inspiration surrounds us-
The Farmer's Daughter Kingstown, R.I.
Autumn is in the air, the breeze that steals the sultry heat of summer precluding the joys of winter!
We have so much to share as we welcome fall—design shows, seminars, and superstars bound to inspire throughout the seasons.
We hope you enjoy this month's dose of inspiration, and you’re invited to join DSA as we celebrate the expansive array of talent in our feature story.
Introducing Jean Liu’s Passion for Art
This month's design superstar evokes passion and balance through art and well-curated interiors. Traveling to the beat of her own drum, find out more about how Jean Liu has combined her two loves—art and design—to create her mark in the world of design. See more below.
High Point Market is right around the corner, so the countdown has begun. Will you be there? If not, stay tuned to next month’s e-newsletter. We'll share market updates and showstoppers from the event being held Oct. 15-20. Don't miss out on the future of design! Not too late to register.
Natasha Lima Younts DSA,
Designer Society of America
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Who are the world’s most influential interior designers, those who have achieved unparalleled success, who radiate exquisite taste, and have come to define the quintessential interior of the 21st century? In the new virtual series ‘Interior Designers: The Legends’ you will meet them.
October 8, 15, 22, 29 – 12 pm EST
November 5, 12, 19 – 12 pm EST
December 3, 6, 10, 17 – 12 pm EST
photo credit Casey Dunn
Passion For ART
Interior Design Has Moved Art to the Forefront
By Lindsay Field Penticuff
At DSA, we were so intrigued by reading Jean Liu’s story in “Designers Today” written by Jane Dagmi / July 2021 Issue - that we wanted to connect with her and learn more, especially about her journey to become a designer. Enjoy our follow-up interview and article conducted and written by DSA writer Lindsay Field Penticuff.
Jean Liu says there are many pieces of art that have moved her, but it was a triptych by Francis Bacon that really stopped her in her tracks.
“The emotion that the work conveys, and the sheer scale and size of it stuck with me for quite some time,” shares Liu, Principal of Jean Liu Designs in Dallas
, Texas. “It was the first time I ever had a strong, emotional response to art. Even though I had admired artwork before, I didn’t know how powerful of an effect it could have until I was standing in front of these gigantic pieces.”
And interestingly enough, it was art that introduced Liu to interior design, because it certainly wasn’t a path she expected to take.
Liu studied foreign services at Georgetown University, followed by earning her master’s in religion at Harvard University. “Foreign services is a very specific degree you decide to study in undergrad,” she shares, “and most of my classmates and friends went on to become attorneys or lobbyists on Capitol Hill.”
She chose to study religion, because she was interested in how it affects politics. But during her last year of grad school, Liu got a call from her family in Dallas, who had been running a business Liu’s late father founded almost 40 years ago.
“My aunt said she was getting ready to retire and that I needed to come back to Dallas and decide what I wanted to do with the business,” says Liu, who adds that the family business manufactures and distributes hard-wired lighting fixtures for big-box retailers like Home Depot, Walmart and Lowes.
“I originally only planned to come for a year and figure out what to do, then I would head back to Boston and New York, which is where I was living at the time,” she says. “Landed in Dallas, and four months later, I met my husband.”
That was in 2002—almost 20 years ago now—and in 2007 Liu founded Jean Liu Design, a full-service interior design firm that specializes in high-end residential and commercial projects. The family business is still up and running, but Liu’s focus now is interior design and working closely with her clients.
She never really looked back
What many people may not know about Liu is that while she may have majored in foreign services and religion in college, she was only about two classes short of earning a minor in art history.
“One of the things I feel like people don’t talk about enough is that if you’re lucky enough to live in Washington, D.C. [where Georgetown is located], all of the galleries are free,” she says. “I really enjoyed my art history courses, but I knew it wasn’t going to be a part of my professional trajectory in any way, shape or form. At least I didn’t think so at the time.”
But what may have seemed like just a hobby at the time has developed into a passion for Liu, and something she integrates in her everyday life.
“When I returned to Dallas, a friend of mine introduced me to someone who works in banking but is an art consultant on the side. I jokingly call him my art trainer,” she shares with a smile. “He’s been instrumental in exposing me to all the aspects of contemporary art.”
Oftentimes, he will send emails with art pieces he just wants Liu to see. “He’s not trying to sell me anything. He just wants me to look at new things. And we’ll have phone and email conversations about what I liked or didn’t like about the work.”
This art friendship has been going on for about a decade now, and it’s helped cultivate her love of art, taking it from a hobby to collecting for Liu.
“I think once I decided to take the plunge into interior design, the art aspect was really moved from the background to the forefront, just because it’s so much a part of how it finishes off a room and the effect it can have on any space,” she says.
Creating a better experience in a designed space
Jean's Design Studio: Where the magic happens!
photo credit: Lisa Petrole
For Liu, she believes that art can help add to the experience someone may have when they first walk into a space she’s designed.
“We normally will finish a room, then talk about art, but I have a couple of clients, where I’m lucky enough to work with existing art collections,” she says. “Those are incredibly special for us, because from the get-go, we know how we can really frame a room or space to make the art seen.”
Whereas, sometimes they’ve designed a really beautiful and functional room for a client, then struggled to find just the right piece of art. “In reality, a client may have already spent the budget for the space on the furniture, so to suggest artwork may or may not be in their budget, or they may have renovation or design fatigue,” she adds. “In those cases, we really feel like the artwork should be able to take a room from what I say is good to great.”
The design is also dictated by the type of art piece. “If it’s a happy piece that has more bright colors in it, we try to make sure the pallet matches. If it’s a moodier piece that’s meant to be a really serious piece, we maybe try to tailor our furnishings and the paint colors around it as well,” she says. “I think it really depends on what the client is bringing to us.”
photo credit Nathan Schroder
But regardless of what the piece is or how a designer has approached the furnishings in a space, the art won’t really matter if it isn’t lit properly. “There’s no reason to have a great piece of work in your house if you’re not going to actually get it in a situation where it can be viewed properly,” Liu adds. “Getting the right kind of light on it is really as important as anything else we do for a client.”
And while her father’s family business is focused more on residential and mass market-type lighting, Liu adds that she thinks that experience reminds her to always be thinking about how light can affect a space or how you can use light to maximize space or mood. “It’s how I’m wired, no pun intended,” she says. “I’m just always thinking about the lighting in a room.”
So, whether you’re already collecting or wanting to collect, Liu encourages you to get out there and see as much as you can. “You’re going to see some great stuff and some stuff that you hate, but it’s all about training your eye and exposing yourself to what’s out there,” she concludes.