In his own words: “People have a misconception that a designer is going to make them throw out their existing decor and start from scratch. This doesn’t have to be the case.”
Sandalwood elephants from India. Crystal flutes from your wedding. Your grandmother’s mirror from Murano. Mementos represent special moments and, with some ingenuity, can be woven into a fresh room design. “Many people want a home that tells their story and showcases heirlooms, collectibles and items of sentimental value,” Los Angeles interior designer Aaron B Duke says. The owner of his namesake company, Duke believes a new look doesn’t have to mean a loss of old memories.
Creating a lifestyle. Duke crafts a visual design story for his clients, drawing inspiration from art, fashion, history and travel. “It isn’t just about designing a room, it’s about creating a lifestyle,” he says. “The lifestyle images create a framework for the senses, and it’s here where I begin to layer architectural finishes, lighting design, furniture, fabrics, art and accessories.” This curated layering produces the lifestyle of homeowners’ dreams, Duke says.
A new beginning. Duke never thought he’d be an interior designer until he signed up for a design class on a whim at age 24. “I remember my professor started the class sharing that designers created not only homes but also hotels, restaurants, churches, offices and public buildings,” he says. “The lightbulb went off for me.” He realized that interior designers are storytellers who have an impact on every aspect of our lives.
Want to refresh your home but can’t part with your treasures?
Read on to learn how to blend them into your new room design.
1. Display Prized Possessions. If you have pieces that are significant to you, work with your designer to find a way to display them. For example, this home in West Hollywood is brimming with stories. “Each piece was carefully curated and together represent a lifetime of collecting one-of-a-kind pieces from around the world,” Duke says.
Many of the mementos are from a heralded design professional. “It is a timeline of his life,” Duke says. “I wanted to create vignettes of his treasures around the home.” He placed items in the bay window and on a large oval table, and turned a porcelain urn from a Paris flea market into a lamp.
2. Be Open to Placement Options. Although it’s good to display your prized possessions, don’t get too attached to the idea of placing them in a specific room or in a certain way. “You can always move furniture to other parts of your home and completely change the use and function,” Duke says.
A Nichols Canyon client wanted to keep her Italian leather sofa, but it was too expansive for her living room. “I split the large sectional into two pieces and placed the coffee table in the middle,” Duke says. “This not only provided plenty of seating for entertaining, but also a place for the client to lounge.”
3. Add Architectural Details. A new room design doesn’t necessarily mean you have to scrap your old furniture. “Find ways to highlight the interior architecture to make it feel as though those pieces of furniture were intended to be there,” Duke says.
A Pasadena client wanted to incorporate his dining set and sideboard into his new residence using a “New York in California” vibe. “Working within the confines of the existing furniture, we were able to create an elegant dining room by changing the environment around it,” Duke says. “I layered multiple pieces of crown molding to add interest, and designed wood paneling to showcase the hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper.”
Los Angeles Design Firm Aaron B Duke was featured in this spotlight on Houzz.com in August of this year.