Staples of Design: Develop Your Arsenal

Daniel House will turn five years old in 2020. If there's one thing I've learned in the infancy of the design firm I founded with my brother Alexander it's this: the business of design is really hard.

When I tell people I'm an interior designer, their first response is,"oh my gosh, that sounds so fun," followed shortly after by something like, " I was thinking about doing just one wall of my powder room in this wallpaper, what do you think?"

First of all, accent walls are good in mid-century ranches and Mies Van Der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion (where solid masses of marble facing off glass can hardly be considered such) and nowhere else. And second, being an interior designer is about 10% fun, 90% down-in-the-trenches-daily-drudgery.

Will the client like the ideas I plan to show them tomorrow?; will they like them when they are finished and installed two years from now?; will anyone ever realize that you cannot bid a whole house, or even a kitchen in six weeks (the Property Brothers are lying to you); will the cabinet maker finish on time?; will the cabinets fit?; will the sofa fit -- in the elevator cab, in the tight turn in the hallway and through the front door; if it doesn't fit, how quickly can someone cut off its arms, squeeze it through the door and reassemble it?; will rebuilding the sofa onsite cost more or less than it cost to buy it in the first place?; can the client do math?; why do they assume I am getting rich off of them when their bills are almost completely attributable to the goods and sub-contracted services they have purchased?; will they ever stop texting me? It's Sunday morning and pretty soon I won't be able to pay my phone bill -- when will death come? Just go to Restoration Hardware and be done with it!

Except I would never, COULD never advise someone to do what I sometimes want to do in my state of exasperation. Interior design is now and always will be a form of art the people of the world need. And despite their titles, the salespeople at Restoration Hardware are not Designers. While they may want the people they help to have a lovely space, their primary concern is in selling as much RH as humanly possible.

Kudos to them, but here's why that's no good; not everyone in the world has 40 linear feet for a pair of bus-sized sofas to park in the living room. Not everyone's life is suited to Belgian linen. Not every home needs to feel like budget Axel Vervoordt.

At Daniel House, we believe in the power of interior designers all over the place to create truly rich, artistic spaces that are tailored specifically to the likes, dislikes and needs of their clients. We want to do everything we can to make sure that designers can do their jobs well and still turn a profit.

So designers, as of 2020, DH is here to help develop your tool belt and wave your magic wand. Since you all spend as much time at construction sites as we do, you know a good tool belt has a couple of tools that literally never leave. Tape measure, hammer, carpenter's pencil, and knife are the ones I rarely see anyone without. They are staples of the construction worker's livelihood.

So what are the things that are staples for you? I pretty much never get through a project without specifying at least one pair of lamps, several pillows and a hand full of drinks tables. I also never, ever make it through a project without considering symmetry.

Years ago I was reading an interview with the famous designer, Miles Redd, who said that the light in a room should never come from one really bright source but from maybe as many as fifty softer ones, and that those sources should be placed at all different heights.

It's so true and following this lighting principle can turn your projects from average to completely magical.

The first of my staples I want to introduce you to is the Brynn Table Lamp. At 17" tall with a rectangular shade measuring 8" on the wide side, it fits anywhere and looks great in pairs on a credenza or solo on a little side table. It comes in white, jade and plum and best of all, it retails for $106.00. I try to always buy pairs of things like this, because you never know how a room can morph and suddenly you'll regret not being able to use them in a symmetrical layout. Pairs of little lamps are always a staple -- a pair of Brynns will be part of my arsenal this year. I have already bought six of them for various projects in the last two months and everyone comments on how much they like them.

Next time, I'll tell you about my favorite drinks table this year. Until then, I want to hear from all of you about what's in your tool belt, so we can develop our arsenal together.

And I almost forgot, here's how DH can help you wave your magic wand. The Brynn retails at a $106.00, but we are going to extend almost our entire retail discount to designers. You will be able to sell your clients these lamps at retail and still turn a healthy profit if you visit us at and subscribe. Let's grow healthy design businesses together!


Peter Spalding

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