LEARN ABOUT OUR TEAM
Benjamin Johnston and his talented team of professionals work to bring tremendous knowledge and experience to designing extraordinary spaces of all styles and scales. Learn more about each of them and how they bring their experience and diverse global perspectives to each and every project.
BENJAMIN JOHNSTON, Partner & Creative Director
Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC is the culmination of Ben Johnston’s international design practice and lifestyle brand. Ben has dedicated his life to the pursuit of artistic expression as a designer, artist, teacher, and tastemaker, all with the focus of bringing beauty to the world around him and enabling others to do the same.
Following his graduation from St. John’s School, Ben earned his Bachelors of Architecture from Texas A&M University and his Masters of Architecture from University of Texas at Austin. During that time, he studied design philosophy and classical painting in Italy and traveled extensively through Europe, Northern Africa, and Japan. Ben was honored to be the first American selected for a design residency with the prestigious firm, Cesar Pelli & Associates –Tokyo. Upon returning to Houston, he launched his first architecture, furniture, and graphic design business. Ben also served as a Professor of Interior Design at Houston Community College for six years, building its reputation as one of the most highly-regarded design programs in the city. Later, Ben launched a business exclusively focused on interior design, allowing him to follow his passion for bringing extraordinary design to life. He has won numerous design awards for this work and expanded his talented team. Ben shares his knowledge with the world through television appearances, international shelter magazines, and as an invited speaker.
ERICH PLOOG, Partner & Managing Director
Erich Ploog is responsible for the direction of all back office operations of Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC including accounting, procurement and human resources. He brings a wealth of business process, operational excellence and organizational change management experience to the team.
Erich is a native Iowan and moved to Texas for college where he obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Houston and his Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Texas at Austin. He has had a long and successful career in management consulting for such firms as Accenture and IBM, where he advised numerous Fortune 100 companies during strategic and operational transformations.
Today, Erich runs his own private management consulting practice, Changement Partners LLC, as well as running operations for both Benjamin Johnston Design and Benjamin Johnston's Chairish store. As with everything Erich does, he strives to make the experience for clients efficient and enjoyable.
PAOLA NERI, Designer
Paola Neri is a designer who seeks to create beauty in the world, drawing inspiration from many different artistic pursuits and expressions. Growing up in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Paola originally trained to be a dancer, as it was her first love and earliest exposure to the arts. In later years, she branched out and began developing her skill in oil painting and design. These interests ultimately led her to pursue a Bachelors Degree of Architecture from the Universidad Privada Boliviana. After graduating, Paola began living and working in design and construction administration through several hospitality projects in her hometown. Realizing that this was her professional calling, Paola decided to move to Italy to pursue a Masters Degree in Interior Design at the Florence Institute of International Design, graduating in 2012.
Since moving to Houston in 2013, Paola acquired a deeper understanding about furniture design and how it can shape the way in which we live. In 2017, Paola has brought her passion for design and her detail oriented prowess to Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC, where she continues to assist clients in creating inspired spaces to call home. Se habla Español.
RAJANI ALVARADO, Designer
Since obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from Texas Tech University in 2014, Rajani’s experiences in the interior design industry have only increased her passion for creating designs that function equally to their beauty. Rajani grew up right here in Texas, but her rich cultural background both in Mexico and Texas have given her a great appreciation of history, textures, finishes, and colors across a broad spectrum of design styles. Her bilingual upbringing has allowed Rajani to connect with our Latin American clients and collaborators all over North America.
Rajani began as a Design Assistant at Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC in 2017 and quickly ascended to the role of Designer due to her passion and hard work. Rajani is the lead on numerous projects and oversees everything from extensive remodels to ground-up construction. Her desire to create meaningful beauty is only matched by her drive to ensure the complete satisfaction of her clients. Se habla Español.
CARMEN CASTILLO BECHTER, Designer
Carmen brings a strong background in creative leadership and project management to the team at Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC. Originally from Tampa, Carmen has extensive construction and remodeling experience from growing up in her family of custom home builders. With a prior career as a licensed lawyer in both Florida and Texas, Carmen’s understanding of the technical and detailed needs of her clients and collaborators is esstential to a creative projects’ successful outcome. Her expertise spans from creating and coordinating all facets of design to partnering with clients and architectural, construction, and development teams.
