We seem to be obsessed with color lately (see 7/15 and 7/18 posts) and here we go again. Color isn’t a simplistic choice and is more complicated than you may think. See Worqx.com for all the nity gritty about color. More about the tennis later.
LLJ: A Bachelors in Liberal Studies, a Masters in Leadership and Public Administration, a dabble in law school and modeling, training for professional tennis…this is a very diverse background Dustin! What finally brought you to design in general and historic restoration in particular?
DVF: I always had an interest in design, but never had the opportunity to act upon that interest. I think the largest factor that kept drawing me toward design was the glamour of the industry, or what I “thought” was a glamorous industry. Historic restoration sort of fell into my lap during my early twenties while in graduate school, I purchased the 1890 Charles Nash House in Flint, Michigan and the rest as they say is history. I created the color design, I completed all the interior and exterior work on the house myself and thus the love affair with historic homes began.
LLJ: Is there a particular period or style of restoration that is your specialty?
DVF: In my world I don’t really have a favorite period or style. One of my favorite sayings since I started Van der Fleet is,” I don’t follow tends, I set them.” One quick fact that most people don’t know about me is yes I indeed have a passion for all things old, but I love to design new homes with clients that want a very traditional feel in their new home. Van der Fleet is renowned for its restoration work, however I love the challenge of taking something new and making it feel traditional and comfortable.
LLJ: Most historic districts maintain control over restoration work. In the Vieux Carre, here in New Orleans, owners are under strict regulations about any proposed exterior work. Even the choice of colors is limited to those true to the period of the building and everything must receive Vieux Carre Commission approval. Do you find such regulations helpful or constrictive?
DVF: I have worked all around the country on many homes; I’ve never really felt regulations were anything but a huge positive. They create consistency in a historic community. I really have never felt confined or restricted by such regulations. It is my job as a high end designer to come up with work and colors that fit my client’s needs as well as fit the needs of the entire community. Our last project the 1907 E. M. Rogers House in Adel, Georgia was a Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation property. We had to work hand and hand with the Georgia Trust on all exterior aspects of the home. I had to explain why I selected the colors, and really present an entire presentation of what my vision was for the Rogers House, in the end this house took home State of Georgia restoration awards and became an asset to the entire community of Adel. I’m really proud of working side by side with the Georgia Trust to create something so special.
LLJ: Your restoration of the Tyson-Stedham home (which has wonderful coverage in on-going posts on Between Naps on the Porch) seemed to present you with a goldmine of original hardware, lighting and trims. How unusual is this?
DVF: The 1912 Tyson/Stedham project was in fact quite rare. The originality of the home was fairly intact. We had most of the original 1912 lighting, most of the trim, all of the original mantles remain, and all of the original door hardware remains as well. This is in fact rare in a home that is 99 years old. It’s very unusual for a home of this age to maintain so much of its original details; typically over the years each owner will change something to fit their taste. Although changes were made in the Tyson/Stedham Home all the historical details remained intact which was the huge reason I sold my client on this particular property.
LLJ: Do you see the walls as background or foreground and what importance do they play in the overall design scheme?
DVF: Oh the walls are most certainly the foreground in all of my designs. The entire interior design is often based upon the colors of my client’s walls. Color sets the tone for all of the art, accessories, furniture and flooring. Many of my friends and fellow designers call me the King of Color and color is my true passion in design. Without the proper paint color in place I cannot interior design a space in a cohesive manner.
LLJ: How do you determine colors for a room?
DVF: If I answered this, no one would need my services, just joking! Typically, when involved in huge projects I have visions. When I see a client and the home for the first time I can already see the finished product in my head. I have many dreams at night and it is not uncommon for me to have a dream in color, sit up at 3:00 AM in the morning and jot down the colors I was dreaming in. The next day I wake up and think how divine those colors I wrote down are. I’ll think about them and then select how I’m going to apply them in a particular setting. A good friend in the industry (Barry Darr Dixon) told me early in my career “Dustin there is no wrong color selection. You just have to be a talented enough designer to make them work.” I have remembered that advice every day since it was given and it is now a motto of mine.
LLJ: Most of your interior color choices I have seen in illustrations of your work seem to be intense. Does that change with the period of the home or is that strictly your preference?
DVF: I’m an intense and passionate man. I love drama and delicious decadent design. I’m not one to play it safe ever. Once very early in my career I was not very confident in my color choices and felt ill at ease with what I had selected for an important project. I e-mailed a good friend Newell Turner (Editor and Chief of House Beautiful Magazine) He told me “Dustin trust in yourself and your inner gut instinct, you have an ability not many people have.” Again I took the advice and ran with it. I selected my initial colors that I was not so sure about, the project was a smash hit with the client and won awards. Newell was right, stay confident and go with your gut instinct; it has never failed me yet.
LLJ: I haven’t seen any use of wallpaper but I can imagine you would use a Wm. Morris design. Would you use wallpaper if the owner wanted it? I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t because I suspect you would be a purest and use conventional type and you’ve probably had more than enough experience removing it in your work! Too bad Casart doesn’t currently have any historical designs because installation and removal is easy plus it can be reused.
DVF: Yes, most certainly I would and have used wall paper in the past. Wall paper is a part of many historic homes fiber. Love it or hate it I have to deal with it quite often. I use many different types of wall paper, yes they are historically correct but paintable wall paper is my favorite. I agree it is a shame Casart does not have a historic line currently; however that is something we can change in time. How fun would it be for Casart to offer a custom Van der Fleet historic design line?
LLJ: What do you envision yourself doing other than restoration and design?
DVF: I’m a busy man now but I have a vision for the future. I envision Van der Fleet becoming a house hold name with my own paint line, home décor and fabric lines. I’m interested in launching a historic reproduction furniture line and accessorizes too. I’ve been asked to consider quite a few book deals and I have a true passion for antiques, collecting and selling. Again, whatever I’m doing I’ll be setting trends, not following them. Innovation and staying cutting edge in a traditional market like historic restoration and design is key to staying relevant and fresh as a designer.
LLJ: Finally, I HAVE to ask a question that has nothing at all to do with design. Will Venus and Serena Williams have staying power or will they soon join the ranks of great female tennis players of the past like Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King?
DVF: This is a fun question; I’ve known Venus and Serena Williams for a couple of decades now. In my professional opinion Venus (the older sister) is about to fade into the sunset as a tennis legend. Serena Williams on the other hand is mounting the biggest comeback in WTA Tour history. Never before has a woman come back after 12 months of injuries at the age of thirty plus to win a grand slam and try to take the number one ranking in the world. Serena is not human she is a machine that can set her mind to anything and accomplish it. I will call it early Serena Williams 2011 US Open Champion. She’s not done, she is hungry and she wants this last shot at being the best in the world. I think she’s a woman on a mission and no one can prove a point like Serena Williams when she’s on a mission.
See, I told you we’d get to the tennis later. Thank you Dustin for your informative answers. You, too, seem to be on a mission and with all you have accomplished so far, I have no doubt you’ll achieve the goals you have set.
– Lorre Lei