Last Thursday was definitely one of my most favorite days of the internship so far! Veranda magazine hosted an event at Interior Recourses Showroom in the Design Center celebrating their 25th anniversary. Editor-in-chief Dara Caponigro spoke, as well as influential designers David Easton, Windsor Smith, and Michelle Nussbaumer. I had no idea until that morning that we would be listening to these three fascinating designers share some of their experiences, work, memories, and travels. I’m pretty lucky.
In my Design Fundamentals class first semester last year, we studied David Easton’s work and I actually wrote about him in my design magazine project. I was completely in awe of him last Thursday just because he was so different from what I had imagined. He was not quiet or gentle like I had thought, but he was very energetic and really interesting to listen to. He has so much experience and has accomplished so much, I hope one day I can say that about myself!
I also fell in love with Windsor Smith! She is from the West Coast so it was really neat to hear stories about her work and clients’ needs, which are actually pretty different from here in Texas and the South. She said that her main inspiration is lifestyle and how she can translate that into her designs. She spoke of how the classic, glamorous dining room and library were no longer practical, especially for large families. She works with many families with younger kids, and explained how it simply makes more sense to have a more functional space, for example a kids’ study room. Another idea that I thought was clever was instead of the typical Great Room, is to incorporate many different areas within the one, large room so that the family will still be all together while serving multiple purposes. I loved how open and thoughtful she was to each question, as though she really wanted to get through to the audience and help them (me) understand. I want to be friends some day.
Michelle Nussmaumer was amazing as well! I was not as familiar with her work, but she was a great speaker. Her ideas were more along the lines of Windsor Smith’s. She spoke about her many travels and how she loves to incorporate them into her interiors. Not only does this make a space beautiful aesthetically, but is also creates a more personal and unique aspect to the home. Through their discussions and especially through this internship, I am really starting to appreciate the value of antiques and worldly finds. There is so much history that comes along with each piece, it’s as if each item has their own little story that it can add to your home. Because my generation of design includes many modern influences, having antiques mixed in can really ground a space.
Moving along, here are some questions that Dara Caponigro asked the three designers and how they responded:
Dara: Do you all embrace exotic influences in your designs?
Michelle: Yes, it helps form a common thread of color and scale and proportion.
David: All influences come together. Food, fashion, design, travel. They combine to create passion.
Windsor: Michelle is a mastermind at this. I love things. A home becomes a home when you buy what you love. All things have a purpose and express who we are.
Dara: But you buy the pieces, not the client?
Windsor: They have to love it enough to write the check!
Dara: Is it harder with younger clients?
David: We teach them and we are adapting. They have a different lifestyle then we did. Life is simpler.
Michelle: Younger clients in the South want more, while Northern clients are more minimalist and want cleaner lines. Sometimes I take clients on the road with me and show them what they want.
Dara: Do you agree that the young don’t appreciate antiques?
David: Times are changing, very exciting. Globalization is never ending and there are different types of people living next door. It’s all about where you’ve been and where you’re going.
Windsor: Magic happens when you take two things from completely different places and put them together in one space, and we have to help them realize that.
Michelle: They probably don’t [appreciate antiques] when people try to decorate for themselves. It is about mixing precious pieces and antiques. Contemporary has completely thrown out antiques, which makes me sad.
Dara: Never try to save money on what?
Michelle: No cheap upholstery.
Windsor: Get new mattresses. Always.
David: Agreed. Clients are much more involved in recent years, which is sometimes bad and want to buy cheaper things when it should be nicer.
Windsor: It is always better to have an educated client.
Michelle: I want the client to be happy. You have to fix bad architecture though. Start at their lifestyle.
Windsor: Same. We are somewhat of anthropologists. We must learn the client’s patterns and why. The clients I have who want and live with separate bathrooms, end up separating. The bath is the best time for communication between a couple. I use a questionnaire for each family for each room when I begin a project.
Dara: Who inspires you?
David: Albert (Hadley). He was a great talent. He figured out how to make something his. America was very traditional at the time, but all of his interiors were still special. But this does not represent today. Wright proved that we can go modern. We are going back to our modern roots. I believe science fiction. Speed of change will change the way we live.
*Albert Hadley just passed away and there is a beautiful article about him in this month’s Veranda.
Michelle: He (David) inspires me! But travel mostly. I lived in Rome with the classical architecture.
Windsor: I am infatuated with architecture. I love details, hardware, a paneled room. I am still dreaming about the past. Modern makes me want to hold on to the past. I’ll be sad if we loose the history and identity.
Dara: Is the word ‘eclectic’ dated?
David: People travel all over the world, it does not completely define design.
Michelle: I like the word ‘curated’ better. Clients want special things, not common.
Dara: What have you been seeing more in the children’s areas?
Windsor: Use outdoor fabrics. Durability! Perennials has good choices.
Michelle: They have become more mature, more part of the home. Kelly Wearstler did an amazing kid’s room with Indian art.
Dara: Do you ever turn down jobs?
David: Me?! Clients come from other clients, which are friends. But I have been fooled before. I get more problems from the women.
Michelle: I try not to. Depends on the scale of the project. I try to take the best jobs. Sometimes we’re not right for each other.
Windsor: We are both interviewing each other and want to be happy. It’s important at the beginning to see if we get along and match. They need to understand what they’re getting into. But they find you. You’re already at the altar.
*love that last comment!
Dara: How do you deal with clients who want it perfect and quick?
Michelle: It’s just not possible to be done so quickly. Clients need to be aware that it takes time.
Windsor: You have to manage expectations. We cannot always be people pleasers. I create a timeline for the client and share photographs of the processes going on behind the scenes.
These comments were just a few of my favorites!! The designers shared many personal things about the way they do business, which was helpful to hear. Their stories were just as interesting because I have never worked with clients before. I will definitely take what I have learned from the event and put it to good use.
David, Michelle, and Windsor at far left of pic! Ahhh
Michelle tweeted these precious pictures after the event!
Thanks Veranda for having this incredible event and for Betty Lou for taking me along!