After graduating from University of Florida with a Finance degree and South Texas College Law with a Juris Doctorate, Carmen furthered her studies at Rice University by concentrating on her passions for art, architecture, design and green building practices. Carmen’s passion for beautiful and functional design has taken her to work on internationally published projects as far away as Tel Aviv, Israel. Carmen believes that beautiful and well-designed interiors have the ability to positively change and enhance the lives of the people that inhabit them.
Se habla Español.
LINDSEY MEYER, Designer
Since obtaining her bachelor’s degree in interior design with a minor in architecture from Texas Tech University in 2014, Lindsey Meyer has returned to her hometown of Houston create spaces that are as functional as they are timeless. She began her career working for designers, Marjorie Slovack and Chandos Dodson, where she gained valuable knowledge on organizational practices and a deep understanding for the building process. Her years of experience earned her a spot with the team at Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC in 2020.
Lindsey is the lead on numerous projects and oversees everything from extensive remodels to ground-up construction. Lindsey’s attention to detail, along with her desire to create meaningful beauty, is only matched by her drive to ensure that her client’s vision comes to life.
MADELON DEVANEY, Design Assistant
Infused with the spirit of the American West and a design aesthetic that blends beauty and purpose, Madelon is the newest addition to the firm. She graduated with a Bachelors in Interior Design from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama as well as a Masters in Production Design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. The combination of interior design and production design has crafted a unique perspective on the practice of both: namely that design has the power to impact the ambiance and emotions that one feels when experiencing a space in a number of ways.
Originally from Boise, Idaho, Madelon’s passion for beautiful design has taken her to five continents and worked on projects in cities such Hong Kong and Tena, Ecuador. She has a passion for solving design issues by transforming the space to communicates a well thought out narrative. She is new to Houston but has realized the amazing potential the city holds and is excited to explore the truly international city.
CRISTINE NAVARRETE, Design Assistant
Cristine Navarrete is a native Houstonian who grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of Eado. Cristine’s rich cultural background, along with her extensive travels all throughout Central and South America, have given her a great appreciation of history, textures, finishes, and colors across a broad spectrum of design styles. Since obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design from Sam Houston State University in 2016, Cristine’s experiences in the interior design industry have only increased her passion for creating designs that function equally to their beauty. Her unique, cheerful disposition and ability to relate and empathize with her clientele, have allowed her to create meaningful and purposeful design.
Cristine is a Design Assistant at Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC and is assisting on numerous projects and helps oversee everything from extensive remodels to ground-up construction. Her desire to create meaningful beauty is only matched by her drive to ensure the complete satisfaction of her clients.
BRIAN PORRECA, Architectural Designer
Brian brings over 20 years of architectural knowledge and expertise to the team at Benjamin Johnston Design. He has spent his career developing premier luxury properties with the intimate understanding of the technical, functional, and aesthetic needs of his clients and collaborators.
Born and raised in Houston and a graduate of University of Houston, Brian gained extensive construction and remodeling expertise while working with well-known luxury home designer, Robert Dame Designs for over a decade and a half. Following this rich experience, he went on to develop beautiful projects with a Houston custom homes builder for a few years. Today, Brian is excited to be a part of an enthusiastic team that appreciates his experience and allows him to develop interiors in a far more intimate, personal, and unique way than ever before.
WILLOW KANE, Purchasing Agent
Willow ensures that all client orders are placed correctly with our vendors and managed closely while they are being manufactured, transported, received and inspected. Willlow is managing hundreds of orders from across the world for our projects to ensure that our client expectations are not only met, but exceeded.
A Nantucket native, Willow made the trip to Rhode Island where she studied project management at Bryant University. After graduating from Bryant, Willow moved to Boston where she currently lives and works.
JULIE DUONG, Accounting Manager
Julie Duong is responsible for all day-to-day accounting activities for the firm including accounts payable, accounts receivable and financial reporting. Julie ensures that all financial transactions between the firm and our clients and vendors are handled with the utmost care and professionalism.
A native Bostonian, Julie went to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and graduated with a degree in Economics. Julie began working as an Account Manager in 2019 and shortly thereafter, began working with Benjamin Johnston Design. We are thrilled to have her expertise guiding us forward!
JAMES ULLMANN, Purchasing Manager
James Ullman oversees all purchasing efforts for the firm, working with our worldwide network of vendors to bring the most unique assortment of products to our clients.
Originally from Connecticut, James moved to Boston in 2013 and has been working in this specialized capacity within the design industry ever since. Always a team player, this former college football player graduated from University of Connecticut. James leads our fantastic team of purchasing agents: Claire Horrigan and Sydney Shaw.