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“I absolutely hated it,” says Sudi Rafizadeh of her first job out of college. The Iranian-born transplant had just graduated with an advanced science degree and had gone to work at a laboratory. She dreaded even walking down the hall to her office and quickly realized she wanted a change.

Her career today couldn’t be more different. She traded test tubes for textiles to start Home Accent Inc./ Designs by Sudi. From her busy workroom on Buckhead’s Miami Circle, she creates handmade, custom draperies and pillows that interior designers can’t get enough of.

How did you make such a dramatic shift from science to design?

I’m from the Middle East, where you either had to be a teacher or a doctor, so I went to school to get a science degree. But it was never my forte; I never enjoyed it. I started doing design and fell in love with it. I’ve always loved art and creating things.

Tell us about your business.

I started Home Accent Inc. in 2002. At first I was just making draperies from fabrics designers would bring in, but I had always wanted to have my own line of high-end pillows, so I started Designs by Sudi. I sell to the trade only and don’t mass produce anything. My draperies are all custom, and I do a limited number of each pillow I design. I sell to quite a few stores, but none of them have the same inventory. I don’t like repetition.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

I love old and antique textiles. I would take old rugs or tapestries that are falling apart and make them into pillows. For a client, I might take an old needlepoint their grandmother had stitched and make it into a pillow that will always remind them of her.

Was there someone who helped you on your journey?

Yes. I came to the U.S. in 1985. After living in New York, D.C. and North Carolina, I moved to Alabama, where I met the most beautiful soul. She saw how unhappy I was in my life and work. She was doing design at the time and taught me how to sew. Everything I have, I owe to her. She’s my best friend.

What else has contributed to your success as a designer?

I don’t call myself a designer. I didn’t go to design school. But I’m great at what I do because I have an eye for color and patterns and balance.

What are some of your favorite design shops in Atlanta?

I like Mrs. Howard, WebbMarsteller and lots of the showrooms at ADAC like Holland MacRae.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?

I only have one of my own pillows in my house. And the only reason I even have that one is because I had to take a pillow home to put on a bed when some out-of-town guests were coming. W

hat current design trends are you seeing?

It’s interesting how trends circulate. Chintz was popular at one time, and then it went to muted colors. Now chintz is coming back, and you’re seeing lots of prints. One thing I see that never goes out of style is the color blue. It’s always the first thing I run out of.

What’s next for you?

I’d really like to expand my pillow business to meet the demand, but I recently became a mom for the first time. I had my miracle baby. She’s 15 months old, and I’m raising her myself. So I want to spend as much free time with my daughter as possible. Her name is Dounya, which means “universe,” and she means the world to me.


PHOTO: Joann Vitelli

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