Danielle Colding’s star power shined bright well before she became HGTV’s newest DesignStar. Since 2006, she’s successfully owned and operated a full service New York-based design firm, Danielle Colding Design, curating residential and commercial spaces that reflect her diverse educational and professional background.
As the winner of the seventh season of DesignStar and designer/host of Shop This Room (airing Saturdays 5pm et/pt on HGTV), I’m thrilled that the nation will see what others have known about Danielle long before she stepped in front of the camera. This woman’s got amazing talent!
Erika Ward: I find a designer especially intriguing when I learn they have a diverse education background. How has your degree in anthropology helped you in servicing the innate needs of your clients?
Danielle Colding: It is so funny to look back on my path- it certainly was not a straight shot to a career in design. But, I do think that all the varying things I’ve studied have contributed to my perspective as a designer. In college, I majored in cultural Anthropology with a minor in African and African American studies. I was drawn to the study of culture and the way people make sense of their worlds. The various ways people choose to live directly impacts the way I solve the design dilemmas of my clientele.
Anthropology has given me the tools to be an observer to be able to translate these observations into concrete design solutions. This broader understanding helps me establish a foundation for designing layered, eclectic, and highly personal spaces.
EW: What is the best advice you give to others on creating a home you love?
DC: The thing I try to encourage my clients to do is to start with something that they love. I like the spaces I design to reflect the people who inhabit them. It is really these quirky treasures that make a space feel unique and special. I love using items that have been passed down and combining them with more contemporary furnishings. That type of eclectic approach speaks to how most people live today. Old and new, modern and traditional- it’s all in play and in my opinion finding the right mix makes for the most inspired interiors.
EW: I can identify with your point of view of not having a ‘signature style.’ However, what would we find in your own home if we stopped by for a visit? Clean and cross-cultural? Just a guess…
DC: My home is very eclectic. I inherited a ton of amazing, and quite traditional furniture from my mother. I have a caned sofa with clawfoot feet, carved Chinese chests, a chandelier from Murano, and a ton of African and African American art. My apartment is a definite reflection of my personal history. It is a warm and cozy environment in which every item has a story.
Anthropology has given me the tools to be an observer to be able to translate these observations into concrete design solutions.
DC: I am a fashion enthusiast. There are a couple of things that are prevalent in the fashion world that really speak to me and influence my work directly. The attention to detail in fashion is incredible. In a sense it’s all about the details. I mean how many ways are there to cut a dress? It’s by altering things slightly, playing with proportion and the finishing touches, that these pieces go from ordinary to exceptional.
The other thing I love about fashion is that there is always room for reinvention. We all have different sides of our personalities and through fashion we can express those variations in the way we present ourselves to the world. When I’m designing a home each room has its own individual perspective and speaks to the different aspects of my clients. I love to take those same elements- an attention to detail and the idea of telling the full story of who my clients are and use that in the way I design. The result is layered, detailed spaces that are truly representative of the people that inhabit them.
EW: Which rooms do you enjoy designing the most?
DC: I don’t have one favorite- honestly, I don’t. Every room I design comes with a new set of challenges. It is my job to find the right solution for that particular space. What I love about design is that it is never boring. As a designer you cannot employ the same solution over and over again. Every new room deserves a new approach.
EW: What has been your greatest challenge as a designer? What comes easy for you?
DC: My greatest challenge as a designer has been about managing the business side. My mind just does not work that way. I can do it to some extent but really for me it’s all about creativity. If it was up to me, all I’d do is look at pretty things all day and design design design.
What comes easy to me is gaining insight into my clients. It is the most intuitive part of my job and the factor that really takes a basic design to the next level. It is not easy with everyone- some people I just get and others I have to dig a little deeper to get to a point where I have insight into them and what they want to achieve in their space.
EW: What are some of your favorite finishing touches in a room?
DC: My favorite finishing touches in a room are definitely the art and the decorative accessories. I absolutely love putting together vignettes- styling a bookcase or mantle is such fun. The idea that there are different narratives in the space really speaks to me. I look at ways to layer constantly. I am a lover of texture and enjoy playing with scale and color. To me, an ideal interior looks as if it were assembled over a lifetime.
When I am not designing, I am…
When I’m not designing I am travelling. I am having intimate dinners with friends. I am watching films, going to museums, and looking at my favorite designers on line. I am constantly refilling the creative well. That way when I come back to design there is always something new and fresh.
My mother taught me to follow my dreams. There was never an expectation of doing anything for money or fame. It was all about finding my voice and sharing that with the world. She exposed me to the arts throughout my life and helped me to come into my own as an artist. She was my biggest cheerleader.
The highest compliment is when a client asks, “How did you know what we needed?” Those are the times I am truly moved by my own way of contributing to others. Designing someone’s home is so personal. When I get it right it feels like pure magic.
Looking forward to…
Continuing to become more and more comfortable in my skin- to embrace my own imperfections more and to accept my own humanness without judgment. And, hearing the news that my show has been picked up!!!! Ha!
images courtesy of Danielle Colding Design, Inc.