Dylan Farrell of Dylan Farrell Designs recently spoke with us about his life, his work and what inspires each of his projects. Dylan excels in what he describes as a narrative design style—essentially creating a story and a voice for each of client's individually. His projects are a true reflection of the people who live there and are incredibly detail-driven.
Dylan is a native of New York, where he was trained at the renowned Pratt Institute. He came to Australia to work with Thomas Hamel, and his work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Belle, Elle Décor, Veranda, and Vogue Living.
1. When did you first decide to become an interior designer and stylist and how did you get started with your design business?
My father was an architect/designer in NYC, so I was playing at a drafting board from as far back as I can remember — I was assisting with presentation renderings when I was an early teen.
I went off to art school at Pratt institute in Brooklyn, NY and studied industrial design with a focus on furniture and housing as a product — I worked in construction while I was studying to earn money. When I completed my studies, I happened into the field of antiques, working on Broome Street in SoHo, which at the time was one of the design centres of New York.
It was at this position where I had my first dabble into specialised high end decorative interiors work. I worked alongside dozens of design icons in the years that followed. From there opportunity presented itself and I took advantage where appropriate.
This brought me to Australia where I accepted an offer from Thomas Hamel to practice as his Creative Principal — I did this for about 7 years before launching on my own to explore some different paths here in Australia and abroad.
2. What is the most challenging part of your job?
Wearing multiple hats all at the same time. This was especially true when succeeding at the start up stage. You need to design, draw, style, budget, run account, manage, negotiate... and on the hard days, clean, paint, hammer, carry, cry.....however nowadays, I find the hardest part is truly ‘balancing’ the business — having enough work to earn a proper living and house a staff of 9 while not taking on too much business and sacrificing experience and quality. Experience and quality first!
3. Is there an interior design style you favour and do you have your own design aesthetic?
For the first, no — I actually shun the idea of an identifiable design style. We never repeat a delivered concept. Working with clients is challenging and inspiring — we go on a journey toward drawing out the individuality of each person, couple or family that hires us, and we then exemplify the specific uniqueness we discover inside that project. The discovery is exciting — and then we create the toolkit to tell the story we discover. We call this a “narrative style” of design.
As far as an aesthetic, we are slowly becoming known for being shameless about mixing styles, periods, and materials, while all the time maintaining a consistent and edited vision toward a finish. Old, new, color, pattern, monochrome, soft, hard... all just ingredients on a larger singular plate.
4. Who are other interior designers you admire?
In no particular order and off the top of my head... Raphael Navot, India Mahdavi, Mathieu Lehanneur, Gilles and Boissier, Vincent Van Duysen, Pierre Yovanovitch, Steven Gambrel.....
5. What inspires you?
The vastness of possibility. If there is enough time and desire, anything is possible.
We love to take our clients on the journey of what is possible, and they almost always enjoy the process of creating the home as much as having the finished home. This is because rather than simply living amongst anonymous objects, they live amongst stories with which they identify. Every room, object, or perspective has a story based on starting with the possibility that a home is much, much more than the sum of a bunch of purchased parts.
6. What do you think is the essential piece of furniture we should all have in our bedroom?
My first answer makes even me blush! So my second answer is a soothing or calmly engaging artwork. Whether a painting or sculpture, waking and dozing are the best times to meditate on a artwork. It is great for clearing a mind before heading into or out of a dream-state.
7. What key element do we all need for a chic living room?
A gutsy coffee table. It can me monolithic... but then the finish should be a showstopper. The finish can be plain... but the form should be enticing. Or a curated collection of table-like objects to create a central form can do it too... like say 5 petrified wood logs. It sets the precedent for a living room’s style, so do not short change a coffee table, and do not depend on the objects atop the table to do the heavy aesthetic lifting.
8. Do you have a favourite project or story behind a project?
They are all my favourite, if a client asks. But speaking more seriously, we do not take on projects if we are not inspired, so we attempt from the start to draw out an energy that creates a new favourite each time — no duds allowed. If you asked me for a favourite song or movie... I could give you ten or twenty, but deciding on one would be impossible.
Let's Get Personal ........
1. What else are you passionate about besides your work?
Music and the fine arts. I had a late start on my interiors career, because I had a triangular split between music, art and design for most of my previous life (till about 33-ish when I fully committed to interior design). But I still have more than a penchant for fine art and music.
2. What is your most treasured belonging?
A second edition Francisco Goya found at a garage sale in Spain.
3. What's one thing people may not know about you?
During a good part of my late teens and into my mid-20’s in Brooklyn, I was a singer in a progressive industrial rock band and graffiti writer. Toward the end of that time, I made ends meet as a professor of Interior Design at Pratt Institute.
4. In 10 years I'd like to be ....
... healthy and spending more downtime with my wife (and business partner) Nicolette and our two children.
5. What can't you live without?
Red wine (Italian preferred) and my fabrication teams.
Dylan is likely to continue dedicating his time to the experience and the journey of working with clients and the design process. Rather than adhering to one particular style, what makes his work so unique and so respected is that dedication to the client in the personal sense.