Adrian Dueñas and Marcelo Saenz are not just a married couple who have been together for 22 years. They are also the owners and founders of a number of highly successful businesses, including Houston’s BeDesign. “We are very simply committed to each other as a couple,” Dueñas says, “and that simplicity makes our relationship unique.”
BeDesign is a design firm whose showroom features some of the most sought-after designer furniture lines in the world. It also offers nearly every design service you can imagine, from interior and exterior design, art selection and hanging to white-glove delivery service. The company sells more than design—it sells a lifestyle brilliantly modeled by its two founders.
Dueñas, BeDesign’s CEO, was born in Quito, Ecuador, and has lived in Spain, Ecuador, and throughout the U.S. Before he ultimately landed in Houston, he attended college at UC Davis, the University of New York, and the Universidad Internacional del Ecuador, earning degrees in public relations and communications. As a child, Dueñas wanted to be a veterinarian because of his deep love for animals. “These days, I’m just a devoted dad to Mango, my terrier mix,” he says.
Saenz, BeDesign’s co-owner and lead designer, was also born in Quito to an Ecuadorian father and a Puerto Rican mother. He received his bachelor’s degree in interior design from Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial in Quito, and his master’s degree in interior design at Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. But interior design was not a part of his childhood dreams. “I wanted to be a pilot and fly airplanes and travel around the world,” Saenz recalls. “Unfortunately, being a pilot was not possible, but I have been very blessed with the opportunity to travel all around the world.”
Together, Dueñas and Saenz have built several companies, “including design firms in South America and Madrid, a marketing company, and our baby—BeDesign in Houston,” Dueñas says. “Our move to Houston came from a passion for good design, and to make our own kind of contribution to a city like ours, which is in a constant state of change and renewal. I’ve created my own role in Houston by focusing on networking, education, and being part of our community. A strong [commitment to] philanthropy and nonprofit organizations, including the arts and social needs, is very important to us and to BeDesign. It’s the least we can do for a city that has given us so much. My husband is ten years older than me, and he fought for the rights of all LGBT people in Ecuador, and against the laws [that put you in] jail for being who you truly are,” Dueñas says.
Saenz and Dueñas are both involved with the AIDS Foundation Houston, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the Human Rights Campaign. “We also support our LGBT community in the arts. This year, we are co-chairs of the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston’s Gala and Art Auction. We support the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera, and we are sponsors of the Latin American Experience Gala at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” Dueñas says.
As BeDesign’s lead designer, Saenz helps his sales team and clients with interior-design advice. He also curates and displays the furniture collections from the various brands they represent. His lifetime of knowledge and expertise he has gathered allows him to quickly make good decisions for the BeDesign showroom, and also help his clients do the same. (Saenz has always been the one to make things look nice by moving furniture and arranging objects as a child.)
When it comes to design, he believes that inspiration can be found anywhere and everywhere—architectural details, colors and textures from nature, or even the shapes of natural elements. Exploring new trends on the internet can also be inspirational, he notes, as can the clothes people wear or the art we find all around us.
When it comes to what inspires him, Dueñas is always looking for beauty. “I get goosebumps when I see a beautiful design. Recently in Lake Como I was able to tour four hotels designed by our brands, and the feeling of perfection is indescribable.”
Whether it’s design you’re talking about or just how you live your life, it’s a matter of how you look at the world, Saenz says. “I try to live my life in the best way possible, always enjoying good music for the soul and mind, cooking for my husband and friends, and playing with our dog. And a nice glass of wine is always welcome!”
Both men have come to appreciate how privileged they are, and how that comes with a big responsibility to look out for those who are struggling, who are not being accepted, or who are being bullied and discriminated against. “If we can all hang in there together, it can get better,” Dueñas concludes. “For those who are more fortunate, it’s a call to join forces and make a positive difference. Every time we do something really beautiful in our company, it reminds my team of how really beautiful life is.”
For more info, visit be-design.us.
This article appears in the April 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.