“I have been building and creating since as long as I can remember,” says Monica Bhargava. As a child in India, she recalls helping her dad construct a home with Legos, a model they then shared with the architect who ultimately built the modern structure. With family ties to the textile industry—her father and aunt work in the field—she was “born into design,” she adds. Bhargava went on to study design at the University of Arizona and landed at San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma Inc. 18 years ago. She now serves as the executive vice president of design and product development for Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma Home, overseeing an in-house team that designs 90 percent of the goods for both brands. “I have never worked one day in my life because I love what I do,” she says with a palpable enthusiasm for her job.
That job recently expanded to include a premium design service, currently being piloted in the Bay Area (interested parties can ask an in-store Design Crew specialist for details). It provides the expertise of Bhargava and her designers to homeowners with large-scale projects that incorporate the company’s products. For clients in Atherton, where Bhargava also resides, she came in the first day of construction and advised on paint colors, rugs, lighting, door fixtures, appliances—“the whole deal,” indoors and out, she says. “We’ve had clients who literally roll in with their suitcases when the house is done and it’s ready for them to move in.”
For consumers who haven’t picked up a Pottery Barn catalog lately, the breadth of its offerings may come as a surprise. Last year’s launch of PB Apartment targeted denizens of small spaces; though Bhargava notes that large dwellings often have petite rooms that need appropriately scaled furnishings too. This fall, a new style will debut: Chateau, drawing on the design team’s travels to Europe. (Think bronze, linen and damask-inspired prints, along with a blending of historical references with architectural details and modern touches.) No matter the look, Bhargava believes her role is to make it easy for clients to live comfortably—whether she’s creating products or consulting on a residential design. “The biggest luxury in life is comfort,” she says. “Who wants to be tiptoeing around stuff?”
Originally published in the June issue of Silicon Valley