“To my mom’s credit she said, ‘That’s fine, do what you love; you have my support,’” said Mr. Yip, who went on to get a masters of architecture and an M.B.A. at the Georgia Institute of Technology before starting work at an architecture and design firm in Atlanta. “I was working 80 hours a week and making $25,000 a year, but I loved it. My mom said, ‘Make sure you’re the first person at work and the last person to leave.’ A partner noticed. She said, ‘I love your drawings and you’re such a hard worker.’ She gave me the corporate headquarters of Disney Cruises to design. It was the break of a lifetime.”
Since completing that project in Celebration, Fla., in 1995, the 51-year-old has earned a reputation as the friendly, detail-oriented designer on several television shows, introduced a line of home products and published the interior guides “Design Wise” and the recently released “Vacation at Home,” which focuses on how to turn a home into a peaceful retreat.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Has design become more accessible?
Without question. The fact that the show [“Trading Spaces”] became such a hit indicated to the design world and the business world that there’s a huge untapped market of people who don’t want to live in a cookie-cutter fashion. They want to live in homes that reflect them, that have design value, but at an affordable price. Everybody deserves to have great design in their life.
How would you describe your approach to design?
Design has the ability to improve your life. Your home should be a functional and aesthetic reflection of you. Your home is where you spend the most important times of your life. It should nurture you. It should replenish and take care of you.
How do you make a home relaxing?
There are 18 key points that I outline in the book, but the big umbrella is get the foundation right and then maintain it. Getting the foundation right means setting it up in a way that takes things off your to-do list. I have performance fabrics in my house that can’t be permanently stained. You can draw a big smiley face in yellow highlighter and still get it out. I don’t have to freak out about my kids sitting on the sofa with ice cream or guests having a glass of red wine. With white marble countertops, which everyone loves, you’re stressed because if someone spills salsa it stains. Now we have beautiful quartz countertops that give you the look, and you don’t have to worry about it. It’s about getting the foundation right so you’re not coming home and getting stressed.