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Meet Interior Designer Vanessa De Vargas, Turquoise

I think it’s important for a blog showcasing design to actually interview interior designers; give some credit to those that create all these beautiful spaces! As an interior design consultant myself, my goal is to demystify design by reaching out to some of those in the design community that I respect so that you can meet them and learn more about the ‘day in the life of’… Starting with Vanessa De Vargas the talent behind Turquoise in LA. If the name sounds familiar, you may know her as the design diva who writes for Apartment Therapy LA.


decor8: Hi Vanessa! We’re so happy you’re here to talk interior design with us today. Can you please tell us about Turquoise – both your high-end vintage line as well as your design practice?
turquoise: Turquoise is my interior/furniture design firm, located in Venice Beach, CA. I design residential projects – which would probably be best described as an eclectic mix of vintage and modern. I would love to have an opportunity to cross over into commercial spaces and design a retail store or a restaurant. My furniture line is a mix of vintage items from all eras that I revamp by re-lacquering or reupholstering to make new again. I sell my vintage furniture line to other interior designers and private parties. I also consign my line with Woodson and Rummerfield?s, Heather O? Donovan, and Rumba ? in LA. I am always on the hunt for the next great vintage piece to revamp. I am constantly challenged by my interior design clients and feel very lucky to have the balance of my design work and my furniture design projects. Everyday is different and I never know what the day may bring.

decor8: How did you select the name, Turquoise?
turquoise: I selected Turquoise as my company name since my father?s side of the family is from New Mexico. I have spent many holidays and vacations in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and also lived there for a few years. I can?t tell you how many pieces of turquoise jewelry I have owned throughout my life. I also chose the name because it truly is my favorite color!

decor8: Tell us about your background, training, work experience, etc.
turquoise: I studied at UCLA?s interior design extension program. While I was in school I landed a job working for Shannon Shapiro Design/Moth Design where I learned about interior design and lamp manufacturing. I then spent an additional year assisting several other interior designers to which I then opened my own firm.

decor8: You mentioned earlier that you’re in Venice Beach, what do you dislike/like about it there?
turquoise: Yes, I am based in Venice Beach, which is probably not the best place to live if you are a designer. Most of the showrooms and stores are at least 30-40 minutes away and my vendors are at least 45 minutes away and with all the traffic in LA it really doesn?t help! But for me it works ? it?s nice to leave the city and go to my beach cottage where it?s quiet and peaceful, away from the busy city. When I come home to work, it really doesn?t feel like work.

decor8: I know you also contribute regularly to AT LA. How did you land that gig and what are some things that you enjoy about it?
turquoise: I guess I landed the gig from always contributing comments to the blog. I was also suggesting stores and places for other readers to visit. Maxwell and Alec both noticed my participation on the blog and one day I got an email from Maxwell asking me to join the team. Because of my knowledge of stores and designers we came up with some blog topics that included interviews of designers, fun and innovative stores that the readers would enjoy learning about, and posting my design projects.

decor8: Have you ever considered having your own blog? Do you read blogs other than AT? What value do you personally see in design blogs?
turquoise: I would love to have my own blog, I just wish I had the time to always update one. I read your blog decor8, of course AT-LA and NY, shelterrific, happy mundane, and design sponge. I find SO much information that I learn about when I read other blogs. There is one person I cannot think of her name for the life of me that has this great blog with all these fab interior design photos of Jonathan Adler. I always find some design inspiration when I look on other blogs.

decor8: I’ve not heard of the Jonathan Adler blog… (Readers, do you know what Vanessa is referring to?) When did you know that you wanted to be a designer?
turquoise: I guess when I was a little girl, I would constantly change my room around moving furniture, painting items different colors, taking things from other rooms and putting them in my room. But when I actually decided to become a designer is when I left my high paying entertainment job a few years ago. I worked as a commercial/music video agent for cameraman, production designers, and costume designers. I was always interested in design and it just so happened it was the right time for me to change profession.

decor8: Do you have a particular design style that you prefer, if so, what is it and why do you prefer it?
turquoise: Mixing all eras together. I don?t like matchie matchie rooms. Spaces must have a life of their own and must represent the client. I can suggest colors and furniture, but at the end of the day I don?t live in these rooms and must reflect the owner.

decor8: How do promote your business?
turquoise: Constantly meeting new people, attending openings and trade shows, emailing and keeping in touch with previous clients and designers.

decor8: Tell us about your best client experience ever?
turquoise: Knock on wood, all my client experiences have been the best. I am always learning and being challenged everyday. If I had clients that said everything to what I showed them I would be a very bored designer my job would be easy. I have always said that each interior design project is a collaborative experience between designer and client.

decor8: Where do you find inspiration? Other designers? Places? Magazines?
turquoise: Old vintage interior design books and magazines.

decor8: Do you attend conferences? shows? Which ones?
turquoise: I try to attend any store openings or showroom parties. I also attend West week at the Pacific Design Center here in LA and recently I went to the Las Vegas Market show, Caboom and just attended the LA Modernism Show.

decor8: Who are some of your favorite designers?
turquoise: Betsy Burnham, Ron Woodson and Jamie Rummerfield, Molly Luetkemeyer, Kelly Wearstler, Jill Dupre and Michael Berman.

decor8: Oh, I love Betsy Bernham – her rooms are heaven! Michael Berman has some beautiful furniture, too. I think his four poster beds are so neat. I can tell you have exceptional taste… As a designer, what do you first notice when you step into someones home?
turquoise: Paint colors and furniture layout.

