17 Inspiring Influencers Making the World a Better and More Beautiful Place

The annual list of BH&G's top rising influencers is out. Whether helping us make our homes more beautiful inside and out, teaching us how to prepare delicious meals, or creating companies that combine good deeds with good style, here are the people who inspire us to be better every day.

Every September, Better Homes & Gardens magazine highlights the influential creative forces and rising tastemakers shaping the worlds of food, entertaining, beauty, and home and garden design. From gorgeous handmade goods that give back to decadent chocolate treats to amazing interior makeovers, it's hard not to get swept away. Get to know our 2018 Stylemakers and let them inspire you. 

P.S. On September 27, we’re celebrating the issue with a daylong Stylemaker event in New York City. Follow along and learn from our experts by following #BHGStylemaker and @betterhomesandgardens on Instagram.

Food Vanguards

Prepare a better dinner (or dessert) tonight with recipe ideas, preparation tips, and wow-worthy inspiration from some of our favorite names in cooking.

Ayesha Curry

By day she runs a growing food empire. By night she’s committed to putting nutritious, high-flavor meals on the table for her family. The chef, entrepreneur, and wife of NBA star Stephen Curry, Ayesha is a master of the balancing act. The author of The New York Times best-selling cookbook The Seasoned Life and host and executive producer of ABC’s upcoming Family Food Fight has become known for her ability to reinvent menu staples with high-impact seasonings and unique ingredient combinations. “I want our food to refuel us and be nutritious. But it has got to be easy, and it better not be bland.”

David Lebovitz

If you need a few French chocolate lessons, David Lebovitz is your guy. Author, former pastry chef, and Paris transplant, David has published six cookbooks (including The Great Book of Chocolate.) "Chocolate occupies my thoughts nearly every day," he says. He has spent the past 15 years exploring Paris and its food—tasting, testing, and sharing discoveries on his eponymous blogWe like to think of him as a kind of modern-day Julia Child, translating French cooking and baking for another generation of American home cooks.

Anna Kovel

With 25-plus years as a cook in restaurants and test kitchens, Anna shares how to think on your feet, cook in season, and use what’s on hand to keep meals interesting. She’s BH&G’s Fast + Fresh monthly contributor, developing ideas for easy, delicious recipes for a better dinner tonight.

Design & Style Trailblazers

Daring color, creative finishes, unusual materials—forget predictable. Keep these designers and stylists on your radar for unexpected interior and personal style inspiration.

Paloma Contreras

Interior designer, founder of the hugely popular La Dolce Vita blog, and author of the recently released book Dream. Design. Live., Paloma’s look is fresh but approachable. Her blog began as a passion project in 2007 while she was working as a high school Spanish teacher, but soon turned into a full-time career as fans of her modern take on traditional became paying clients. Now Paloma runs the blog and a five-member interior design studio from her Houston home. For our Stylemaker issue, she opened her home to us and shared her approach to working with white walls. As a speaker at the 2018 Stylemaker event, she’ll share what’s behind her classic-with-a-twist sensibility and what’s coming next. Follow via our Instastory @betterhomesandgardens September 27.

Style is about the choices you make and how those choices come together to paint the picture of who you are.

Paloma Contreras

A post shared by Nick Olsen (@nickolsenstyle) on

Nick Olsen

Our issue’s color provocateur, interior design Nick Olsen is not afraid of going bold. The Florida native credits his mother's fearless color sense as inspiration. Here are Nick's tips for going bold with confidence:

  1. Experiment: "Every room needs a statement chair in a saturated color and a complementary throw pillow. These are great entry points for trying big color."
  2. Commit to It: "It's just decorating; don't hold back. The results are never as satisfying when you do."
  3. Let It Sink In: "Dramatic change can be shocking, so don't panic. Give yourself time to live with a new color and you might just realize you love it."

For his feature in our Stylemaker issue, Nick used a bright palette riffing on primary colors to create a trio of rooms that feel exciting and inviting. “It’s just paint,” he says. “It can always be painted over.” What are you waiting for? Take the plunge!

Barrie Benson

Interior designer Barrie Benson works like an archeologist. She knows how to dig a little deeper to use what's treasured, and to celebrate the stuff of life. "This whole simplicity-is-better trend isn't going to last," predicts Barrie. "It doesn't tell you enough about the person who lives there. It doesn't tell a story." In our Stylemaker issue, we shared how Barrie blended color and an unlikely mix of furnishings to create a personal space for a color-loving client. Because space was at a premium in the New York City apartment, Barrie also shared her tips for making the most of every inch:

  • Pick a sofa large enough that it can be used for an overnight guest. Keep the back low and the arms tight to play down its size.
  • Choose a dining table with a leaf or two so you can host eight for dinner. Store them under a bed or in a closet.

Sid and Ann Mashburn

Known for their eponymous clothing designs and style built on luxe basics, this husband-wife team has a mini style empire flourishing in five cities and online. This year, they introduce their new concept shop in Atlanta, where they have more room to offer hospitality (there's a coffee bar) and to stock more of the things they love, like Allyn Scura eyewear, melamine plates you'd swear were French ceramics, and Ann's first kids' clothing line. It's a mix that's eclectic and obsessively curated, with a human touch that comes through even online.

We like having a big cross section of customers. It makes the store a more interesting community, and even a fun cultural crossroads for people.

