a great splurge spot. Then, the Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts is the largest in the country. Make a road trip, and whether you buy or not, you’ll be inspired. You can always find something in your budget from five dollars to larger ticket items. Casamidy in San Miguel, Mexico, offers gorgeous, crafted artisan pieces, and you can shop on-site or online.

SBS: What type of workout do you like to do?

CF: I love no-frills workouts: I’ll go on 12-mile walks with my headphones on. I like Pilates and tennis or just a simple, good bike ride.

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