Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Photo courtesy of John Calabrese/DLN
Designer Katie Leede, Michael Boodro EIC of Elle Decor, and Lizzie Dinkel

When I asked designers what they got out of the Design Leadership Network Summit experience this year, the answers varied, but inspiration and motivation were the topics that many kept returning to.

Here are reflections from some of the industry's most respected design voices-

A sense of community can be very valuable in this often fragmented industry- what does this community provide for you? Thomas Jayne shared, "I love our Design community! It's a family of individuals with the same passions.. yet we all have different viewpoints.. I can't tell you what a relief it is l to talk to a designer pal about issues that only a designer can understand.. It's almost like group therapy."

I asked Katie Leede what she got out of it. "The conference had me flying with the thrill of possibilities. Turns out that having the conference in New York made for a furiously energetic and packed two days full of focused programming that had us all abuzz with inspiration but still able to keep our businesses going during the breaks if need be," she shared.

Jamie Drake on: Who was your favorite speaker and why?
"Arianne Huffington, as she reminded us that we only have one life to live!"

Beth Webb answered the question: A sense of community can be very valuable in this often fragmented industry- what does this community provide for you? Shared resources? Like-minded friends?
"In the past four years I have made many friends that I call on year around for both counsel and sources. I was working on a project in Palm Beach and Celerie Kemble's office helped with a workroom source, Joe Lucas provided an art installer and recommended a drapery workroom in LA for a project in Hancock Park. If the sponsors call and say they are coming to town, even if I am too busy to see them - I make time because there is a personal relationship there. We all share information and commiserate on how we are doing business and more importantly how we can do what we are doing better."

Gary McBournie echoed this sentiment in response to the same question.
"The community aspect is extremely important to me. At the core of it, we are all business owners working in the same industry and facing similar challenges. There are not many other opportunities to sit down with each other and have open discussions. I very much value the sharing of ideas, solutions and resources and I have made many friends along the way."

The final day of the Design Leadership Network in New York began with David Carey, the president of Hearst Magazines speaking at the Hearst Tower.  He spoke on how magazines are shape shifting, creating additional value with online content that serves up relevant information, taking what used to be months (with magazines) to moments (courtesy of the warp speed of sharing online).  This embracing newness and nimble thinking left us all excited to see what is in the pipeline from Hearst's shelter titles, Elle Decor, Veranda, and House Beautiful. Seeing great potential in digital content, he shared, " 70% of tablet readers have never subscribed to those Hearst Magazines they are reading online, " and with a digital subscriptions to Next Issue, you can read up to 10 magazines a month on an iPad.

Lucia Van Der Post of The FT's How To Spend It alongside Michelle Ogundehin of Elle Decoration UK and Italian print magazine Apartamento's Marco Velardi

To offer global perspective, Lucia Van Der Post of The FT's How To Spend It was joined by Michelle Ogundehin of Elle Decoration UK and Apartamento's Marco Velardi. They touched on what their readerships expect of them, but to still throw in some surprises. In addition, when it home sot design, what the attributes of good design are vs functional design, and what is just plain beautiful.

Julie Carlson of Remodelista, Newell Turner,  Editor in Chief of Hearst Design Group, Irene Edwards of Lonny, and Janel Labon, executive editor of Apartment Therapy

Furthering the Marketing and Media conversation were the boundary pushers of media-- Julie Carlson of Remodelista,  Irene Edwards of Lonny, and Janel Labon, executive editor of Apartment Therapy. They discussed their respective readerships, the popularity of house tour slide shows,  We were all curious to here Irene, the newly appointed editor of Lonny, talk about her plans for one of the earliest digital shelter magazines. When she said her mission was to prove that a digital publications could be just as lush  as print, I instantly respected her viewpoint.

