Eddie Manzanares

In Her Lane

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen

It’s not unusual for a decorative painter to work with an interior designer in completing a residential or commercial project. In the worst-case scenarios, the two are at odds and bump into one another as they maneuver for position. But in the best, faux finishers and interior designers work respectfully and creatively together in bringing the project to a successful close. “It’s all about communication and knowing how to stay in your lane,” says Eddie Manzanares, owner of Designs by Edwina in the Denver area, and Eddie should know.

Eddie is a decorative painter who has worked with many interior designers over the years, on projects ranging from small remodels to major installations in multi-million-dollar homes. But additionally, Eddie herself is an interior designer and holds an interior design degree from the Colorado Art Institute. This duality of decorative artist/interior designer gives Eddie an edge in creating finishes that tie into her client’s existing or desired style as well as knowing how to work alongside interior designers who inevitably bring their own vision to a project.

With her dual expertise, Eddie knows how to work with other
professionals to make a project successful. Here, Eddie led a
team that completely transformed new home construction
a Spanish Colonial. (See project story: "Eddie's Spanish Colonial.")

As an example, Eddie notes that clients may say they prefer a contemporary finish, but their furnishings might be more traditional. With her dual expertise, Eddie knows how to bridge opposing styles and deliver a finish that meets her client’s wants, needs and vision. And if she needs further clarification, Eddie likes to peek inside her clients’ closets where the colors, textures and styles of clothing provide extra clues as to their preferences.

At the same time, Eddie talks the language of interior designers and understands the way they think. She can see a project from their perspective and relate to the demands they face. As a result, Eddie gets along well with designers and has gained a reputation for being a team player. According to Eddie, every project is co-creative, so she is careful not to push her ideas on other members of the team. “I don’t step on their toes,” she confirms. “I give them respect.”

Eddie admits that she wasn’t always good at staying in her lane. Early in her career, she sometimes crossed the line into the areas of the designer, architect, builder and others on projects. “I thought every lane was my lane 10 to 15 years ago,” she says, adding, “It didn’t work for me, and it didn’t work for my clients.”

Now, Eddie exercises restraint and with every project keeps her eye on the goal, which is always client satisfaction. As she says, “I constantly involve my homeowner, interior designer, builder or whoever I am working with and want their input—approval or disapproval—so I know where to go.”

Eddie might be excused if she steered into other lanes early in her career. Eddie is passionate about all things artistic and has been immersed in art her entire life. Born and raised in New Mexico, Eddie was surrounded by the vibrant colors, rich textures and strong images of the Hispanic and Native American cultures that are prevalent there. Woven tapestries, stucco walls and glazed pottery—all of these had a large impact on Eddie, as did the highly creative members of her family.

Eddie comes from a line of artists and fondly remembers watching them at work. Eddie was particularly influenced by her brother, a fine artist who allowed her to sit next to him as he mixed colors and put paint to canvas. “I used to watch him and saw that he never was afraid to make color look the way he wanted it to look,” she recalls. As Eddie got older, she experimented as well and regularly changed the paint color on the walls in her room.

Over time, Eddie found herself painting the walls of neighbors and friends, often trying her hand at sponging and similar finishes. Deciding to embark on a faux-finishing career, Eddie began studying under renowned decorative painter Nancy Chew. According to Eddie, Nancy had a certain je ne sais quoi, with a painterly style reminiscent of a Monet painting. Nancy also had a penchant for old-school methods and insisted on spotless surface preparation and custom hand-mixed colors.

Eddie's artistic penchant and old-school methods produces beautiful end
for her clients.

Nancy’s old-school methods are something that Eddie follows to this day. “Immaculate surface prep is something that has helped me achieve an end result of beauty and sophistication in my work,” Eddie says. In addition, “I love hand-mixing my glazes, colors and plasters,” she continues, “and do it most of the time still.”

Under Nancy’s tutelage, Eddie learned so well and so quickly that Nancy hired her as an assistant, and the two decorative painters worked together for many years. During their time together, Eddie continued to hone her skills, which included learning how to work well on a project team. The experience, Eddie says, was invaluable and gave her a strong foundation when she struck out on her own.

Eddie launched her own decorative painting business in 2000. She called it “Faux Your Home” but later changed the name to Designs by Edwina. “I thought the first name locked me into only doing homes,” she explains, “and I love commercial as well as residential work.”

