Interior Motives

A Conversation with Designer Dann Foley

By Chris Astrala

Dann Foley has been designing residences and hospitality projects for more than 30 years.  He is a writer, author and speaker on all things related to the home.  He has been featured in many national magazines. His namesake brand, Dann Foley Lifestyle includes licensed products in almost every category of the home industry.  He is known as a go-to designer personality for television with multiple credits including, NBC’s American Dream Builders with Nate Berkus and as the only male member of Showtimes acclaimed, The Real L Word.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with long time contributing writer for The Standard Magazine, Dann Foley about his career and life long passion with interior design, here is a glimpse into his world.

When was that light bulb moment when you knew you wanted to be an interior designer?

For me, becoming a designer was always a natural choice.  My mother worked with an interior designer in the home I grew up in and I was always fascinated with the process of creating beauty.  In fact, my parents love to tell the story that they would be scared to go out to dinner because they would often come home to find I had rearranged the furniture.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

In my early years I was greatly influenced by my mother’s interior designer and the fact that I would be allowed to take off from school to go to the design center with them and explore the showrooms full of inspirations.  But, my biggest influence from the start were classic films of Hollywood’s Golden Era.  The films of the 30s, 40s & 50s had amazing production.  Designers like Edwin B. Willis at MGM influence my designs and style even today.

If you can design any celebrity home, living or no longer with us, who would it be and why?

The dream would be Walt Disney!  His creativity, wonder and master of the detail, would be a pleasure to collaborate with on any project.

Today it would have to be George and Amal Clooney.  There sense of personal style both as a couple and individuals, plus their global perspective would be an amazing creative experience.

Your new book, It’s All In The Mix, Design Ideas for Living Well; will be available in January. Can you tell us a bit about it?

My new book is a design journey through my more than 30 years as a designer.  It is a beautiful hardback coffee table book you will be proud to display and at the same time, a go-to for helpful advice, tips, tricks in design culled from my vast experience with clients and their homes.  The projects we have featured in the book show a wide variety of design styles.  I have never been a designer to sell one style to everyone, every project and every client are unique. Think of it as a Master Class in doing it yourself.  With a foreward by my friend and design icon Thom Felicia of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, only made the book even more special to me.

Palm Springs is the hub for all things Mid-Century, what is your take on that style?

Mid-Century design is incredible.  The movement was one of the great breaks in approach to design and living.  It encompassed not just furnishings and architecture but, it was/is a lifestyle of forward thinking design.  My approach to Mid-Century design is to avoid the cliché moments and choices and create something that is more personal to the client.  The process is an ode to the period but, with all the modern amenities, details and comfort of today.  Personality and warmth are always part of the equation, no matter the design style.

A few years back you were on a  home makeover show, would you ever consider doing that again and if so, what would be the concept?

I have had some amazing television experiences and American Dream Builders for NBC was unique in that it was the first home design show on a major network in primetime.  Since then and because of that show, I have been offered others. What I know now is that I would definitely do another show but, only on my terms.  Today’s design shows are all cut from the same cloth, with the same style repeated over and over and over. Often times the hosts are not acutally designers and that is disappointing to me.  Experience is everything and my show would be a full lifestyle program where we integreate all parts of a clients life into their home.  It is what we do for our clients every day and it is a lot more interesting and inspiring.  The design style would never be set, with each week being a different client with a different perspective and style… And, It would have to include a lot of humor!

Designer, author, columnist, you certainly have your hands full. What do you do to unwind?

Well, first let me add, product designer to that list! LOL. The brand, Dann Foley Lifestyle has more than 600 SKU’s of products in 9 categories of the home industry.  I spend a great deal of time every day on product design and travel a great deal representing those designs at trade shows both here and abroad.

When I do get time off, I head straight for Europe.  Paris is my heart and I go every year to be recharged, inspired and energized for the next challenge.  I base myself in Paris and then travel out to other parts of Europe, often Italy and England.  I can unwind, relax, and melt into the streets. For me travel and inspiration go hand in hand.  I immerse myself in the city/town, culture and people of where I am at any given moment.  The experience of discovery in the unknown or exotic is intoxicating to me.

Final question, what words of wisdom can you give to all those DIY designers out there?

That is a simple answer, buy my book! LOL Seriously though, I stress to clients every day that you cannot go wrong by choosing what you love.  Forget about what you think you should have or, what others tell you you should want.  I don’t believe in theme decorating. Themes are for children’s parties.  Buy what inspires and excites, you can never go wrong following your heart.

About Dann Foley

Dann’s award-winning designs are seen across the U.S., Canada and parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. What started as an extra credit project in his senior year of design school has turned into a Lifestyle Design Firm with a global reach.

Known for his passion and enthusiasm for design, his infectious laughter and sense of humor, Dann believes that every client should “enjoy the process”.  He says,  “every project is about fulfilling the client’s desires but, in a form they dreamed possible.”

His brand, Dann Foley Lifestyle was the largest product launch for an interior designer brand ever and coincided with the premier of the NBC primetime show, American Dream Builders.  Also featured on Showtime’s The Real L Word. Dann’s latest launch is his first full-lifestyle licensing program with Stylecraft that already includes more than 600 SKU’s of lighting, art, mirror, accessories, pillows, upholstery, casegoods & occasional furniture. Experience, global travel, public speaking, writing and design have made Dann into a “Living Well” expert and sought after host and emcee within our industry, as well as television.  Dann says, “I teach people to live better lives