Designer Amina Mucciolo will tell you she has a unique style. So would any of her friends who visited the creative's delightfully colorful Los Angeles apartment, any of her nearly 40,000 Instagram followers who have seen peeks of the space, and readers who enjoyed a tour of it on Apartment Therapy two years ago. Dubbed "Cloudland," the home is a funhouse of unexpected color pairings and pattern—a reflection of Mucciolo's personal style. "Like any space I live in, it has to look like and feel like me," she says. Which is why Mucciolo was surprised to open her phone one day and see the internet flooded with what looked like slightly off images of it, but was actually a Hotels.com-sponsored Lisa Frank suite.
"People were tagging me and sending it to me, and I was just in shock," Mucciolo tells House Beautiful. Indeed, looking at the photos side by side is telling: Similar color-block cabinets, similar use of stuffed toys as decor, even eerily similar teal-colored coffeemaker. And it just so happens that the Lisa Frank Suite is in a building by the same developer, just across the street from Mucciolo's Los Angeles apartment—the Los Angeles apartment whose owner had been mysteriously trying to evict Mucciolo since August.
"In August, they refused our rent," the designer says of the building, where she's been living since 2016. Refusing rent is illegal in Los Angeles, but the building is alleging Mucciolo hasn't paid and is therefore attempting to evict her. Mucciolo has been working with a lawyer to fight the eviction (they have a trial set for the end of this month), which she thought seemed out of the blue—until the Lisa Frank suite was unveiled.
"I believe I’m being evicted because of the Lisa Frank hotel," the designer said on Twitter, where many other creatives rushed to offer words of support. Hotels.com, for its part, replied that "this flat was curated with Lisa Frank’s signature prints," and told House Beautiful that they didn't ask anyone to move or leave their homes as a result of the collaboration.
Of course, any designer knows that a style comes across in much more than a few specific prints, and to Mucciolo, the similarity is the example of the kind of risk independent designers take by sharing their work.
"I have an older brother who was always concerned about me sharing," she says. "We don't have an agent—it's just us sharing our work, so to share it like this, I did it because I thought that other people would benefit, so to have someone steal my work and profit from it when I'm financially struggling is such a devastating blow. It makes you feel so vulnerable."
As she tells me this, Mucciolo is understandably emotional—she pauses several times as she speaks through tears. One of the reasons the situation is so hurtful, she says, is because this isn't her first interaction with Lisa Frank.
"In 2018, Lisa Frank—or whoever runs the Instagram account—started reaching out to me," the designer recalls. This was shortly after Cloudland had gone viral online, amping up Mucciolo's own internet presence. The Lisa Frank account sent her several DMs, commented on posts of her apartment, and even shared some of her work—in posts it has since deleted.
Despite its reputation for rainbows and smiling characters, Lisa Frank (both as a person and a company) has a less than gleaming reputation. In 2013, Jezebel ran a piece titled Inside the Rainbow Gulag, a scathing look at workplace practices at the company.
"I hadn't heard any of that negative stuff," Mucciolo says. So, when she garnered the attention for the brand—whose bold color and pattern she, unsurprisingly, loved—"I was just so flattered. I thought it was so cool that you know, she likes my work. It was something that felt very validating. So to then have this..."
House Beautiful reached out to Lisa Frank through Instagram (the brand has no website) for comment, and received the following response: “Say our partners who managed the project hotels.com are handling all comments to press"—with an email address for Hotels.com.
A representative for Hotels.com issued the following statement: "Hotels.com and Lisa Frank collaborated to create a two-week, pop-up room using the famed artist’s iconic look. No tenants were asked to move or leave their homes because of this temporary promotion."
To Mucciolo, though, the connections are just too odd to be coincidental—and the damage has already been done, both financially and emotionally. "It's just so frustrating to see something from your own imagination—maybe people don't recognize every detail—but to see things from your own mind interpreted and covered with corporate branding is just so sad," she says. "It's all surreal—I can't really believe this is happening."
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