I was so pleased when Studio Dunn asked that I be a guest contributor to their blog. Asher and his team are a go-to source for us – both for well crafted furnishings and exemplary client service. We’re pleased to be a DUNN collaborator. Here’s the interview that appeared on their blog earlier this week…
Only the best,
1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
I first came to design in part due to my great love of color and the decoration of space. Over the last 15 years I have built a full spectrum interiors practice engaged with far more than décor. We focus on the life changes that motivate clients to remake the most fundamental and expressive space in their lives: a home. Whether clients are facing empty nests as children leave, building a new home by the sea, or updating their living space to reflect new visions, taste brings a wealth of resources and a sophistication of experience to create balanced, future-oriented and respectful interiors. Our best work reflects a process of collaboration, analysis and design at every level from the function and mechanical needs of space to its aesthetic character. Change is what draws us; beauty is what we leave behind.
I rely on classical arrangements of rooms, proportion and scale to right a home. Then, introduce modern details like layered lighting and sink-into sofas. As a result, our interiors exude a timeless quality and deliver equal parts comfort and function.
2. How do you define coastal design?
Coastal design is no different from other design styles that draw from nature and in doing so, create comfort and a sense of well-being. Making this connection with the external environment grounds us and reminds us that we are part of the larger, natural world. To achieve this on the coast, we rely on textural materials, references to water and a color palette drawn from the outdoors.
3. Can you share your favorite design/decor elements from past projects?
Natural materials, reimagined elements and original art are our trifecta we lean on time and time again when creating interiors for our clients. Natural materials often come in the form of stone such as quartzite and bluestone (we rarely use manmade alternatives) and high character wood species. Dunn’s Kingstown Stool is a favorite not only for its beautiful use of walnut, but its honest joinery and organic form.
Reimagined elements bring a sense of history to a space and evoke positive memories for its inhabitants. For example, I’ll forever love the use of these porcelain art sink brackets on this Kitchen island.
Lastly, original art always brings originality and a personal connection to our interiors, like this photo that captures a natural wood floor, a repurposed antique chair and original art by Neal Walsh.
4. Yachts! Tell us about designing for yachts!
We love designing the interiors of yachts – our newest design venture. While there are many similarities to residential design, there are a few important distinctions.
First, every element of the interior has a functional purpose on a yacht – some seen and some unseen. A loveseat, for example, can double as a handhold through a salon and a way to safely traverse from the galley to the cockpit while heeling. And the edge of a nightstand or table, referred to as the fiddle, helps to keep elements from rolling off surfaces while at sea. Oh and the open base of the sofa you’re imagining? Be sure it can incorporate the myriad of mechanicals that need to be hidden there.
Second, every inch and every surface matters. Creating a luxury interior in a space constrained, moving interior requires extreme precision and a hyper focus on the highest quality hard and soft materials. While a residential home has endless spaces to exude quality, a yacht has far fewer, so make the most of every opportunity to convey quality luxury.
Lastly, the project timeline on a yacht provides little room for error. When it sets sail and departs the shipyard after a project has been completed, its gone and you don’t have the chance to return to make adjustments or deliver that finishing element that was on backorder. Project management is crucial. (True story: We recently had a superstar window treatment installer agree to install during ‘sea trials’ when the boat was at sail and being tested to be sure it was seaworthy. It was crunch time and every hour mattered. Supreme collaborators like him help make the project timeline happen.)
5. What is one piece of advice you find yourself telling clients on a regular basis?
If you’re renovating a home, move out during construction. If you’re building and renting a home while your new home is being built, rent a home with a flexible lease. Despite everyone’s best intentions, project timelines get elongated. There are far too many humans involved in the build process to expect otherwise. Mistakes happen. Shipments are delayed. Products fail. Completion dates slip. Living out of the house during a renovation helps to move a project along. It’s the best piece of advice I give, benefiting taste, our collaborators and our appreciative clients.
6. What is the most challenging aspect of interior design work?
On any given day, our designers collaborate with 25-30 different builders, tradespeople and artisans. We need to know enough about each craft to maximize and often stretch its potential while always respecting the limitations. Communication and humility are key.
7. What makes working in Rhode Island a unique experience?
Hands down, direct access to exceptional craftspeople, artisans and fellow designers. We are so fortunate to have such talent in this state. My particular joy is discovering when your favorite millworker is working with your favorite wood turner and your favorite furniture finisher to complete a custom piece you’ve designed. There’s an active collaboration current always at work in Rhode Island that I’m proud to be a part of.
8. Who do you admire today in the architecture and/or design fields, and what are they doing that you admire?
I’m a big admirer of Ilse Crawford’s work and design philosophy. She believes design is a powerful force that is often underestimated, misunderstood and trivialized. “It’s a mistake that [interior design] is considered a luxury to be applied if there is money left at the end, rather than an integral part of making and shaping new realities from the outset.” I couldn’t agree more.