At first, Eddie found that her Mile-High clients were unlike what she had encountered elsewhere. They were down-to-earth but at the same time extremely high-end, with a love for fine art and good design. Consequently, starting in 2003, Eddie began searching for instruction in more sophisticated techniques.

“I took as many classes as I could from as many instructors as I could,” she says. Eddie was especially enamored with plasters and sought out every lime-based class she could find. She soon became an expert in plastering as well as in gilding, using everything from imitation metals to silver to 24K gold.

Eddie’s expanded repertoire helped to grow the business and attracted large jobs, repeat business and referrals, which she enjoys to this day. While Eddie doesn’t turn away small projects, they rarely stay that way. “Even when I’m hired for a small job, it often snowballs into bigger ones,” Eddie says. As an example, “I might be hired to do a powder room,” she adds, “but before I know it, I’ve moved into the residence for a whole month.”

Today, Eddie provides a wide range of decorative finishes, but glazing and plastering are among the most popular. Over the years, Eddie has glazed “acres and acres and acres” of surfaces, she says, ranging from walls and ceilings to stairwells and architectural niches. She also has done extensive plastering, which continues to be her specialty, and offers 20 different lime-based plaster techniques.

Eddie has glazed "acres and acres and acres" of surfaces, she says, and plastered as many, too.

Designs by Edwina additionally offers metallic finishes, mica finishes, custom stenciling, trompe l’oeil, furniture and cabinet refinishing, custom-made wallpaper and custom tissue paper effects. Landscape murals also are on the menu of services; however, Eddie doesn’t handle this work herself but contracts with accomplished muralists. This is another case in which Eddie is careful to stay in her own lane to ensure mastery of the end product. “I have people who I’ve worked with since 1999,” she says, “and they know the type of quality I want.”

As for interior design, Eddie finished her degree in 2008. She had begun taking interior design courses in the 1980s but was interrupted while raising her son. With the recession and a slight slowdown in business, Eddie in 2007 returned to college and finished her credits. It was time well spent, since having the degree in hand took business to a whole new level. “It helped me in many ways,” Eddie says. The degree not only allowed Eddie to help clients with style choices and to relate well to other designers but also gave her the ability to read blueprints and draw layouts.

Additionally, “I can offer options to clients who are not working with designers,” she says, adding, “It has only enhanced my business.“

As an example, as Eddie recently was wrapping up a painting project she noticed that her client’s furniture layout needed tweaking. The client had gorgeous furnishings, she explains, but their placement made the space look cluttered. So Eddie made a change or two, which totally improved the space. “When the client saw the changes I made, she said, ‘I would have never thought to do that!’ ” Eddie reports. “She was happy as a lark!” According to Eddie, clients appreciate that she brings this additional service to the table.

Eddie's mastery can be seen in the soft and sophisticated finishes in these rooms.

Over the years, Eddie’s client base has included titans of industry, corporate executives, doctors, lawyers, major sports figures and A-list celebrities (whose names Eddie won’t divulge). For these clients, Eddie often finds herself orchestrating teams of interior designers, painters, contractors and other professionals—and not only in Colorado. Many of Eddie’s clients own more than one home and have sent her all over the United States to decorate their other residences, too.

Currently, Eddie is looking to expand her client base in a whole new direction. In particular, Eddie is looking to target millennials who may not have the deep pockets of many of her baby boomer clients but, as she says, are no less deserving of having faux finishes. “Why can’t they have a beautiful, creative home, too?” she asks.

In the past, Eddie was more than eager to capture huge, expensive projects for her business. But she has become increasingly attracted to the idea that smaller, less expensive projects are the way to grow her business in the future.

“I used to have an attitude; I wanted to do the really large homes and wanted to be paid for it. But, more than anything, I like making people happy. It brings more to the creative process—which I’ve really found with my interior design background—and for me is a value-added benefit,” she says.

Eddie is aware that millennials are very visual and technically savvy. So to target this group, she has developed an attractive new website at www.designsbyedwina.com and has become active on social media. Throughout her online presence, Eddie extols the services she offers and publishes photos that show the quality and extent of her work. She’s hoping the strategy works and that she can add many younger clients to her base.

At this point, Eddie says it’s not about the money. It’s more about driving in her lane to the point of fulfillment. “Money comes,” she states, “but there’s nothing like knowing you gave it all you had, every bit of it, and in the process did a really great job!”

Eddie's projects often are high-end. However, she's looking in the future toward attracting millennials, too, who may not have deep pockets but, as she says, are deserving of beautiful finishes as well.


See a project from Eddie: "Eddie's Spanish Colonial."