Designer Series: Interview with Phyllis Harbinger


New York is home to so many talented Interior Designers, and I'm so pleased to introduce another favourite! 

Phyllis Harbinger, founder and principal of Design Concepts/Interiors, is likely a familiar face!  With appearances on HGTV's Designer's Challenge and Battle on the Block, Phyllis has turned her design talent into an incredible portfolio and brand.

Phyllis shares how she discovered her design talent, her favourite project and what she has in the works!

When did you know you were destined for a career in interior design?
Growing up, I was fortunate to have a large bedroom.  To my Mom's surprise, I must have changed my room around on a quarterly basis to spice things up.  This should have been my first clue that I was meant to be a designer, but it took another 20 years for me to find my calling.
My husband and I purchased a beautiful one bedroom apartment on the Upper East Side.  There were many for sale in the building and some were renovated but pricey.  I saw this one and said, I could make this great.  It was a landmark street and we were on the 4th floor at tree level with Brownstones across the way and lots of southern light.  It was a happy place.  But, the floors were dark, the kitchen counters had sparkles, the kitchen floors were vinyl and the bathroom was a bit of a mess.
Unbeknownst to me, I had an inner voice telling me to have vision.  I could see that it would not take that much time or resources to make this space look great.  We stripped the floors, put in new counters, painted cabinets, reglazed tiles and bathtubs and voila - the space was awesome.

We sold the apartment approximately two years later and made a 50% profit on our investment.  That is almost unheard of in Manhattan real estate.  We were thrilled.  That is when I started to realize that I loved design.  Space planning was fun for me.  That is when I enrolled at The Fashion Institute of Technology and experienced an education that changed my life.

What's inspiring you right now?
Right now, I'm inspired by details.  Architectural details like moldings, drapery details are also exciting.  At a recent Kips Bay Show House, the dining room featured embroidered panels adorned with crystals.  They were incredibly beautiful and I look forward to using an interpretation of this idea on a new project.
What is your most memorable travel destination?
My most favored travel destination is Barcelona, Spain.  I studied there during my college years and it was my first experience on European soil so it holds a special place in my heart.  I was not an Interior Designer back then and yet the beauty of the city, Gaudi's architecture, the influence of Miro and the Catalan people were all incredibly valuable and have influenced my work and the way I live.
What is your preferred room to decorate/design in a home?
I love designing bathrooms.  They are extremely challenging but so rewarding.  There are so many facets of the design - the planning, selecting the fixtures, tiles, wall details, designing the tile layout.  It is wonderful to transform a space so integral to our daily lives.

Do you have a favourite project to date?
My favorite project is a home in West Hampton Beach. The house sits on the ocean dune with views of both the ocean and the bay.  It is a spectacular modern structure with tons of light.

What's the biggest design risk you've taken?
The biggest risk I have taken happened in 2003.  One of my former students recommended me to a friend who was building a 10,000 square foot french Chateau.  Studs and plywood were up but the project required that we design every detail.  I had never had a project of this magnitude but I had a vision for what the house would look like and I knew that I could do a great job for the client.  An entire binder of drawings and details were created for this project.  We designed every detail from the doors to the moldings to custom furniture, closets and built-ins.  The project spanned three years and during that time, I needed to add staff and be present at the job site twice a week.
What has been the greatest lesson since opening your business?
This is a business that is built on details.  Details cannot be overlooked.  You learn something every day.  In design as in life, you cannot be a diva.  You must rely on the expertise of your support crew to have your back and give you good advice.  Many times, you may not wish to hear what they have to say but you must listen and learn.  Our systems have improved significantly after each project as we learn and grow from the knowledge shared with our trades.
What's next for you?
2011 has been devoted thus far to rebranding and marketing.  I am launching my blog complete with my new logo.  The new logo and brand will also appear in the new few weeks on my website, Facebook and Twitter page.  I am also looking forward to taping my first few episodes of a new web-based design show.  Stay tuned!!

 Thank you Phyllis for this great interview!

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails