Fall Design Inspiration 2021

Photo courtesy of @schumacher1889 

Giving Thanks 

It is impossible to deny that Fall is in full bloom with welcoming bright golds, warm oranges, and bittersweet reds!

A time of appreciation. Many of us are thankful for our health. With a focus on gratitude, we strengthen our spirits and ability to grow.

We are grateful for each of you. Without our members sharing their stories of inspiration and success, we wouldn't be where we are today. 

In this month's article, we feature a New York native turned Southerner who shares that her dreams came true when she became a designer. Follow Tula's inspirational journey below.

Sprinkled with Glitter! Do you "LOVE" Christmas decorating? Maybe it's time to consider sharing that passion as a part of your business services? Scroll down for inspirational designers who have added "Holiday Decorating" as a service.

Stay tuned! Next month, we will announce an insurance and risk management program strategically developed to service interior designers. This offer will be a unique opportunity to sign up with an insurance company that understands your business needs. We have been working tirelessly to offer this program to you! Our DSA team can not wait to share this opportunity.

We are wishing you all a Happy Fall!
Designer Society of America 

“My Dream Actually Came True”

Tula Summerford shares how her dream to become a world-traveling interior designer is a reality for her today.

By Lindsay Field Penticuff

Tula Summerford, Owner, Designer, and Founder of Design by Tula headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., remembers loving all things fashion while growing up in Jamaica Queens, N.Y.

“When you live in New York, you’re surrounded by fashion. Some people ignore it, and some people embrace it, and I definitely embraced it. My mother was not a fashionista by any means, but fashion ignited the passion in me to just love fabrics. From there, came the color, patterns, and prints.”

For Tula Summerford, fabric, color, patterns, and prints are just a part of her DNA.
“My mother would tell me that from a young child that I just loved colors, fabrics and prints,” shares Summerford, who was born and raised in Jamaica Queens, N.Y. “
Summerford attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan. She majored in textile technology, with a desire to learn more about textiles and fabrics. She ended up working in the Garment District designing fabrics.

“It was the most fabulous time to be in the Garment District because it was the late 80s and the industry was booming,” Summerford recalls. “It’s much like you see in the old movies with people walking around with racks of clothes in the streets. It was such an amazing time to be in the industry. It’s amazing now, just different.”

So how did a New York City gal end up in the South?
The answer is love. While working for Westwood Incorporated in New England, one of the largest fabric suppliers in our country, she was tasked with traveling to the various plants to make sure the colors, patterns,and textiles were being manufactured properly.

“I went down to Edenton, N.C., a very small town about two hours from Raleigh, to visit one of the plants and that’s where I met my husband,” Summerford says. “He had just transferred there from Florida. We met, dated for a year long-distance and that was that. I moved down here in 1984.”

She worked remotely for her New York Company for years in North Carolina before starting Design by Tula in 2008, an interior design firm known for creating rooms that are richly layered with vibrant color, patterned fabrics, and treasured objects from around the world.

Since starting her own company, Summerford says she’s worked on a number of great projects throughout the years, but one of her personal favorites is an ongoing project at a home in Pinehurst, N.C., that she started last year.

“I went in to freshen up their dining room and have been working on it ever since,” she says. “It’s a huge home, almost 10,000 square feet, but the homeowner wasn’t afraid to break the mold and be bold with color, and that’s what has made all the difference.”
And if you’re wondering what Summerford’s favorite color to work with is, it’s black.
“Black is timeless and classic. It never goes out of style. In New York, everybody wears black," Summerford says. “I wear black a lot, but I wear it with pops of color. Black is my go-to color in my personal life, and I like to incorporate black in many of my projects.”

She loves layering blacks with solid brights in a design space, as she believes it’s one of the more creative ways to add texture to a space while designing a beautiful backdrop in any home.

“People are often afraid of color, and they want to paint everything white and have white sofas and white chairs and white carpeting, which is beautiful when it’s layered accordingly and you’re incorporating some art,” she says. “But I say, let’s throw in some black. Maybe do the trim in black and a few black velvet chairs, or black velvet pillows. Because honestly, in our industry when people think of neutrals, they think of beige, ivory, shades of white, and taupes, but black and grey are also shades of neutrals. All those hues have quite a few undertones. And black goes with every color—blue, orange, green, red, pink, yellow—just like you can with any true neutral color.”

Summerford’s go-to bright color, however, is cobalt blue. “It’s a fun color to incorporate when people really want color, and not just black and white. A lot of clients come to me and say they like blues or navies, so I’ll show them patterns and fabrics with various shades of blue and they like the brightness and the deepness of the cobalt blue. It does pop a lot more than the navy or black.”

She adds that she doesn’t believe there are any rules when incorporating color into space either. “I’m using every color you can think of on the walls, trim, ceiling, and all in one color. It doesn’t make the room look smaller like many people think.”

Summerford’s advice for aspiring designers?

“As a designer, you have to push your clients a little bit to at least look at other options, and once they get the idea and learn to trust you, then they do it, and they are always happy,” she says.
Summerford also mentions that becoming an interior designer isn’t just a profession people should think they can do overnight. “When you start getting into the nitty-gritty of it, working with designers and architects, you better know what you’re doing. You have to have some kind of educational background, even if you have a great eye.

