A rainbow-colored dream has turned into a nightmare for Lisa Frank and Hotels.com. Amina Mucciolo, known by her Instagram handle @studiomucci, claims that the two brands have stolen Cloudland, which is the name she’s given her brightly colored apartment. Cloudland went viral in 2017 when Apartment Therapy called it “the most colorful apartment in the world,” setting the media ablaze. NBC’s Today Show aired a segment on it. It graced the covers of Good Homes and Ikea Family. Mashable dubbed it “a total unicorn dream.” Metro agreed, calling it “an Instagram dream come true.” It’s “a technicolor paradise,” says Teen Vogue.
Fast forward to October, 2019. Hotels.com and Lisa Frank launch their imaginatively titled collaboration, The Hotels.com Lisa Frank Flat — a “two-week pop-up room” inside a short-term rental unit in Los Angeles. It sold out in an hour. As soon as the collaboration was announced by Lisa Frank in an Instagram post, comparisons between the suite and Cloudland were drawn by Mucciolo’s fans. “This looks like your place,” commented one Instagrammer. “I think I know where they got this kitchen inspo from,” commented another, tagging @studiomucci.
Others thought Mucciolo was involved in creating the suite. “Did you do the Lisa Frank Hotel?” asked one Mucciolo fan in a DM, while another commented “I hope you had @studiomucci design this!” on Lisa Frank’s post. POPSUGAR, who have their own intellectual property controversy, tweeted out an article praising the collaboration. “This is sorta like @studiomucci’s home. The kitchen, especially,” replied a Mucciolo fan in a tweet.
The kitchen is at the heart of the controversy. A damning side-by-side comparison shows just how similar the two are, right down to the cabinet colors, layout, and toys — so it’s no surprise that fans thought Mucciolo had a hand in the suite’s design.
It didn’t take long for Mucciolo to wage war on Lisa Frank and Hotels.com with an emotional messaging campaign broadcast to nearly half a million fans across Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter.
Not only does Mucciolo accuse Lisa Frank and Hotels.com of stealing her designs, but also links them to her eviction from Cloudland. Mucciolo says her landlord wanted her out by October — just in time for the opening of the Lisa Frank Flat. One of Hotel.com’s partners, Barsala, owns the suite and operates several units in Mucciolo’s building, which happens to be next door. Mucciolo believes that her landlord saw the success of the Lisa Frank Flat and wants to capitalize on Mucciolo’s iconic rainbow interior design, and the only way to do that is to oust Mucciolo. “It’s obvious that they’re trying to get rid of us so they can use this space in the same way. They clearly see the value in colorful design,” said Mucciolo in a tweet.
As with many influencers, her massive, loyal following stands ready with pitchforks waiting to cancel her offenders — especially corporate ones. She’s used her social megaphone to call out Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, and her fans have bought in — literally. As of October 13, Mucciolo has raised over $10,000 on GoFundMe, which she says she needs for her “legal defense” and “finding a new place to live.” Her goal is $20,000 (it was $10,000, but that goal was quickly met, so why not?).
The backlash against the brands is fierce and ongoing. Anywhere the Lisa Frank Flat is mentioned online, the top comments are about ripping off Mucciolo. Some influencers who were invited to the flat’s preview have since deleted their posts about the flat to avoid harassment and association with the scandal.
Instagrammer @roxy_tart is one of the influencers who was harassed by outraged Mucciolo fans. After she deleted the Lisa Frank content, she posted an appeal to the trolls to stop harassing her and her friends for attending the Lisa Frank Flat preview.
The controversy is only two days old, yet articles are already bubbling up and raising the specter of doubt on Lisa Frank and Hotels.com. Hotels.com was forced to address it publicly, tweeting that they’re “sorry to hear of the situation with [Mucciolo’s] landlord, but this is unrelated to the Hotels.com Lisa Frank Flat.” They also legally shielded themselves with a carefully worded tweet, stating that “the flat was curated exclusively with Lisa Frank’s iconic signature prints and characters,” which is legalese for “Lisa Frank can’t steal from Lisa Frank.”
I reached out to Mucciolo because obviously, I had questions. I spoke with Salvatore Mucciolo, Amina Mucciolo’s partner, who said he’s “handling all press inquiries.” Mucciolo revealed that there was never an eviction notice, which is the current narrative online. Mucciolo says that the landlord “wouldn’t pursue an official eviction if [they] left quickly.” Mucciolo also revealed that their current rent payment is late, and they’ve been late with rent payments in the past. “Landlords are usually fine accepting a late rent payment,” said Mucciolo — which isn’t exactly my experience with landlords.
The eviction storyline and connection to the brands is murky and tenuous. I reached out to Hotels.com and am awaiting a response. I DM’ed Lisa Frank, but she left me on read. Barsala only has 200 followers so who cares. I’ll update this story if any of them have anything to say, but I doubt they will because lawyers.
UPDATE (9:47 PM CDT, Oct. 14): Hotels.com sent me the following statement:
“The Hotels.com Lisa Frank Flat was inspired solely by Lisa Frank and designed as part of a partnership with Lisa Frank using her iconic signature prints and characters, many of which were originally developed in the ’80s and ’90s. The flat was created for a two-week pop-up in a space that is used only as a short-term rental and no tenant was asked to move or leave for this collaboration.”
As a Lisa Frank fan myself, I’ve searched for any explanation that would clear the brand of replicating Mucciolo’s interior kitchen design — but that’s hard to do since Lisa Frank follows Mucciolo on Instagram. In fact, she’s an avid follower. Mucciolo revealed year-old DM’s from Frank to Mucciolo, along with adoring comments on Mucciolo’s posts — including a comment on a shot of Cloudland.
It would be virtually impossible to claim that the brand was unaware of Mucciolo’s interior design, given the comment trail Lisa Frank has left across @studiomucci’s posts. I don’t think other parts of the Lisa Frank Flat mimic Mucciolo’s interior design — just the kitchen. Mucciolo makes lots of comparisons, like the gallery wall, bathroom, living room, and kitchen. But anyone can have a gallery wall, brightly painted rooms, and a white table with fake Eames chairs — Mucciolo even says herself that she “doesn’t own rainbows.” It’s the distinct, recognizable look of the kitchen that’s highly questionable, and what’s provoked so many of Mucciolo’s fans to defend her.