LEARN ABOUT OUR TEAM
Benjamin Johnston and his talented team of professionals share their vast knowledge and experience with discerning clientele through a comprehensive design approach that creates extraordinary homes and commercial environments. Get to know how this team delivers diverse global perspectives to 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. Ben was honored to be the first American selected for a design residency with the prestigious firm, Cesar Pelli & Associates –Tokyo. Following this, Ben launched his first design business focused exclusively on interior design, allowing him to follow his passion for bringing extraordinary designs to life. Ben eventually expanded the firm to include architectural services, offering clients a holistic approach that invites his prestigious team to manage the creation of luxury homes from start to finish.
Ben shares his knowledge with the world through syndicated television appearances, international shelter magazine placements, speaking opportunities at industry events and conferences nationwide, and through his role as brand ambassador for numerous luxury brands.
ERICH PLOOG, Partner & Managing Director
Erich Ploog is responsible for the direction of all 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 Benjamin Johnston Design like any other successful company. In fact, under his leadership, University of Houston named Benjamin Johnston Design as one of their 'Top 10 Fastest Growing Businesses" managed by one of their graduates. As with everything he does, Erich strives to make the experience for clients not only enjoyable, but highly efficient and professional.
PAOLA NERI, Senior 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 designer 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 essential 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 of 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.
RENEE REINECKE, Designer
After growing up in Houston and London, Renee is thrilled to be creating back in her hometown. Renee’s interest in design started at an early age laying on the floors of the great houses of Europe and examining the elaborately painted ceilings. She has had the opportunity to travel extensively, observing other styles and inspirations and finding ways to incorporate those into a cohesive design that is applicable for the modern-day.
Renee graduated with two degrees from the University of Alabama: a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Musical Theatre. These two creative outlets constantly influence each other; from lighting and color to presentations and creative expression. Upon graduation, Renee moved to NYC where she lived for eight years, working and honing her design skills with several companies. Renee is particularly passionate about creating spaces that spark joy in her clients as soon as they walk in the door. Her background in theatre brings a dramatic quality to her designs, while her travels have instilled the importance of history and other cultures. She believes that design and beauty have the power to immediately impact people’s lives for the better.
GREG ROFFINO, Architectural Manager
Since graduating with his Masters of Architecture from Texas Tech University in 2012, Greg has spent the past 9 years practicing residential architecture across Texas and beyond with Curtis & Windham before joining Benjamin Johnston Design. Complimented with a professional degree specializing in Urban & Community Design studies, he also has a vested interest in urban forms and contextual design. He has designed, produced, and managed the coordination and construction process of a wide range of residential projects including site planning, new construction, renovations, and historical preservation.
As a native Texan with an affinity for travel, Greg enjoys seeing & studying regional and vernacular architecture across the country and globe. Through studying abroad in Spain & Portugal began his passion for the historical and its influences on creating beautiful contemporary design. Using a strong understanding and respect to the principles of traditional architecture and the importance of scale, proportion, and context, he strives to create architectural designs and details that are not only timeless, appropriate, and contemporary, but also that respond to the needs and tastes of his clients.
BRIAN DON CARLOS, Architect
Brian DonCarlos is a licensed architect with over 10 years of experience in the field. Born and raised in the Houston area, Brian was found building with his Legos throughout his childhood. When it came time to decide on a career path, he found the perfect marriage of creativity and action with architecture. He graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Architecture in 2009, and decided to pursue his love of nature and sustainability in graduate school at the University of Oregon, where he obtained a Master of Architecture with a certificate in Ecological Design.
Since moving back to Houston in 2012, Brian has excelled in a wide variety of building sectors, though his true passion has always been in luxury residential. His desire to pursue knowledge in as many subjects as possible has given him a vast amount of experience that he now brings to our team. Whether it be a floor plan, woodworking, or a cocktail, Brian is always at his happiest when he’s making things, and he could not be happier to be a part of Benjamin Johnston Design.
