By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge Photographs by Jeff Hirsch
We were kind of fascinated that designer Daun Curry, who appeared so city-sleek and soigné, grew up as one of five kids on an organic farm in Florida. “So your parents were hippies!” we cried. “Big time,” she said and offered us some homemade organic raspberry lemonade. Like so many designers, she had a previous incarnation having initially trained as a holistic health counselor. But after September 11th happened, she was shaken into asking herself what she really wanted to do in life and the answer was design.
We heard of you through Sam Botero, with whom you were working on projects for China—what was your tour to China all about?
So, we went there and met with the government and went on a 15-day tour all over China. I sometimes work with a Chinese architect who travels back and forth and he put together a design team. He wanted everybody to have a different angle. They do a lot of hotel and city planning. China is a lot different because the government funds projects—even whole cities. Sam and Emory’s angle is “The Collector” so we sat on panels and they showed their work. They discussed being a collector and my angle was how fashion relates to interior design.
An octagonal mirror hangs above a 1970's Lucite console purchased on 1stdibs. The Lucite artwork under the console is by Michael Timsit. The wallpaper 'Palm Jungle' is from Cole and Son.
A French chair from ABC Carpet & Home is covered in an ikat-patterned fabric. Daun purchased the small side table during a trip to New Orleans.
The 1970's dining table is from Venfield and the vase filled with fresh flowers is by Kelly Wearstler.
In the living room, a photograph by Roberto Dutesco of the wild horses of Sable Island hangs above a sofa from DDC.
A fossilized tree stump from Organic Modernism is placed atop a vintage Moroccan rug found on 1stdibs.
Looking across Daun's living room. A pair of Danish brass lamps and 1960s mirrored sofa tables purchased in New Orleans flank the living room sofa.
So what did you tell them?
What did I tell them? [laughs] I mean to me, there is no line really between fashion and interior design. How we dress ourselves and our bodies, is much like [how we want to design] our space. One of the first things I do is go into [clients’] closets.
What can you learn?
You can learn a lot about a person by the clothes they wear, like is it tailored a certain way? Is that going to inspire some kind of upholstery detail in their place? I don’t mean just fashion, like Vogue and all that, I mean somebody’s personal style. And I look at accessories … do they like whimsical things? Do they like color?
What would you decide what we like judging from what we’re wearing?
Oh you know, I feel like I would have to go into more of your closet. What I also look for are the little things that you may never wear. I had a client who had a vest made out of a metal mesh that she had from the seventies. It was amazing and she loved it. She said, “I just can’t get rid of it but …” So I custom-designed a chandelier out of the same material for her entry.
A quirky 1950's Italian ceramic vase and handmade ceramic shell are arranged atop the 1960's mirrored sofa table.
Daun's window sills are filled with vintage architectural glass purchased from Damon Crain's Culture Object.
A portrait of Abe Lincoln by Hunt Slonem hangs in a corner of the living room.
In the dining area, Philippe Stark Ghost chairs surround a 1970's table from Venfield. The painting 'Abraham's Peace Plan' is by Hunt Slonem.
A silver tray is with filled with a crystal votive and other objects. The marble-top table is from New Orleans.
A hanging fixture from Venfield hangs over the dining table. Daun chose the practically invisible Ghost chairs and a glass-and-Lucite table to create a light and airy feeling in the dining area.
Looking across the living room towards the open kitchen.
Why didn’t you go into fashion?
I did consider fashion as a major and then I decided that I wanted to do interiors because it interested me a little bit more. There are so many different layers—I know there are layers in fashion too—but with interiors there’s the architecture, the interior design … just a lot of different things. I wanted to learn more about interior design at the time. I was still interested in fashion. I always felt I could relate the one thing to the other.
My problem with what you’re saying is that fashion has become such a disposable thing and I don’t feel interiors should be that way. I still have the chairs I bought thirty years ago. Are interiors more and more disposable too?
I would say that you would make a bigger investment in interior elements and fashion is a bit more fleeting. But I still have some pieces of clothing in my closet that I have had for the last fifteen years and they’re still relevant, depending on how I wear them. With interiors, I always try to give people a very neutral base and you can change accessories.
A planter filled with succulents lines the kitchen countertop.
The open kitchen is tucked into a corner near the front door.
A decorative sea urchin stands next to a Baccarat Buddha.
Daun served us a luscious raspberry mint lemonade.
What advice would you give someone starting out in interior design?
Ohh … what advice would I give them? [laughs] Okay … I don’t want to say something clichéd here, you know [mocking] “Go for your dreams! … Work hard!” [laughs]
You have to really love it. If you’re doing it for a glamour career, you’re in the wrong business.