Photo courtesy of John Calabrese/DLN
The Arianna Huffington

Then came the most highly anticipated and well-received speaker of the day, the inimitable Arianna Huffington. I soaked up every word in a state of rapt wonderment. She is just truly captivating in how she says what she says. The topic she delved into was a favorite area of interest for her, what she calls "The Third Metric", which is "redefining success beyond money and power."  It is about values and wellness;  the place where taking care of the self is everything.  Great quips ranged from, "You don't pay people for their stamina, you pay people for their judgement" to "Space is as important as everything that is put in it." She is so interested in the restorative power of sleep that she has an entire section on it on the Huffington Post.

Then the talk changed from creative space to creative people, and Peter Sallick interviewed Nick Jones, the founder of Soho House, the global club with a local feel for creative types. With a cool downtown vibe and rotating art collection, Jones is tasked with the job of creating ambiance in a room-- "The place has to have ambiance with no one in it." In what is quickly becoming a lifestyle brand, anything you see in a Soho House location, you can buy to get the look at home.

Real estate in New York is a hot topic.  The afternoon focused on residential and commercial design, with talk about restaurant design to high rise dwelling. William Rudin and his daughter Samantha Rudin Earl took us through their large residential enclave downtown of five buildings includes the former St. Vincent's hospital and surrounding townhouses called Greenwich Lane. The spaces are being designed by Thomas O'Brien to be move-in ready. They then answered a steady stream of questions about the galactic prices of New York real estate today.

Digging deeper into that dialogue, Sara Ruffin Costello spoke to a panel that included Corocan Sunshine's Elisa Orlanski, Roy Kim of Extell, Oliver’s Realty's David Wine, and John Vanderslice of Hilton Worldwide. Addressing the audience, they spoke about what is relevant in new buildings today, and expectations are high. Not only are the usual amenities commonplace, but functionality and good design area also in demand. The one thing that is really changing is location, with major developments being built in the far west side and lesser known neighborhoods, the buildings can have built-in perks that residents, often those that don't live here full time, appreciate.

One of the most memorable Moments of Inspiration came from British designer Nina Campbell, who amused with tales of doing a project in China, and her first job. Upon starting, she was asked to make tea for her boss, John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler, and botched the tea.  He told her to move on to do other tasks, and she shared, "So, inspiration number one: Do menial jobs really badly and you will be promoted."

In closing, old friends star designer David Rockwell and Union Square Hospitality Group's Danny Myer ( who attended my alma mater, Trinity), riffed on creating a restaurant together, the Italian trattoria Maialino.  They delved into the process, not their first together, and had fun recounting the creative dialog.

Photo courtesy of John Calabrese/DLN
The entire group in a  parting shot

Here are some additional takeaways from designers that attended:

I asked Barry Goralnick who was your favorite speaker and why?
He replied,  "My favorite speaker was Andy Spade, since I’m focusing on product, as well as design projects. He was very clever and articulate. I liked hearing how he evolved Kate’s and his brands. He created good product backed up by very smart positioning and a real relationship of the brands to the end users. When he effortlessly explained the strategy, you thought, “of course, what other way would one conceive of that?” I also loved hearing the venerable Oscar de la Renta say that the most important thing for him was curiosity. 'Every single day is a learning process.' That has always been my motto, as well."

Lindsey Coral Harper on memorable moments:
"I loved when Oscar said, 'the key to staying creative is intense panic'. If I'm not a little bit nervous about what I am doing, then I'm not pushing the creative envelope enough."

On that same note, Timothy Corrigan added, "I may sound naive, but I was totally in shock by the prices of real estate in the new buildings in New York City..  the $3500-4000 per square foot mentioned in the Rudin Greenwich Lane presentation could have knocked me over with a feather. In our projects (which are pretty high end all over the world), we deal in figures like $800-1200/sq foot construction costs, so those figures still are red hot in my memory! $90,000,000 for a penthouse apartment....really?"

Kara Mann on: What did you leave inspired to take action on in your life, business, or both?
"The DLN is always a great check in on where your biz stands. Most times I leave feeling like you know...I'm doing ok, other people are experiencing some of the same challenges. Helps me to just keep digging in deeper to who I am as a designer and business person."

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