Sid Mashburn

Grant K. Gibson

Grant Gibson encourages his clients to decorate with items that remind them of special trips. "Maybe it's artwork or an interesting textile to make a throw pillow." he says. His advice: Look for things that have quality and a story. "The key is to buy something that touches you." His book, The Curated Home: A Fresh Take on Tradition is a room-by-room guide to decorating with meaningful items. In our Stylemaker issue, Grant shared his solutions for making the most of a tiny space, giving us a look at his 855-square-foot San Francisco apartment. "When square footage is precious, you have to pull out every trick you have to help the rooms feel more spacious."

Amanda Reynal

Des Moines-based designer Amanda Reynal infuses her work with colorful, preppy style—even her own hard-working mudroom featured in the September issue. Her key to balancing form and function? Building a spot for every item, and making sure all family members are briefed on the zones. "Everybody has a drawer and everybody knows what's theirs," she says. As a speaker at the 2018 Stylemaker event, Amanda will share how she has grown her interior design business into a storefront and to give a few ideas about what’s next for design and color. Follow via our Instastory @betterhomesandgardens September 27 to here from her.

Isabelle Dahlin

Interior designer and the owner of the shop deKor, Isabelle’s globally eclectic style embodies the popular concept of hygge—a Danish word often translated as cozy. Her California home appeals to lovers of Scandinavian simplicity and bohemian layering alike and she shared the secrets behind her small-space design in our Stylemaker issue.

I'm not afraid of mixing different times and eras and textures. It all comes down to a feeling.

Isabelle Dahlin

Lauren Goodman

Fashion stylist Lauren Goodman knows the power of contrast and uses it to create a look that's fancy meets free-spirited, whether she's putting together an outfit or setting the table. In our Stylemaker issue, Lauren showed off her entertaining style with a look at how she pulls together a far-from-formal garden party at her San Francisco home.

Kachet Jackson-Henderson

She’s the voice of the beauty and lifestyle blog The Kachet Life, and as guest editor of our September "Throwback” page, Kachet compiled her travel must-haves. She makes the most of her bags (and every trip) with a packing list that’s part techy upgrades, part analog favorites. She also shared her tips for packing with style:

  • Fold or Roll? "I roll the majority of clothes then line the bag with my rolls. I'll gently fold nicer stuff and layer on top."
  • Secret Weapon? Shoe Bags. "I definitely pack those babies. I put shoes inside my bags after stashing my jewelry pouch and socks inside the shoes."
  • How to Pack Light? "I pack mostly solids. It helps with mixing and matching. Scarves and jewelry add interest."

Entrepreneurs Who Do Good

These creative women have all started companies that take giving back to a whole new level. They find, partner with, and invest artisans to bring modern takes on traditional handicrafts from around the world to your doorstep.

Rebecca Lemos-Otero

Rebecca Lemos-Otero was working as an after-school counselor at a Washington, D.C., community center when she was tapped to manage a small vegetable plot with the kids. This led to her founding City Blossoms, a nonprofit organization that creates gardens for schools and neighborhoods in low-income areas. Since 2004 she and her staff have helped install more than 50 plots in and around D.C., while also advising organizations like The Nature Conservancy on gardens throughout the country. Four years ago Rebecca and her team started a teen program called Mighty Greens to get high schoolers not into gardening interested by "letting them make it a business," she says. In addition to selling seedlings, CSA boxes, and products like herb salts, they donate a portion of the harvest to local food banks.

Having a lively green space in an urban area can be huge. It creates a way for kids to be outside doing something productive and beautiful.

Rebecca Lemos-Otero

Arati Rao

A former freelance fashion designer, Arati was troubled by sweatshop conditions and the lives of fabric-makers. When she founded Tantuvi in 2010, she wanted to know her makers and ensure good working conditions, so she visited India to reconnect with her roots and meet the dhurrie weavers who now make her colorful geometric rug designs. Tantuvi empowers women in India by training and employing them in weaving, a respected and traditionally male-dominated craft. Arati works with weavers from start to finish to create her abstract designs, to ensure they're doable and to find new ways to use traditional techniques.

Sheeva Sairafi

In awe of the quality of handmade goods at the bazaars she explored with her Iranian father, this former T.J.Maxx buyer started her company Local & Lejos in 2015 to bring modern takes on a variety of global crafts to market. Because many of the women working for Sheeva are their family's breadwinners, she buys up front rather than when pieces sell, to giving women steady incomes whether or not she sells their work. She reinvests profits in training programs requested by her weavers, like dyeing and English classes.

Kei Tsuzuki and Molly Luethi

This New Mexico-based duo creates screen-printed textiles with workers they also train. Kei and Molly, a former nonprofit worker and ESL teacher, respectively, knew the economic instability local refugees faced. In 2010, the duo used Kei's screen printing experience to launch Kei & Molly Textiles with the goal of giving Albuquerque’s resettled refugees a stable income and flexible hours to spend time with their families. No experience is needed to be hired: They provide on-the-job training to teach workers a marketable skill.

Our company gives people a place to adjust when they immigrate to the U.S.

Molly Luethi

Maria Haralambidou

Maria met so many talented artists during travels in Africa that she left her job as an architect to found People of the Sun in 2012. She collaborates with artisans to bring their products to an international market and on help them differentiate themselves in Malawi’s vast wood-carving market by designing modern, utilitarian pieces. Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the nation, with more than 50 percent of the country's population living below the poverty line according to the International Monetary Fund. The sale of People of the Sun products improves the lives of more than 600 Malawians.

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