SPEAKING WITH DANI ARPS
It's the 5 o'clock hour on a weeknight and I'm headed to NeueHouse to meet with Dani Arps. A sea of black umbrellas move down Park Avenue like bumper cars, unapologetically bumping into one another in true New York fashion. As I enter the building I am a bit taken aback by the twenty foot ceiling and 10,000 square feet of space that she has casually referred to as her office. My eyes immediately go to the neon lit sign that reads, "I Kiss You," in cursive, which silhouettes the wall behind a few rows of laptops and their glowing apple logos. An art installment made up of vintage televisions stacked vertically sits in the far corner and a waiter walks by with a fancy tray of seafood. This seems like the ultimate private workspace and the perfect fit for an artist like Arps, who herself transforms spaces into experiences.
Imagine having a conference room on wheels with comfortable pillows and acoustic foam to allow your conversations the uninterrupted privacy they might need. It beats the boring cubical sized conference rooms that start ups and commercial offices typically have and provides a new kind of vibe for your workspace. Arps didn't just imagine this new way of utilizing office space, she actually created it. The Dani Lounge is one of the many innovative projects she has introduced to the start up world and tech scene. With a Masters of Science in Interior Design from Pratt University and a bright take on design her signature aesthetic continues to bloom. She is pushing boundaries in design, technology and the 3 dimensional art that we live in.
Get acquainted with the woman behind the aesthetics.
It's kind of weird because It was never my intention to be an interior designer. I was going to be a musician or an artist, I actually went to school for art and minored in music.
I was going to go to Berklee but then my dad said,
"You need to have a well balanced career. "
So I majored in art and minored in music and then after I graduated my dad was like,
"So what are you going to do now? Why don't you go to Pratt, they have a great program..."
It sounded like a good idea... It was more of a progression.
I have always had an idea of dimensionality, as in how an object can affect the space it's in. When I was getting my BFA, my focus was sculpture, so I've always had an idea of space and dimension through some form of art.
I feel like that's how I landed in interior design.
I have my own aesthetic and I think a lot of start ups come to me for that aesthetic.
I'm always considering what works the best with a client's brand. I'll have a concept of the space, then consult with them and see what the functionality of the space needs to be and how many people they will eventually have over time. I have to figure out the function first, and then develop a concept from their brand and from my own idea of what the space could look like
All projects are a bit challenging in that it's New York City and the spaces here are always a little bit awkward. There could be somethings wrong with the floor or the acoustics for example, but each challenge makes it easier for the next project.
I'm developing a line of furniture for start ups specifically. They have a certain budget that they work with initially and then that usually grows to be much larger (as the company grows and they move into a new space, usually occurs within a year of first move) and they can afford the more high end furniture.
it's more on the industrial side, but with a modern edge. I like all natural finishes as apposed to a glamorous look that's super polished.
I like raw materials, like exposed brick, concrete floors and cladding walls in wood. I love walnut it's very beautiful and shows the grain really well. My style is an eclectic take on modern industrial.
What makes something classic is the same thing that makes it timeless, in that it's not trendy.
It's not designed to work for now, it's designed to work period.
That's probably what good design is. Everybody is madly in love with all the greats and all the classics, like Hans Wegner or Eames furniture pieces. They're just as relevant now as they were when they were designed 60 years ago.
They can go in so many different spaces, but the main thing is that they're functional and beautiful.
Whenever I finish a new project it becomes my favorite. Right now that's Taykey because I just finished it and I'm so proud of it.
Everything is custom, I designed almost all of the furniture except the work desks. It's one of the most accurate executions of my design intent, in that a lot of the designs I do, depending on conditions and budget are edited to only include snapshots of what I want the space to look like.
I think you get the most out of a design when you have a great collaborator and you inspire each other.
I want to connect with other designers, architects, furniture makers and other artist because you push each other to do more interesting things.
If I could collaborate with someone it would be this architect who I've loved since grad school, his name Is David Adjaye. He does fantastic spaces and a lot of creative and interesting collaborations with his good friend Chris Ofili.
Through a collaboration I could create something that's not even really a space but more of an experience.
I just did the commercial for Wink, it's a app that I would absolutely recommend to my clients.
It's a great product that allows for control of almost every appliance and lighting from your phone - Everyone is already on their phones all the time so it's kinda cool that there is now technology that allows you to be able to control your house from your phone.
The air conditioning unit is so beautifully designed, it's sleek and classic, it's like a piece of artwork. You should always be looking forward and suggesting things that can improve the quality of life for your clients.
Being in New York City is inspiring, even going to SoHo and looking at all the window displays.
I love going into retail shops like Urban Outfitters because I get inspired by the way they design their store.
Random paint cans, light fixtures, it's all so wonderfully done. The thing about New York is there are so many great spaces that you can be inspired by just walking up the block.
Right now my favorite chair is one that I designed. It's really cool and I'm excited about it.
It's called the Dani Lounge...not because I'm conceited but because I could not think of a name. It's rooted in the need for private spaces in an open office, which a lot of start ups and commercial offices do not have.
It's essentially a conference room on wheels. It has acoustic foam upholstered inside and you can roll it around to wherever you need to get a little private moment away.
I collaborated with my good friend, Billy Ruiz, an amazingly talented artist and co founder in Femme and Fellow (a line of prints we launched this past spring), who does the artwork for the special edition pieces. They then become multifunctional, supplying much needed privacy but also having the potential to be a rolling piece of artwork. Art on the back and function in the front.
When I'm doing a photo shoot, I have to have my styling kit, flower, plants, scissors etc. The point is to evoke the feeling that is felt when the space is being used and that doesn't necessarily translate to a photo without certain tweaks.
If you were to walk into a space mid shoot everything would look awkward because we'd be trying to get that perfect angle, that money shot that portrays my overall concept for the space.
The idea of a photo shoot is to create on paper what it feels like in real life and those two might not be exactly the same thing, so you have to shift one in order to meet the other.
My portfolio really exemplifies my intent, exactly how I want the space to feel.
Photo Courtesy: Stefon Miller