Designer Spotlight - David Mucci
Growing up in Stow, MA, David had a hard time being a city kid in a bourgeoise, rural life. Leaving for LA the instant he grabbed his high school diploma, he set out to obtain a degree from USC and a Masters’s from the London School of Economics. After designing and decorating a mid-century modern palace of glass, steel & concrete to within an inch of it’s life, it was time to leave the sun and the heat behind. He looked at the map and Portland beckoned like a verdant siren in the night. In the summer of 2013, he moved and never looked back. David credits his mother with giving him the gift of ‘the eye’ and for showing him the true meaning of good design. Take a deep dive into David’s empire: David Mucci Interior Design.
You’ve designed in Palm Springs before. What makes the market there so unique?
There are just a lot of really educated clients. They know what they want and they are willing to spend what it takes to make it happen. Budgets seem to be a lot more free-flowing. Also, I think people there are willing to take design chances there. It’s a glamorous place and people want to feel like a movie star so they are willing to go there, aesthetically and monetarily.
When starting a project, what focal point do you use to kickstart your process?
The way they LIVE. I want to see their house when it’s messy. I want to see the traffic patterns. I want to see what their habits are. Paper or plastic? Window or aisle? Ketchup or mustard? Speedos or board shorts? Family or bachelor? Form or function? Cerebral or seductive? I’m not there to judge, I am there to get up in their drawers – literally! I want to take in all of their NEEDS before I get to their WANTS. A lot of designers focus on personalities but that can be misleading…I’m not only one person…I’m like 25. I’m like Sybil. Oh no, did I just date myself?
What trend do you wish would never come back and why?
Farmhouse. It’s done to death. We are all going to have Magnolia-branded coffins with ship-lapped interior linings and Magnolia-hued painted urns for our cremains if we keep doing this. It’s at Target for Pete’s sake. Ya basta! I have many friends who like this look/style and are committed to it. We have agreed to disagree on its merits. I just can’t.
What is your favorite space to design and why?
I really like doing media rooms and man caves/she sheds. They are places to party or snuggle into. Great things happen in those spaces and I like to channel that. I love technology and automation and I get to excite clients by showing them pimped out audio gear. I mean, who wouldn’t like a built-in bar in the back of their media room with full window-shade automation linked to the in-wall iPad?
Tell us about your favorite client. What made them such a great client to work with?
Man…so hard to choose! S&B are an amazing couple who make strong, bold decisions and then pay for them immediately No fuss, no muss. We get it DONE. In two years with them, they have never changed their mind – not once. These are the type of clients I can give 21 selections to because they will know it when they see it. It doesn’t go through committee and get revised. Their marriage doesn’t collapse over it. I don’t get 500 text messages questioning their choice. And their taste is SUPERB. They buy things I have no part of and they always work. It’s delicious. I also have to mention S&S. This couple is very close to my heart. They cried when I showed them the design on my iPad…which of course made me cry. It was one of the best moments of my career…to have nailed it to the point where this space will be an heirloom for their family for generations to come. I sat in my car for hours after that’d just felt the gratitude and humility wash over me. It still makes me cry! To have clients who are willing to really make something special and rare happen, in a style completely alien to me, and have gratitude regarding their own ability to afford it…it is just tremendous. I can’t wait to build it!!!
Let’s say you had a client who told you to design any style you want. What would it be? And why?
Modern-glam. Hands down. I love it. I personally don’t like clutter or photos or personal items. I love museum-like spaces that sparkle. I want sheen and architecture to speak to me – not ’stuff’. Like ArtDeco had a baby with Zaha Hadid and Joan Crawford or Rosalind Russell. There is so much noise in my head that I like contemplative spaces that make me feel like Miss Havisham in a Loro Piano cashmere cape. Imagine the tableau: Me sipping a matcha latte; swathed in soft fabrics; thinking big thoughts or reading Tatler magazine with nothing else in the room save a polished concrete table with Malachite inlay; anthracite-textured wallpaper; a blue rose-flower petal acrylic wall and a solitary chair I sit in made entirely of feathers. Heaven! I’ve always wanted to do a whole living room so white that all guests feel compelled to match their outfits to it- the only color being an inappropriate bottle of merlot someone brought. Wow, this makes me feel so tingly to talk about…
If you could design any celebrity house, who would it be and why?
The Kardashian West’s home. When I saw the monochromatic palette they chose, it made me so sad. How can such colorful people (who CREATE for a living, mind you!) marinate themselves in a such beige, taupe, and cream cauldron??!! It’s an appalling mismatch. It doesn’t sing! It should be electric. It should be gorgeous and opulent – bordering on decadent and louche. We should be able to see it from space! I mean honestly, at the end of their lives, are they really going to turn around and say from their deathbeds, “Oh honey, I’m so glad we raised all these children in a griege environment…”
What advice would you give someone who is not sure what to do first when looking for a designer for the first time?
- Meet all of the designers face to face or via Zoom. You have to FEEL me and all of my idiosyncratic ticks and a phone call is not going to give that to you.
- Ask lots of questions that are OUTSIDE the box bordering on inappropriate. For example, ask me personal questions. If I am going to be up in your drawers – you should feel free to be up in mine. It’s only fair and it’s reciprocity that builds trust which builds intimacy which builds a relationship. Thank you Brene Brown!
- Do NOT rely only on a portfolio. Designers should be able to do all sorts of work, not just one style. It’s about the client and not me. Also, many projects are under NDA and are not permitted to be photographed. It’s like hiring someone for their C.V. – they may have gone to all the right schools and worked at cool places but what if their an asshole? What happens if you like the photos on my website and then when you meet me and think I’m a complete bitch? That isn’t gonna work…you gotta feel the person! This works in all areas of life, by the way…
- Bring in all decision-makers to the meetings and fight it out publicly in front in me. Not only is this enormously entertaining for me personally but it also allows me to flex my muscles as a marriage counselor, which is a designer’s true job…albeit with a much bigger budget. The magic of design is in melding the opposing sides together to create beauty and fabulousness.I should add that to my website, ‘Forged in the fires of marital instability comes a beautifully designed home.’
As a designer, do you feel it is complicated to portray your vision to clients? If so, how do you do it so they understand your vision more?
No, I don’t. I hand my iPAD over to my clients and watch them drag the Apple Pencil around the design and get into it. If they don’t like it, we can change it. I don’t always nail it. I do say to potential clients, “You have to neither agree with me nor like what I design but you DO have to listen to me.” I always say that I will push back when I feel that it needs doing. I think if you can’t see what your clients want then you should hand them off to another designer. We don’t do all things well. I know I don’t. For example, I am horrible with anything having to do with antiques. I don’t like old things. I want shiny and new! I want lights, camera, action ! I want liposuction and facelifts! Wait, are we still talking about furniture? There are times when I have parted ways pleasantly with a client because I could not realize their vision and that is ok too. Sometimes you have to stop being a salmon to fight your way upstream and just turn around and swim with the flow.
Whats next for you?
I would like to open my own multiline showroom. I know so many amazing craftspeople whose stuff needs to be seen but they are so busy, they just do not have the bandwidth. I want to do a commission-based showroom where I just take a cut of their creation – like an art gallery model but with additional discounts for designers. I don’t want to do an insane retail markup, I just want to give as much revenue to these craftspeople as possible because it is their work that creates history and feeling. I am just P.T. Barnum cracking the gilded whip.