Asa part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefani Solarska and Igor Medarski — Mezzanine Studio.

Prior to MEZZANINE, Stefani was a Lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture Skopje, and an Architect in a few engineering firms in Skopje. She is an artsy soul, plant lady, and animal lover.

Igor Medarski, Co-Founder & Senior Architect. Before MEZZANINE, Igor was a Lecturer at the Faculty of Architecture Skopje and Freelance Architect for various companies. He is a perfectionist, music enthusiast, and coffee aficionado.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?

Igor Medarski: I knew I was going to study architecture since I was in 7th grade. That’s the first time I laid eyes on a CAD software. One of my friends’ father is a civil engineer, now retired, and we were going through his stuff looking for games to play. Then we found this weird named disk, which we thought was a game, but it turned out to be some sort of a CAD software, which I instantly fell in love with. Long story short, I borrowed the CD, installed it on my computer and spent the whole summer drawing and modeling everyone’s house.

Stefani Solarska: Honestly, when I finished high school, I almost enrolled at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine ☺ Then, during summer break, I deepened my knowledge about Architecture and all of its extravagance and decided to give it a try. From today’s perspective, it was definitely the best decision!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?

SS: We usually try to avoid the tag “married” and are still not used to using it, since we’ve been together for more than 10 years 🙂

Anyway, recently, we started exploring Virtual Reality, as a part of our professional engagement, but to be honest, we enjoy the entertainment part of it as well. Me, being an adrenaline junkie, had to check the Rollercoaster videos, since I haven’t ridden one in a few years, and oh boy, that was a mistake. Very soon I felt so sick and ended up on the office floor. It is not a fun or very interesting story to me, but it certainly is to Igor, so I was obligated to share it!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake, definitely, was that we chose the wrong name for our company! 😀 The naming thing was a long process, and we took it very seriously. By the end of it, none of the names made any sense to us anymore, and we were under pressure to start the paperwork, so we just went with one of them, which turned out to be the wrong one. Very soon after we started using it, we realized that it just didn’t sound right, so we decided to change it to –what was then- our second choice: MEZZANINE studio.

We learnt the hard way that we should trust ourselves more in the gut decisions that we make, rather than overthinking stuff. From that moment one we definitely changed the way we approach decisions businesswise and in life in general.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

To answer this question, we can just leave this testimonial here:

“One thing I learned after working with MEZZANINE studio is that if Stefani suggests something, even if I have some different idea, I should go with hers. I can’t stretch enough how much I recommend MZN. They changed the way I live and perceive my living space in a way I didn’t know existed. When I move into a new place, I’m sure they will be doing the designs for it.” By Zvonimir S. Zagreb, Croatia

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We tend to only take on projects which are exciting to us. Architecture and Interior Design are very creative fields, so having excitement in our daily tasks is really important to us to keep us motivated.

We have just finished a couple of cafe/restaurant restoration projects in Chicago which are part of a Grant Application for Community Development. Both projects are local and family owned, and we hope that our design and philosophy will help the owners get closer to the community in their struggle against the big restaurant chains and coffee franchises.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Employees should be seen as individuals each with their own unique set of skills, whereas the company should provide the grounds needed for their growth.

Give your employees freedom. Let them grow at their own pace. Guide them, but do not watch over their shoulder all the time.

How do you define “Leadership”?

Leadership is guidance. The “leaders” need to find the best way to understand the people that they need to guide and take them towards the point where they can start using their full potential.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There isn’t one specific person, but we are deeply grateful to all of our friends that believed in us and trusted us designing and implementing our philosophy into their first homes. This really helped us and gave us the much needed wind at our backs to get the confidence and start experimenting with space.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Architecture isn’t just about one specific place, on the contrary, we carry it with us all the time. Or at least that’s how we want to see it. Having a well-planned home, a liveable city, an office that inspires are the things that we create, and hope they bring goodness to the world.

What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.

Have fun! As busy as we are in running our business, we always try to have fun along the way.

Take care of each other! We, as humans, usually take better care of the people we love rather than ourselves, so when you are a couple, it’s a win-win situation.

Always negotiate! No matter how strange it sounds, I believe you need to be able to negotiate with each other in order to find solutions that are mutually beneficial.

Share new experiences together! The excitement of the new and unknown will help you strengthen your bond even more.

Communicate! Whatever it is, just say it out loud.

You are people of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are great advocates towards liveable cities. We don’t have the magic formula, but let’s just all lean more in the direction of people owning the streets again instead of letting the “metal boxes” rule our neighbourhoods.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the change you want to see in the world!”

We were always surprised to see that most of the architecture and design studios were run by much older people, who didn’t really care about the genuine process of design anymore. We knew that we didn’t want to be a part of that kind of practice and decided to take a risk and open our own studio in our twenties, where we could start doing things differently. We are happy to be a part of the new emerging scene of young CEOs and founders who are eager to change the world.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

SS: Kelly Wearstler — to discuss the ability to mix styles, eras and mediums in designing a space in order to create the most amazing interiors.

IM: Paul McCartney

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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