Décor & Design

Asian Heritage Month With @pbjdesign

April 11, 2024

Ahead of Asian Heritage Month in May, we chatted with Phoebe Kut, an illustrator and interior design content creator from Vancouver who switched career paths at 26, after studying science for her undergrad. In interior design school she started her TikTok, drawing textures and furniture with alcohol-markers that quickly went viral. After completing her studies, Phoebe continued being a content creator full-time. She says, “Interior design can be a elitist field, but with my videos I aim to inspire and educate all about design history and interior design overall. Although the field is highly dominated by women, there aren’t many prominent Asian women in the industry and that is something I’d love to change as well.” We chatted with Phoebe to learn more. —Vita Daily

Can you tell us about your journey from studying science to becoming an illustrator and interior design content creator? What motivated you to make that switch?

I’ve always been creative from a young age, taking art and dance lessons – but when the time came for university I ultimately chose to go into the sciences. Afterwards, I still pursued many creative hobbies: I tried photography, UI design, candle making, graphic design – you name it. However, it was really during the pandemic that I started rethinking my career. I was living in China at the time and travelled all over from Shenzhen to Shanghai and was exposed to a lot of innovative design. This sparked my interest in pursuing interior design professionally. 

How did your experience in interior design school influence your decision to start creating content on platforms like TikTok?

I remember the exact moment I was sitting in a computer lab at school thinking about how so many of my classmates were talented. I thought, “how can I differentiate myself?” 

Your TikTok videos gained rapid popularity by showcasing your illustrations of textures and furniture. What inspired you to start sharing your creative process online, and how did you feel about the unexpected success?

At the time I had just started TikTok and posted random videos here and there. For our final school project we were allowed to render our floor plans by hand, and one of my classmates commended me and asked how I created this concrete texture. I went home that day and quickly made a drawing tutorial on ‘how to draw concrete’ using alcohol markers – the video quickly gained views. So, I buckled down and kept replicating the same video formula for the next few months. The unexpected success was really thrilling. With this momentum, I built my audience from 5,000 to over 100,000 in about 2 months. 

In your opinion, what role does social media play in breaking down barriers and making interior design more accessible to a wider audience?

Social media plays a huge role in making knowledge accessible, honestly I wish I had TikTok growing up. I grew up watching interior design TV shows but you wouldn’t necessarily know what type of education or what the day to day life is like for an interior designer. Now, there’s a lot of amazing information out there on all aspects of the world of interior design.  

As an Asian-Canadian woman, how do you navigate and challenge the lack of representation of Asian women in the interior design industry?

When I was looking for an internship, I realized I didn’t see many interior designers who looked like me! I’d say don’t be afraid to network and put yourself out there. A lot of the opportunities that came along were through persistence, pitching myself, and just showing up. To challenge the lack of representation, it’s important to support the creative community –  I love working with other small creators or minority-owned businesses when I can.

What challenges have you faced as a content creator in a field that can sometimes be perceived as elitist, and how have you overcome them?

If you look at my page, it doesn’t give off that typical, polished ‘interior design aesthetic’. It’s a bit more bright, colorful and the content at the core seems quite simple and analog, even. But that’s the charm of it, and through my drawing tutorials I’m repackaging something that could be quite dull such as chair history into something digestible and fun.  

Your videos often incorporate elements of design history. How important is it for you to educate your audience about the historical context of interior design?

I honestly was never a big history person, but when I took a class on the history of furniture, that framework resonated with me (the professor was also very passionate, so that helped)! I think historical context is important because you gain a better understanding and appreciation of what makes certain designs timeless. 

Can you share any projects or collaborations that you’re particularly proud of, and how they have contributed to your mission of promoting diversity and inclusivity in the industry?

The first is the Super Puff project I did for Aritzia. Aritzia is a brand we all know and love, and for them to support niche creators like myself was an amazing opportunity. The second is a set of illustrations I drew for an Atlanta-based furniture maker Robert Simon (@playroomisfun), which will be on prints for his show in the spring. And lastly, I’m working with a really cool vintage furniture shop in New York called renewfinds on something for May so stay tuned!

What advice would you give to Asian women who are interested in pursuing careers in illustration and interior design?

If you’re interested in interior design, take some classes – see if you like it before commiting. Practice is also essential, and don’t be afraid to show your work even if you don’t feel like it’s perfect.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for the future of your career as an illustrator and interior design content creator, both personally and in terms of broader industry impact?

I’m currently working on an interior design coloring book and launching my own interior design studio with my design partner. Looking ahead, I’d love to host an interior design TV show!


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