Design takes all forms. Sometimes it's graphic design, sometimes it's a beautiful website, and sometimes it's a person who orchestrates physical things in a room. Regardless, the same creativity is employed.
This is where Nancy Fire comes into play. As a creative director and interior designer extraordinaire, she styles photo shoots for everyone from HGTV to Kelly Ripa Home. Nancy sat down with us to share where she finds inspiration, how digital design plays a role in her career and how she manages a busy day-to-day schedule.
What inspired you to pursue home design as a career?
It happened organically, I have a Bachelor of Fine Art degree because I loved ALL design in school and it was not until I graduated and started to work in NYC that my design path became more defined.
You work with such amazing companies, such as HGTV, Kelly Ripa Home, and your own company, Design Works International. What exactly is your role?
My role is extremely varied because I am lucky enough to work with some of the top companies in today’s design world through my company Design Works International, a lifestyle studio that my husband, Neil Breslau, and I founded almost 30 years ago. I am the Creative Director and Neil is the President, handling all of our business matters.
What does your day-to-day look like as the creative director?
Hmm, my day-to-day. It is always different!
For the past two days [before this interview], I was co-directing a photoshoot for Studio NYC Designs at my home in East Quogue, creating content for a new collection of pillows (both printed and woven), rugs, throws, and poufs for a organic-inspired lifestyle collection with an updated vibe that will launch early in 2018.
This coming Monday morning [following our interview], I head to Georgia for the week. I'm directing a five-day photoshoot for one of the biggest home decor companies, staging over 500 products showcasing a new and updated look.
Wow, that sounds so exciting. You certainly are busy!
I am, but I love collaborating with companies expanding their creative footprint in todays ever-changing retail environment.
With so many moving parts, what is the most rewarding thing about your line of work?
The most rewarding part of my job is collaborating with some of the most creative and passionate people in the industry... however, it is also the toughest part of my job. When you collaborate with creative people, you need to make sure that all communication is upfront and defined, because the goal is to better their business and not to take the design decisions that get you there too personally.
Tell us about your first big project. What do you wish you had known going into it, and what did you learn coming out the other side?
We opened our studio in October 1988 and I started to work with Schumacher Fabrics on a few original design layouts with a women who was a “legend” in the industry. Luckily, she took a liking to me and wanted to mentor me, but she was very direct with her comments. It was a great lesson, because in this industry you need to try to not take comments personally, but rather interpret creative criticism in order to better your work.
That is an incredible way to look at feedback!
So, we're dying to know — you are known as one of the top home design experts and trend-spotters in the country. Where do you find your inspiration?
The general vibe our of design community is truly the casualization of lifestyle, known as Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment — whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary — as cozy, charming or special. It's truly about a cozy and comfortable lifestyle. We will continue to see the softening of furniture, with more rounded curves and cozy fabrics and interiors. Design is becoming more thoughtful in relationship to lifestyle and how one lives.
In terms of inspiration — it is everywhere! I travel to shows like Maison Objet in Paris twice a year, where I view products from around the world. I also attend the Architural Digest Show in NYC every March, shop local stores in NYC and Brooklyn, and visit museums and galleries on a constant basis.
All excellent places to stimulate creativity. So what will will the next hot trends be?! Will we see them in other arenas, such as fashion and tech?
I think a shift in lifestyle, a more thoughtful and personal style approach, will be reflected in other areas of life. We are, all after, creating our own personal style through social media platforms like Instagram, blogs, and visual content.
Trends are really becoming lifestyle movements. The word "trend" can have a negative connotation because many people associate it with “a fad,” which is something that is short lived. This is where Hygge is prevalent — it is truly a shift to a slower style of living, which cultivates unique personalization.
Can you tell us how digital design plays a role in what you do?
Digital design is today's design lifeline. We are a creative studio and we produce many of our designs digitally, including digital printing on fabric right here in our studio in NYC on many fabric substrate options.
You have also worked on some pretty interesting projects with celebrities – can you tell us about some of the customization projects you have done, like the restoration of Elvis’ billiard room at Graceland?
We are fortunate at Design Works International to have a digital printing department — Design2Print — that designs or prints fabrics for interesting restoration projects, fashion, theater, product prototypes, and celebrities. We work with Graceland, and have printed fabric for various rooms like The Jungle Room and, most recently, Elvis Billiard Room.
It's incredible how many hats you wear in the design world. How do you keep up?
It's a challenge, but someone has to do it. I also have a truly amazing team that backs me up 150 percent.
Tell us a little more about yourself. What can we finding you doing on your day off?
Let's just say I am never off. I always see something that inspires me, no matter where I am — a color, a texture, a pattern, graffiti, sunrise, sunsets. No matter where you look, there is always something new and different. I am constantly taking pictures because these moments in time keep me connected to my everyday work. People, places and things are all inspiration for new wallpaper, fabric, rug, pillow, tabletop patterns. It's never-ending and always exciting! This type of "inspiration everywhere" attitude can translate to all design, including graphic design, website design, and branding.
When I do finally have "time off," it is usually spent at our house in East Quogue. I love to garden and create interesting floral arrangements throughout our home from our gardens. I recently started to paint again and love to do ceramics when I can find the time and studio space.
What advice do you have for someone entering your field of work?
It's all about your passion. If you don't have that, then I would suggest not working in this field. After all, you know what they say: ”If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.” After 30 years, I can attest that these are words to live by!
It is great to know that the saying rings true! In your industry, what kind of person do you look for when you are hiring?
A passionate one who does not turn off their "design brain" at 5:00 PM. We look for someone who is constantly inspired because they see creativity as their connection to life.
Any final thoughts, comments or words of wisdom you would like to share with someone in this industry?
Be kind. It's truly a small industry and all you have is your reputation. Finally, please pay it forward and give someone the chance you were given if they have the passion.
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