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Plenty of designers talk the talk when it comes to embracing color, but Dana Gibson is one of the few who truly walk the walk — and it’s as bright as the yellow brick road. A passionate advocate for incorporating color everywhere (and embracing the joy it brings), Gibson is also known for modernizing traditional design elements like ikats and porcelain with vibrant splashes of pink, yellow, and cyan.

We spoke with the color maven about how her style has evolved in the years since her collections first lined the shelves of tastemaking department stores like Henri Bendel and Neiman Marcus, and where things are going next. See what she had to say, and be sure to shop her vivid pieces on Chairish to bring a touch of that same joie de vivre home with you.

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Dana Gibson
Photo: Kip Dawkins Photography

You’re known for your use of colorful motifs and unusual pairings in your home decor products. How did that develop? And is there one motif or pattern you’re really loving these days?

I love color and always have — it adds life to a room. It’s perky and bright and makes you feel alive. Pattern on pattern is also intriguing to me. If you look at Turkish design and tapestries, the artist “colors” the forms and figures with a repeating pattern. Pattern has always been a big interest of mine and I find it comforting.  

Has your style changed over time, and if so, how?

I used to be more cottagey and rustic. I still love a worn surface and primitive bench or two. But I‘ve graduated to a look that evokes a grander lifestyle. Filigree, gilding, and carved wood mixed with rustic basics are more where I am now. I still like to throw in some glamour like a Lucite desk and something unexpected to make a space more exciting.

 How do you decide the subjects for your art? What inspires your artwork?

I often choose everyday objects as subjects. These are the items that can be found around the house, like a vase or even a view. The tradition of still-life painting is based on the same principle.

Dana Gibson
Photo: Gordon Gregory Photography

 What was your creative process and design philosophy when you created your upholstery line?

I wanted the different components to mix and match. The settee upholstered in River Kwai looks great with the Green Zebra ottoman. The ottomans make great “tables” or occasional seating so functionality was very important. Adding a hint of humor, like the buggy stools, to a more sedate or serious setting is what the collection is all about.

Most of your decor pieces straddle both functionality and beauty, like pillows, lamps, and trays. What made you gravitate towards these items?

Making a beautiful item that you can use has always appealed to me. I was just thinking about how accent pillows are so versatile. Pillows add comfort and softness to a room but they also behave as visual stimuli, like art. A pink pillow on a white sofa is an exclamation point. It’s loud (in a good way) and makes a statement.

Of your items, is there an ideal gift that you would suggest?

My bamboo pen cups are great. The bamboo collection in general is nice to give as a gift because it nods to a gilded Hollywood revival-type era. The pieces are high-style and dressy but also simple in design. That can be said about the bamboo pendants or lanterns as well. They are classic regardless of the receiver’s personal style.

Which kinds of pieces are selling right now? 

I see a lot of cachepots, ginger jars, and lighting going out the door. People may be staring at bare shelves or they are inspired by the maximalist movement to double up on their collections. People seem to have more time to solve the final piece of the decor puzzle, which is accessories.

Dana Gibson
Photo: Gordon Gregory Photography

What kinds of trends are you seeing in the vintage market these days?

I’m noticing modern prints and abstract paintings sharing space with period furniture. I’d like to see more Gustavian furniture in the marketplace, as well. Folk-painted wood furniture, whether from Germany, Sweden, or Mexico, is always a happy find.

 Is it important to have a cohesive assortment of vintage items? Why or why not?   

I think a mix of furniture periods is fine, unless you live in a museum! Nowadays, the mix is what it’s all about. Adding a single vintage or period piece adds depth to a room. Even if the entire room is upholstered in white linen, how beautiful would a painted blue Scandinavian chest be? It gives the room character and individuality. That’s extremely important when outfitting the home.

Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have?

What I really want is a verdant tapestry from Belgium. I’ve seen some but they are quite an investment!

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

My sister said, “don’t worry if you’re caught in the grocery store wearing your grubby work clothes.” I try to dress better now, but being an artist is who I am.

Dana Gibson
Photo: Gordon Gregory Photography

A Few More Favorites…

Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:

Introduce an unexpected color.

Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:

Rococo mirror

Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:

Use a folk art statue on your coffee table. I have one inherited from my mother — it’s quirky and adds some humor in just the right way.

Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:

Francois Xavier Lalanne was a master at riffing on nature with his designs. He is an icon! He looked like he had so much fun with his pieces.

Favorite decorating cheap thrill:

I found two very tall glass vases at a craft store and put new-growth tree branches in them. It’s so cheap and brings the outdoors in.

Favorite paint color:

Green

Favorite piece of decor in your home:

A brass birdcage music box where the bird chirps when it’s wound. It was my grandmother’s and fits the decor of my dining room.

Favorite design icon from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:

A favorite from the past is Jackie Kennedy Onassis. She had impeccable style, was interested in literature, and had her finger on the pulse of American design. Many of my favorites from her era — Doris Tillett, Sister Parish, and Lily Pulitzer — were on her radar. She reminds me a little of my mother, who notices everything that is beautiful.

Favorite vacation destination (the next time that travel becomes an option):

Mexico or South America

Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:

A vintage basket with some gourmet ingredients

Favorite flower:

Zinnias. All colors. The brighter the better.

Lead photo by Gordon Gregory

July 15, 2020

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