As the fog of quarantine lifts, designers continue to adapt to the new way of doing business. The good news? Business is booming.
All 50 states are in some phase of reopening, which means people are getting back to business. Many projects that were put on hold during the first wave of COVID-19 are back in progress, and DSA members report that business, although done differently, remained steady during the past three months. Sales are especially strong with existing clients—with clients spending so much time at home, projects they had meant to get to are now a lot more noticeable.
During the peak of the pandemic, enrollment for courses and CEUs are up. Designers and future designers are making a concerted effort to increase their industry knowledge. Some, like New York City-based designer Young Huh, took the opportunity to take a thorough look at their brands and marketing efforts.
Get to know Huh better in this month’s Q&A, where she discusses her creative philosophy, current projects, and much more. What has been working (or not working) for you as the design industry pivots to the “new normal?” What are you doing differently? How are your clients and suppliers adapting? Email us at email@example.com and we’ll share your story with the DSA community.
Natasha Lima-Younts DSA
Designer Society of America
Q&A With Designer Young Huh
By Davina van Buren
At DSA we celebrate the fact that designers come to the industry from all walks of life and pathways. Young Huh is a perfect example.
A Detroit native, Young attended the acclaimed Cranbrook School, a private prep school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan She went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in English from Smith College and a law degree from Fordham University. But it was during an interior design internship that Huh discovered her true calling. She followed her instincts and founded her New York City-based design firm in 2007.
Since then, she’s won several notable awards and accolades, including the 2011 Connecticut Cottages & Gardens Innovation in
Design Award for Interior Design and a spot on Elle Decor’s coveted A-List.
Her work can be seen in the pages of Architectural
Digest, Domino, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Interior Design, Luxe, The New
York Times, Real Simple, The Wall Street Journal and more. We caught up with Huh to discuss her nontraditional path to design, how she’s adapted to doing business during the pandemic, and what’s next for her team.
You practiced law before starting a design career. What advice do you have for designers who may be coming to the industry later in life or from other backgrounds?
The biggest piece of advice I could offer is something my husband told me: don’t let your education be a burden. Being an attorney did not feel right for me, but at some level, I felt obligated given the time and money I’d invested in school. Eventually, I was able to set those feelings aside and, truth be told, law school has helped me quite a bit on the business side of interior design. In broader strokes, allow yourself flexibility and open-mindedness without holding on too much to the past.
How has living in different regions of the U.S. –Detroit, Massachusetts, NYC—influenced your outlook in terms of design?
It is hard to live in Detroit (and go to the Cranbrook School) and not be influenced by the iconic mid-century designers attached to the city—Bertoia, Knoll, Diffrient, Saarinen, etc. Rather than giving me an aesthetic, this shaped how I view furniture: as something that had staying power and that was art, as opposed to being short-lived and disposable. Living in the northeast gave me an appreciation for outdoor spaces, specifically those set within lush gardens, both formal and informal. Ultimately, the most successful interiors meld pieces that span time and place.
You're known for architectural details, surface treatments, and tailored looks. What are some other Young Huh design signatures?
I think all designers at some level work within a certain design language. For me, I never want two things to be overshadowed: the client’s personality and the spirit of the space itself. Often displayed within our work is a mix of classic and modern design principles as well as thoughtful and dynamic use of pattern and color.
Who/what/where inspires you, and why? Describe your design philosophy.
Inspiration is everywhere. Of course, we have direct sources like social media, magazines, and books. But like meditation or yoga, seeking inspiration is a practice and is closely tied to awareness. What’s around you? How can you relate to it? How can you see it differently? It’s a good way to stay in the moment, which is so important these days.
What's your favorite room or home of all time, and why?
It’s simply impossible to answer this question. I’m really intrigued by a “luxe” bohemian sensibility at the moment—like the Lorenzo Mongiardino rooms for Lee Radziwell. It seems with every trip I take I find a new room or home that is my all-time favorite!
How do you decide who/what brands you will partner with on your various projects and collections?
For our residential projects, I’ve been very lucky to establish long-term relationships with amazing artisans and custom furniture makers. With regard to hospitality, we typically pair with vendors that have history, capabilities for custom elements, and a strong logistics team. I think the key is to form partnerships with teams that will work with me, sometimes ad nauseum, to make sure we give the most beautiful product with the best service.
What part of your work do you find the most rewarding? What’s been your most fulfilling design project so far?
There is so much reward in our work. The value of interior design and the beauty we create sometimes gets overlooked. Now, more than ever, our designs are having a monumental effect on families’ wellness, both physically and mentally. One of the biggest payoffs for me is seeing how our work positively impacts our clients’ lives.
What kinds of projects are you currently working on?
We’re currently working on the renovation of a floor-through apartment at the stalagmite tower, 520 Park Ave., the second phase of a hotel project in Turks and Caicos, and office space in downtown Manhattan for a really cool film and storytelling company. Our clients are life-long relationships, and while there may be pauses, the work never really ends.
How do you think the interior design business may look moving forward as a result of our recent collective lifestyle changes due to COVID-19? What positives can designers glean from our current situation?
When construction projects halted, we focused on different things for a few weeks. I mentioned our clients are lifelong relationships and many of them have checked-in with us about little projects they’d like done—definitely a result of spending time at home. As a company, we’ve also turned inward, taking a thorough look at our brand, marketing efforts, and 2-year plan. As it relates to connecting and supporting each other in the industry, I’ve partnered with a few colleagues to work on something I’m very passionate about—more on that in the coming weeks!
What are your hobbies/free time activities?
Yoga, reading, cooking, gardening, travel, Westworld with my family
Name one thing that would surprise people about you.
Let’s make our industry a truly inclusive place. Let’s listen, hard. And let’s map out together where we need to go next—and how we’ll get there. Please join us for a conversation between black designers, moderated by Gail Davis and panelists Carmeon Hamilton, Laura Hodges, Breegan Jane, and Mikel Welch.