What’s involved in paying your dues? What are the shitty jobs that no one wants to do?
You just have to do what it takes. To me it has more to do with how much I vibe with the client than the actual project or space. It’s relations with people … not as much the clients as the contractors that give the headaches. I also remember lugging paint cans on the subway in the freezing, freezing cold. I never really wanted to work for another designer because you don’t really design. You just end up being an AutoCAD monkey.
I don’t even know if I could do AutoCAD anymore.
It seems when you’re released from AutoCAD, you’ve finally made it.
In the bedroom hall, guitars belonging to Daun's husband, Bryan Curry, are neatly arranged on the wall.
'Love' by artist Peter Tunney hangs above a custom walnut headboard. The Danish bedside tables are from ABC Carpet & Home.
A bench from John Salibello Antiques stands atop an area rug from The Rug Company.
Small objects: a rock crystal, a brass key and a small bowl storing a necklace arranged upon pair of shagreen trays by R&Y Augousti.
You’re one of five kids, is that right? And you grew up in Florida. Did you always want to live in New York?
I didn’t. I wanted to live in California. How I ended up here is a little bit of a story. My sister was going to Smith and she was going to do an internship here for the summer. She said that I should come and live with her over the summer. I had just broken up with my boyfriend and got my heart broken for the first time. I had been here one time and I didn’t like it. But I thought, “Oh, what’s a summer?” So I actually ended up getting really interested in this holistic nutrition program and I studied there for a year and got my degree as a holistic health counselor. Right after that, September 11th happened. It made me think, “What do I want to do with my life? What do I really want to do?” And it was design.
What do your parents do in Florida?
Well when I grew up they opened and operated a bottling factory and a greenhouse. They also made terrariums and home accessories, macramé and so on. Then they sold that business and they bought a big plot of land in north Florida and started organic farming in the seventies.
Oh, they’re hippies!
Big time … they’re still hippies.
A painting by Hunt Slonem hangs between the bedroom windows. The wallpaper is by David Roos.
A corner bookcase is filled with books, art and objects.
Standing atop the bedroom windowsill is a 1930's brass bowl, a vintage architectural glass decanter and a box that was a gift from Daun's husband Bryan.
Daun often works from her home office set up in a corner of her bedroom. The desk is from Venfield and the chair was purchased on 1stdibs. Displayed on the wall shelves above the desk is a painting by Hunt Slonem and more vintage architectural glass.
Do your hippie origins explain the spelling of your name?
Yes! My dad is a really early riser and he wanted to name me Dawn and my mom didn’t like the name. She gave in but she wanted to make it different.
How did them being hippies affect you?
Um … they’re just very open and they accept everybody and everything. I guess they just supported all their kids in anything they ever wanted to do. That’s part of the influence but the other part of the influence is that even though I didn’t grow up with a very fancy lifestyle, my parents were always interested in architecture and we built our own house. My dad physically built the house with some contractors. It was always about the details. It’s really quite beautiful—a lot of intricate woodwork. They’re retired now but my dad just sent us a big box of organic vegetables and they have honeybees and they make organic honey.
Daun filled three 'inspiration boards' with family photos and other memorabilia that spark her creativity.
It doesn’t really sound as though they’re hippies—they sound very disciplined and hardworking.
Right … there’s something of a stigma to the idea of hippies, that they’re like, lazy … or like the Occupy Wall Street people and so on. My parents are very, very educated. My mother is actually an early childhood development specialist. She has helped me tremendously in being a mother.
What sort of advice has she given you?
It’s little things. Like the way that you talk to your children. At the playground you’ll hear parents say, “Please don’t hit! Please don’t throw rocks!” And my mom says, “No, don’t use the word ‘please’ because then you’re making it a request.”
And she definitely doesn’t believe in TV.
The walls of Daun's daughter Lyla's room are covered with paintings of bunnies by friend and artist Hunt Slonem.
A whimsical ceiling fixture 'Lilibet' by Nigel Coates from Ylighting.com hangs above a bright pink rocking chair. The crib is by Stokke.
The wallpaper 'Circus' is by Catherine Martin.
Custom armoires provide much needed storage for clothes and toys.
Lyla's crib is filled with favorite stuffed animals including an elephant from China and a doll from a trip to Jamaica.
A pink leather Moroccan pouf and an ikat patterned pillow are scattered atop a rug from Dwell Baby.
So we normally ask people what they do when they stop working and relax but if you have three year-old daughter …
Relax?!! [laughs loud and long] … I don’t make it past 9:30 at night.