decor8: I often notice layout first. When I was in the corporate world, my colleagues called me “Space Queen” because I was so fixed on layout – a good floor plan is everything. You mentioned paint also, what is your favorite paint color and why (let me guess, it’s turquoise?).
turquoise: My favorite paint color is actually light grey- it works with most interiors and I am so tired of brown, beiges and taupe ? grey is the new brown.

decor8: Yes, grey is lovely – but many have a difficult time selecting the correct grey for thier space. Most of my clients seem to have an easier time selecting a good beige vs. a good grey! Okay, so we’ve come to the part of our interview where I’ll just ramble off random questions and you play along… First up, if money were no obstacle, where would live and why?
turquoise: I would live in Malibu in a huge modern home, since I love the ocean.

decor8: Tell us the best way to spend a Saturday in Venice Beach.
turquoise: If the weather is beautiful and clear I will take my bike down to the beach and read design magazines. Maybe hit some hardware stores, go vintage shopping, maybe check out a flea market or some local yard sales.

decor8: And finally, since Elle Decor does it, I’ll ask you, what are ten things that you can’t live without?
turquoise: bonne bell mocha mouse lip gloss, dance music, my Mac laptop, sopapillias, hot New Mexican green chili, cheap sunglasses, antibacterial hand cleaners, sushi, Gruet Champagne and my Volvo wagon.

Vanessa, thank you for stopping by decor8 and saying hello – we really appreciated having an Interior Designer stopping by to talk to us today. Best wishes in your career, and the next time I’m out in LA, I’m stopping by your store to say hello!

(images from vanessa de vargas.)

Posted by decor8 in designers, interviews on May 08, 2006

Your comments...

  1. Anonymous commented
    May 8th, 2006 at 8:24pm

    I’ve always wondered how much it would cost to have an interior designer redo an average living room. $500? $10,000? Do normal people on normal salaries use interior designers (or are they really more for the rich)? Would an interior designer ever pick stuff from ikea, or is it all from places at dwr prices and higher?

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  2. Anonymous commented
    May 9th, 2006 at 12:35am

    i think it really depends on the designer- what type of clientelle they want to work with- some have no problem integrating Ikea, etc.. and working with your budget- others are strictly showroom and custom fixtures only…

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  3. decor8 commented
    May 9th, 2006 at 12:50am

    Speaking from my own professional experience as a design consultant, I’ve never had a client tell me that I can spend whatever I want on the project. Gosh, I’m waiting for the day when I work for someone like that – and I assume that I’ll be waiting a very long time! I ALWAYS have a strict budget to work within. Most clients hire designers to SAVE money – they know a designer has a trained eye to be able to pull together the room without making expensive mistakes.

    There are many designers that have no problem working for clients on an extreme budget – meaning, clients that only can afford $500 sofas and very basic window treatments (under $100), etc. However, I tend to shy away from purchasing key items at discount chains, I help clients see the importance of purchasing a well made sofa (for instance) and then incorporating less expensive extras (side tables and lighting, etc) to fill the space. I don’t think you have to spend $400 on a “well made lamp”. You can spend $40 at Target on a great lamp and $1500 on a beautiful sofa from room + board or at a mitchell gold sale and still stay within your budget.

    Designers do range – some charge around $150 hrly, others, much more. Then, there are designers that charge by the job ($3000-5000 per room) and some that are fresh out of design school and charge $30-40 hrly. If I’m working on a complete redesign, my rates are different than when I’m just going into someone’s house for 2-3 hours to simply consult with them – move things around, give them some styling tips, turn them on to some great resources, etc. Also, if I take my clients shopping, I charge by the hour.

    If you have any more q’s, comment below and I’ll do my best to answer you!

    Holly

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  4. DRJ commented
    July 10th, 2006 at 12:30am

    Your blog is an excellent interior design resource! We found this interview to be very inspiring. We are a young couple trying our best to build a small sustainable, green and eco-friendly home in the downtown core of oil city Calgary, Canada. We are also blogging our way through the whole experience! It may be an eco-friendly home, but we want it to look the best that it can.

    We are now at the stage where we have to start thinking about interior design choices. This includes our own research looking through stacks of decorators catalog and talking to interior design professionals in calgary. Your site has definitely given us some helpful advice. Please stop by and take a peek at http://www.ramsayhome.com.

    -R & M Johnston

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  5. Simon commented
    October 28th, 2006 at 4:55pm

    My brother is a interior designer in London. They charge 1000’s to redo an average living room.
    It all depends on what you want.

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  6. Anonymous commented
    June 2nd, 2007 at 3:17pm

    I can’t comment on the cost in the US but I guess we have similar issues here in the UK.

    Personally I think that Lifestyle TV shows have given many people the (false) idea that they can revamp a room in an hour & on a shoestring budget. The TV shows never factor in cost of labour and running a business when they quote the budgets.

    I think we can safely say that we’ve only had one client for whom budget was no obstacle but then we applied brakes on the spending.

    I think the most important issue about budgets is honesty from the client. There is no point a designer producing a scheme that a client eventually can’t afford.

    The price range for redoing a room is huge – just for interest remember that commonly available fabrics range from ?10/m to over ?100/m before they are made into anything! The same is true of flooring.

    All the best

    Bronia

    Bronia Suszczenia is co-founder and Creative Director of Yorkshire interior design company Art from the Start Ltd based in York, England.

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  7. sherlock commented
    February 27th, 2008 at 10:48am

    This is the best resource of Interior design information i’ve found. Top blogging! I hope you don’t mind but i’m going to use some of your stuff in a uni project

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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