MARC ANDERSON, Architectural Designer
Marc graduated from Texas Tech University with honors in 2014, obtaining his Masters in Architecture with a Certificate in Community and Urban Design. After a semester abroad in Paris, France he furthered his passion for Architecture, studying classical and contemporary design with a strong focus on scale, proportion, and place. Since his graduation, Marc has returned to his hometown of Houston, practicing residential architecture with Curtis & Windham Architects before joining Benjamin Johnston Design, LLC. He has participated, produced, and coordinated on a wide range of projects throughout Texas from remodels to new construction.
Marc is an Architectural Designer at Benjamin Johnson, LLC and assists the Architecture team with numerous projects working on all phases. He has a passion for working with clients and making their vision reality. Through every phase of a project, Marc strives to make every experience enjoyable and memorable while creating architectural designs that respond to the clients specific functional and aesthetic needs.
LISA EVANS, Architectural Designer
Lisa Evans received her Bachelors of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2021, with a Minor in Business Foundations. Although born and raised in Dallas, Lisa has fallen in love with Houston and its exciting and diverse culture. Now, Lisa is thrilled to call Houston her new home.
Lisa has a passion for architectural details and she appreciates the approach to the design process in which Benjamin Johnston Design believes in passionately: architecture plays a critical role in the creation of beautiful spaces, be it residential or commercial. Additionally, Lisa is also fascinated by the means and methods necessary to make designs into a reality and the thrilling potential of cross-pollinating the exciting design work found in hospitality environments today with domestic and commercial spaces.
Needless to say, we are thrilled to count Lisa as a valued team member and look forward to watching her promising career unfold!
ALEX KELLEY, Architectural Designer
Originally from Indiana, Alex Kelley received her Bachelor of Art in Architecture from Miami University in Ohio. She then headed south where she obtained her Master of Architecture degree from The University of Texas in Austin with a certificate of Interior Design in 2022. Following her passion for residential architecture and her new fondness for the Texas heat, Alex decided to make Texas her home.
Alex is particularly passionate about catering designs to the human experience in a timeless and beautiful way. Coupled with her affinity for the personal client connections emblematic of residential architecture, Benjamin Johnston Design was a natural fit for Alex following her graduation. Utilizing her interest in the intimate relationship between architecture and interior design, she strives to bring the client’s creative vision to life.
CRISTINE NAVARRETE, Design Assistant
Cristine Navarrete is a native Houstonian who grew up in the vibrant neighborhood of "Eado" on the edge of downtown. 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 Bachelors 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 with 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.
MARTHA DUHNE, Design Assistant
Martha is a talented designer who is driven by the sensorial connection between interior spaces and human emotions. After studying nutrition for one year, Martha found her true calling in the world of interior design. Born and raised in Mexico, from German descent, Martha received her Bachelor’s in Interior Architecture with Honors from the Universidad Interamericana in 2016.
She incorporates her multicultural background and love for traveling in unique designs that blend new ideas, diverse cultures, and fulfilling experiences. With experience in luxury residential and commercial projects, Martha translates the client’s vision into beautiful and exciting spaces. Se habla Español.
ALI KARA, Accounting Manager
Ali Kara is responsible for all day-to-day accounting activities for the firm including accounts payable, accounts receivable and financial reporting. Ali ensures that all financial transactions between the firm and our clients and vendors are handled with the utmost care and professionalism.
Originally from Turkey, Ali graduated from Trinity College in 2019 with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Quantitative Economics. Shortly after his graduation, he started working as an Account Manager and became a part of the Benjamin Johnston Design team since 2021. Fluent in English and Turkish, we are thrilled to have his expertise guiding us forward!
MAURA FOLEY, Purchasing Agent
Maura manages client orders from start to finish and ensures they are placed correctly with our vendors. She monitors orders closely throughout the process as they are being manufactured, transported, received and inspected. Maura oversees hundreds of orders from around the world and thrives to exceed client expectation.
A Bryant University alum with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Maura is a native of Massachusetts and lives in Boston. She began working as a Project Manager at Designer Advantage in 2021 and joined the Benjamin Johnston Design team shortly after.