Designing One’s Own Business  

Kristina Parella Design

Kristina Parella works in a room where dreams actually come true

By Carolyn Culbertson

Photographs by Kristina Parella

Kristina Parella worked from home before it was popular. And like any single mother, she can tell you it’s not as peaceful as people like to think. She shares a home with her two daughters and her mother, but she has only one room where she can get work done because it’s the only space that belongs to her and her alone. “I’ve had my office everywhere possible in this house, and the best place I’ve found is in my bedroom because I can lock everybody out of it,” she says.

Parella has two growing girls with lots of energy and out-of-the-box ideas. One stir-crazy day in quarantine while she was on the phone with a client, they dragged the slip and slide to the backyard so they could launch themselves into the pool while riding a blow-up unicorn. Another stir-crazy day in quarantine during a family paint night, her 6-year-old stepped in the paint and started tracking it across the floor. Parella went to help with mixed results. “I tried to clean it up and I ended up stepping in the paint and there was paint everywhere,” she says. Like mother, like daughter.

Exploring her options

Parella is a freelance graphic designer and artist, and she is the face behind the facade of The F-Suite. She does design work for clients around the country, from South Carolina to Arizona, New Jersey to Florida. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to be known as an artist, but she didn’t know how to get there. “There was no way you were going to make money just to sit around with your paint and paintbrushes,” she says. That’s why she did some wayward career exploration — culinary school, nursing, and nutrition.

It was only when Parella hit her mid-20s that she says she started to take graphic design seriously. She had been managing a restaurant, which ate up most of her waking hours. Then her father got sick. She realized how much she missed spending time with her family. When Parella happened to hear about a graphic design program at Gibbs College, she dived in and earned an associate’s degree in visual communications.

Her father passed away shortly after that. “I looked up to him in every way possible,” Parella says. In addition to making art of his own, her father also liked to cook and build train sets and tracks with tiny houses along the way. To Parella, he was always kind and encouraging. When she was young, he told her to find a job she loves so that she would never work a day in her life.

Finding her niche

Graphic art gives Parella a fresh perspective every day. It’s a steady, reliable job without the tedium. “It’s never the same thing every day. I don’t care for monotonous tasks,” she says. But even after she earned her degree, Parella didn’t truly believe she could make art for a living until she landed a job as a graphic artist at a sign company. When she got pregnant, though, Parella had to let go of her office job and work from home so she could raise her daughters.

Kristina Parella Design portfoliio

A sampling of Parella’s portfolio.

Though it was an adjustment at first, that’s when her freelance work serendipitously evolved through word of mouth. The editor of Natural Awakenings Grand Strand saw one of her ads and asked her to design the magazine’s layout. Now, Parella lays out Natural Awakenings magazines in several locations as well as Columbia Living Magazine, and helps all kinds of clients with ads, logo designs, signage, and more.

Whether it was mourning her father, becoming pregnant, sharing a workspace with her two daughters and mom, at every turn Parella’s family  has unwittingly played an essential role in her professional life. Not as an obligation she’s beholden to, but as an engine to keep her on her path as an artist.

For women in business, a room of one’s own is ideal. But most women get a room attached to another room attached to another room, all of them shared with someone else, all of them in need of care and upkeep. Women like Parella know the challenge well and bring light, shade, and color to every single space.

Kristina Parella’s full portfolio available for viewing at Kristina Parella Design.