“It doesn’t have to be a four-year degree, but you need to get the education from whatever school of your choice. And/or you better go work for a design company or design firm and see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s not all fame and glamour. And another thing that’s really important is getting a business background. Make sure you take business classes, especially now with technology … and if the goal is to own your own business down the road.”
And she knows that these background skills and education work first-hand, because of her personal experiences.
She looks back and thanks God for the opportunity to work in textiles and work at Westwood Incorporated, which is what eventually led her down South.
“I feel like I just took the right path each time.
I was also very open-minded, and I listened to people. My mentor was my boss, Jack Phillips, who is no longer with us. He was the one who was traveling to France every year, to preview the forecast of styles and colors. He would go and I would tell myself, ‘One day, I want to do that.’ And now I get to go every year, pre-COVID-19. I go there and I think of him.
For me, that was a dream, and my dream actually came true!” concludes Summerford.
Tula in Paris

Holiday Decorating: Should You Add It To Your Service Menu? 

Image- Francis Toumbakaris 

Photo Credit © Matthew Raney and Nikola Strbac

By Rachel Leck

Christmas decorating, we all know someone who loves it, like really, REALLY loves it. You know that person with the tree that could inspire fairytales, whose tablescapes could warm old Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart? Maybe that person, is you? Well, my elf in training, it’s time to consider making that passion a part of your business!  Whether you market it as seasonal home staging, holiday interior design, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa decorating, it's a service that’s hot.  Clients long to celebrate the season after a year plus of the social shutdown. DSA got two holiday-decorating designers to spill the eggnog on what it’s like to get paid to deck the halls.

Getting Started 

Just like the plot of every classic Christmas movie, the best things seem to happen purely by chance, and this was the case for designer Farrha Hyman owner of MOD Interiors. Twelve years ago, she was working on a whole home renovation when her client made a seemingly simple request, “‘Can you help us just make the house look a little more festive?’... famous last words,” laughs Farrha. Thus began the Colleyville, Texas-based designer’s adventures in holiday decorating. 
“I most enjoy transforming people's homes in a day to this magical place where they will make lasting memories with their friends and family”
Farrha Hyman, MOD Interiors 

For those with an existing client base, marketing to customers who already appreciate your vision is a no-brainer, and it can turn into annual work. It can be as easy as adding a holiday section to your existing website and promoting this new endeavor on your socials.  Something as simple as staging a Christmasy tablescape or posting a festive flat on Instagram can get the sleigh bells (and phone) ringing. For those of us leading less cinematic lives or lacking a client base, Farrha advises new designers “ find someone who has done it and ask them to mentor them and help them create a plan for their business.” Instagram @modinteriorsonline 

After a less than festive 2020 holiday season, Farrha sees new trends and plenty of excitement in 2021, “Some people are opting to do smaller get-togethers where they can still be mindful of social distancing, but others are going all out and throwing really fabulous parties, and they're choosing to do it outdoors, so they're decorating their outdoors. If nothing else, last year has reminded us how important it is that we connect and enjoy life!” Farrha


Distilled to its essence, Christmas decor is the ultimate in emotional design. Twinkling lights intermingle with our fondest childhood memories resulting in an urge to create a (temporary) wonder space. On paper, does anyone really need a towering evergreen installed in their living room for a month? No, but in reality, so many could not fathom going thru the season without that and much, much more. 

Francis Toumbakaris, Founder and Lead Interior Designer of New York City-based Francis Interiors understands this implicitly and doesn’t just provide decorated trees; instead, he creates entire bespoke thematic worlds for clients who happily pay upwards of $5000 each for his custom evergreens. Francis, a former ballet dancer, says he finds design inspiration “in the arts and the environment our decor lives in.” 

His seasonal portfolio is a diverse cultured forest ranging from rainbow and unicorn pride-themed trees to a tree inspired by the 1877 novel Anna Karenina by Russian author Leo Tolstoy.  These one-of-a-kind holiday creations elicit child-like awe at first glance and make fans of even the most jaded with their clever, multilayered theatrical approach. Frances advises, “When it comes to holiday decor and Christmas trees, go as big and as flamboyant as possible and then some.  When you think you'll have enough ornaments, I guarantee you they are not enough. So, the more, the better.”

Christmas Comes But Once a Year 

Planning is crucial, and it is essential to begin the process early to ensure everything runs smoothly. Farrha reveals, “August, that's when we usually like to get with our clients to decide on the theme, colors, and discuss whatever it is that they're wanting to do for the holiday.” Francis adds, “Our installations can typically take from a day, up to three days depending on how are we spreading inside the home if it's just the trees typically a day if it's more areas in the house then we need additional time.”

Any designer knows delays pop up even in the most carefully organized project, but when you’re dealing with such a short and time-specific window, this takes on a whole new meaning. Factor in this year’s Grinch (i.e., omnipresent supply chain issues), and the holiday stress can mount quickly. Francis reveals,” Right now, it's so hard with shipping and items being in stock.” He advises designers, “Know that at the end of the year is something that is extremely time-consuming as you are trying to wrap up and meet certain targets. Anything extra and fun like this shouldn't take away from the focus of the main core of the business.” 

 “I love being covered in Glitter for a month! If you do this, you WILL. It’s too much running around and rather stressful, so make sure you charge for your time.” Francis 

Instagram: @francisinteriors