Ana Maria Munoz has a lot on her plate.
Mother of 11-month-old Hazel and owner of 6-month-old modern design store Port of Raleigh, Ana Maria has spent the months since the store’s opening in ever-growing downtown Raleigh learning to balance the two. And you thought you were busy.
But one look at her home, just a few blocks from the shop, and you’d never guess. Stocked with wares from Port of Raleigh and pieces from her travels, Ana’s condo, which she shares with Hazel and her husband Joe, is clean, bright and beautifully modern. We had to know more...
Your home is beautiful! Can you tell us a little about your approach to design?
While I have minimalist tendencies, I don't think my approach is entirely minimalist – at least in the way we tend to see it in the design world. It’s collected but simple, and I’m okay with taking our time to curate just the right things as we go along. I’d rather wait years to find my version of something perfect than spend money or energy on something I’m “meh” about.
Though my approach has definitely evolved from primarily finding joy in things that I believed to be beautiful (and mostly decorative) to now, where I get a thrill out of things and spaces that have practical functions, I still honor the pieces that carry memories and have longevity. These can be travel mementos, or the furniture from my husband's past apartments that still feels fresh yet timeless. I like decorative pieces that tell a story, and I like to throw in elements of whimsy or playfulness through modern design objects that are easy to incorporate from a budget and space standpoint. I like to give things room to breathe and stand out as art objects in their own right, even if it's something as utilitarian as a fruit bowl or pencil holder.
Every piece in your home feels intentional and full of meaning. Do you have a design philosophy?
It's all about intent for me...The intention behind why this over that, and where and how it fits into the home. We don't like to live with too much but we do like to keep things that bring us joy in how we use and engage with [them]. I enjoy simple but not too sparse since I do like art [for] art's sake. I think simplicity is a good thing. It keeps my mind clear, makes for easy and quick cleaning (which helps keep my mind clear), and allows me to focus on the things within our spaces that I truly enjoy using and looking at on a daily basis.
You’ve lived all over the world. Can you tell us about that, and what brought you to your current home of Raleigh, North Carolina?
We had the chance to live in London and Kuala Lumpur, both for my husband’s work, and we definitely seized the opportunities. We LOVED calling both places home. There’s nothing like the excitement and challenge of getting to know a new city, country, culture…all of which force you to get to know yourself better in totally unexpected ways. Comfort zones can be a stagnating thing for personal, career, and creative growth, but if you’re willing to take change on with a positive outlook, amazing things can happen. It wasn’t easy to leave my life, job, family, and friends in Los Angeles (where I’m originally from) but saying yes to moving halfway across the world with my then-boyfriend was the best thing I could have ever done.
We’re now living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Another new home that, for the stage we’re in now, checks off all the boxes for what we want. We wanted to create a home base where even if another international opportunity came up, we’d have a home to call our own with all of our stuff in it. Prior to moving to Raleigh all of our belongings were either in storage in LA or moving with us around the world. Raleigh was an easy choice, because we wanted to live somewhere with a good but affordable quality of life, enjoy lots of green spaces, have easy access to the beach and mountains, has beautiful local produce (the farmers markets are amazing), and where we could slow things down a bit while still enjoying a good food, music and art scene...All while starting our family.
Just a few months ago, you launched a beautiful home store in Raleigh called Port of Raleigh. Can you tell us about the inspiration and concept behind the store?
A brick and mortar store has always been the goal for me so it was just a matter of when and where. When we moved to Raleigh, all the pieces kind of fell into place. We had a new home to furnish but couldn’t find the type of items and style we wanted in the area. I thought back to my running list of designs, brands, and pieces I’d found while living and traveling elsewhere and how great it would be to introduce them to a totally new market – be a “port” of sorts for modern and contemporary design. It’s very risky to do something new but with Raleigh and the Triangle area (which includes Chapel Hill and Durham) growing with a really diverse population of natives and newcomers, I felt like creating a space that added something different to the retail mix couldn’t be a bad thing.
I focus on bringing design-driven, functional, home and lifestyle goods from around the world so you’ll see a lot of pieces from Scandinavia, Japan, and a mix of well-known international brands alongside independent design studios from the USA, most of which Port of Raleigh is the first to carry in the entire state of North Carolina! It’s been really exciting and fun to create a space where all of these awesome things can exist and see how collectively, they create a sense of discovery for customers.
How do you approach buying products for your home versus buying products for the store? Is there a difference?
After moving around and having to be extra intentional with the things we introduced into our temporary homes, I became obsessed with the form and function of home goods, accessories, and design in general. If it's good looking, has a practical function, and well/cleverly designed? I’m interested. For the store, I only buy things that I would want for myself, my office, and for my own home. There’s no real separation other than that I can enjoy a lot of things at once in the shop temporarily versus only owning and using a few in our home. It’s great when I can say “I use this at home and it’s amazing for xyz reasons,” but also, grow with my customers based on what they’re looking for. For example, I started with very few furnishings but have had a lot of interest in small side tables or nightstands. Now I’ve added several new options that could function as either.
In addition to opening a store in the last year, you also had a baby! How has your view on home and your approach to home design changed since becoming a mother?
We made a decision early on that we weren’t going to buy a lot of stuff for her and our home and we’ve stuck to it really well. The few baby things we have are portable, collapsible, and can be tucked away when not in use or, like her high chair (the Tripp Trapp by Stokke) – it looks so good that you actually want it to be a part of your home. Longevity, functionality, multipurpose, and good-looking (to us) style [were] very key. She’d rather play with empty boxes, scarves, magazines, and other things around the house anyway so she’s made it easy in the “things” department.
As for things in the home that have changed – the general baby-proofing began not too long ago when she started crawling, and soon she’ll be walking. Plants have already been lifted off the floor but for the large one we have in the living room, we used a tyvek bin by Toofifteen as a planter cover and tied it up to keep Hazel from digging into the pot. Also, most people would think that our metal engineer’s flat-file-piece-turned-coffee-table is a big no-no for babies, but it’s been truly awesome. [It's a] great height for her to learn how to pull herself up to standing and get back down, it’s metal so we can play with magnets all over it, it makes a great “bang bang” sound so she loves to play drums on it, and we can use the filing drawers to store things – all made baby-friendly by adding rubber corner guards. The view on home has expanded to include aspects of play and exploration that we didn’t have to consider before while keeping our design approach in tact: simple.
Any advice for Port of Raleigh customers on how to approach home design with intention?
Take your time. Furnishing your space is a layered experience and evolution. Buy things that you’ll be happy to not only use but also look at on a daily basis, even if it’s a waste bin in the guest bathroom. I recently thought up a saying that encompasses this: Home is where the heart is, also where all your stuff is, so love the stuff inside your home with all your heart.
p.s. For more home inspiration, here are a few tips for finding affordable pre-owned furniture to make your space unique.