Throughout the pandemic summer, London-based creative Abisola Omole spent her days sourcing vintage pieces like a Vico Magistretti Maralunga sofa that she reupholstered in a cream-colored bouclé fabric. The plush, inviting couch now lives among burgundy leather Marcel Breuer Wassily chairs, an Italian travertine coffee table, and DIY expanding foam mirrors in Abi’s new Studio Arva: N1.
The highly curated flat serves as a showroom for her interior design firm, as well as a rentable location for photo shoots and private gatherings. With its neutral tones and trendy textures, the Instagrammable space is as much a reflection of Abi’s 12-year-long digital career as it is a product of it. “I’ve always been around technology, so I think it naturally is a part of my thinking,” she explains. “I’m very conscious of what does work and how people will react online.”
Abi’s innate sense for this algorithm-friendly aesthetic began at age 13, when she started a Xanga page where she would regularly publish repurposed fashion and real estate content. This led to building her own website inspired by teen magazines like CosmoGirl and eventually launching her style blog iamabimarvel.
Its success landed Abi freelance gigs such as covering London Fashion Week for MSN while she was still in college, granting her access to runway shows and press areas for her digital reporting. “At the time, print editors would be so mean to you because you were online,” she remembers. “This idea of giving people the content so quickly offended them.”
Abi knew she wasn’t the only internet-focused professional feeling unwelcomed by the glossy elite, so she established a pop-up hub called The Apartment for digital creators to congregate between shows. Designed to feel like a home, the chic yet comfortable lounge became a clubhouse exclusively for those who worked on dot-coms.
As the biannual hangout gained traction, brands not only offered to stock The Apartment with food, drinks, and swag but also requested that Abi craft temporary suites for their own marketing promotions. Soon, she had a thriving B2B business producing custom worlds for clients including Starbucks, Ulta Beauty, and Boots.
When renting furniture for each activation became impractical, Abi opted to purchase a bevy of pieces to have on hand. She then found a permanent headquarters for her company, where she could also keep all the props. “It was part storage, part office, but I decided that it made sense to put things in situ rather than just dumping them everywhere,” she describes.
Images of Abi’s styled workspace organically appeared on her Instagram, prompting brands like H&M and individuals alike to ask if it was available for hire. At first, it wasn’t, but as Abi and her team transitioned to a remote routine, the idea seemed more attractive. Once the studio became a backdrop for social media campaigns and dinner parties, inquiries about home decorating flooded in.
“Without realizing it, over the years, I had become an interior designer because we created hundreds of sets for all these different events,” Abi says. She slowly began to take on decor projects, which she squeezed into her already full schedule with The Apartment.
It wasn’t until earlier in 2020, when in-person experiences moved to Zoom, that Abi was able to formalize her interior design venture, Studio Arva, and introduce a contemporary lifestyle site titled Arva. She currently juggles these new enterprises and future planning for The Apartment with writing for Harper’s Bazaar as a plus-size-fashion columnist, developing a line of furniture and home goods, and designing a plus-size clothing capsule collection—but you wouldn’t know it.
“It doesn’t come naturally to talk about what I do or what I want to do, but I’ve tried to be a lot more vocal about it,” Abi admits. A lack of self-promotion isn’t typical for someone with 24K followers and multiple digital companies, but Abi’s modesty is part of what makes her so relatable. Though her look is aspirational, her attitude is approachable.
Still, Abi deserves to publicly discuss her many achievements and manifest her dreams, like opening a hotel. With her community of supporters, who knows what a single post could accomplish? “Instagram is one of those things we love to hate because it can suck sometimes,” she acknowledges. “At the same time, it’s full of so many opportunities.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest