“My parents are both artists. We were on their third home (and third kid) when I was born. Rather than a fixer-upper, they bought this new home unfinished and installed all finishes on their own. There were always projects going on around the house, inside and out. We had a three-story castle with a bridge and moat as our playhouse! 43 years down the road and three owners later, the home remains in almost the exact condition—with most design elements the same as when we sold it in 1972. Even the drapes. My Dad moved us out to Los Angeles to pursue his music, flip houses and develop his construction business. We were his helpers…and occasional back up singers.”
Friend of a Friend: How do you approach every project?
Don Stewart: Intuitively. Openly. I listen, observe, take in the architecture… then quietly ask the house what it wants to be. Then I Don-shui my way through the process.
FOAF: Is your approach more scientific or artistic?
DS: It’s visceral. How are my clients reacting to their space? How am I? How does it make me feel? How do we want it to feel? The end goal should be reflective of my client’s personality and lifestyle. That’s what I’m aiming for anyway.
I’ve heard descriptions like ‘masculine’, ‘organic-rustic-warm modern’… it really depends on the project, but I’m always striving for a balance between masculine and feminine, hard and soft, textured and smooth. If the architecture is hardline angular, I’m going to be pulling in curves and softness in bold and subtle ways.
FOAF: Where do you draw inspiration from?
DS: A year or so ago I started posting images on Instagram for fun. Who knew that I would draw so much inspiration from it today? I can get glimpses of current design magazines, designers, artists, showrooms and craftspeople. We’ve found some amazing pieces for current projects as well… I even shop on Instagram!
FOAF: Where are some of your favorite places to interior shop?
DS: Instagram! Otherwise, 1st Dibs, Blackman Cruz, Siglo Moderno, AEDesign on Pico, Antiques Moderne, Sputnik in Dallas, and Canvas in NYC.
FOAF: What tips do you have for people who want to freshen up their space for spring?
DS: Remove everything small, decorative, etc. Then, after a thorough spring cleaning, return to the space [with a fresh look]. It’s a subtle thing, like getting a new haircut. It might look pretty much the same when you are through but the energy is newer and now-er.
FOAF: What is your dream project?
DS: I feel lucky and fortunate to be able to transform spaces for some pretty amazing people. I don’t mean to sound gushy, but all of my projects have been pretty dreamy. A project where your clients allow you to truly create for them, with them too, but ultimately for them. Meanwhile, didn’t Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris recently pick up a new spot? ;)
Images of Chrissy and John Legend's home in New York City, courtesy of Architectural Digest.