Like many creatives-turned–business owners, Elizabeth Graziolo misses the days when she had time to follow the muse without an agenda, which in her case meant drawing. The New York–based architect and founding principal of Yellow House Architects immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti when she was 13 years old, living with her mother and stepdad before completing her architecture degree at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Drawn toward residential design and architecture from the get-go, she went on to work with famed architect Peter Pennoyer for 17 years, becoming a principal at the firm in 2007.
She established her own firm in February 2020, a journey that proved both challenging and rewarding during a global pandemic. Named an AD100 architect this year, Graziolo now leads a team of 25 employees who work on projects worldwide, from private estates in the Midwest and Palm Beach to a house renovation in Turks and Caicos.
On this episode of The Business of Home Podcast, Graziolo shares the story of her career with host Dennis Scully, along with insights about the importance of hiring the right employees, why her firm’s approach to design gives them a competitive edge, and the nuances of balancing her energy as a creative and business owner.
Crucial insight: Over the past three years, Graziolo learned that time is precious. From running the day-to-day operations of a business to being a creative visionary, it’s difficult to slow down and connect with the team she’s built. “I just want to draw,” she says, referencing her love for sketching plans. “Managing people is one of the biggest challenges for me. I really just want to do what I think I’m good at, which is designing and working on projects. I feel like that’s my strength: coming up with ideas and working on different things with different clients. But at times, I just don’t have enough time to do that.” Joining an entrepreneur organization helped Graziolo understand the importance of hiring a managing director or administrator to help lighten the business-oriented tasks. “Somebody asked me [what I would want] if I could have anything, and it’s time,” she says. “I just need more time to get everything done and to [be] with my team.”
Key quote: “I joined [Entrepreneurs’ Organization] at the beginning of this year, and it caters to entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. I was hoping to gain a lot of knowledge by attending their meetings and understanding how to run a business, and one of the things that I learned was how important it is to have someone like a managing director or CEO to lighten up your load. … It’s very important to have this person help me run at least the business aspect of the company, and for me to be able to focus my time to grow the team, and for us to really do what we are really good at doing.”
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, Scully and BOH editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen dissect the most recent news in the design industry, including how brands are targeting Gen Z, the environmental consequences of home demolitions and a look at our summer print issue. Later, professor Annetta Grant discusses her research on how media outlets like HGTV impact renovations.
Homepage image: Elizabeth Graziolo | Joshua McHugh