Make Life Beautiful With Nam Dang-Mitchell
Our conversation with a designer we admire
We're so excited to introduce our latest guest in our Make Life Beautiful Series: Nam Dang-Mitchell!
Our team has always admired Nam's work, and we couldn't wait to get an inside look into her process and experience. Her insights and story are inspiring to say the least, and we know you’ll love her as much as we do.
In our Make Life Beautiful series, we're taking an inside look at some of our favorite aspirational designer's worlds and asking them a series of questions to talk openly about their journey into the interior industry.
Long featured in the pages of Canadian shelter magazines, Nam Dang-Mitchell was named House & Home's designer of the year in 2019. The interior designer's spaces strike a delicate balance between classic and edgy, merging disparate styles into a seamlessly chic and live-able whole. Nam often animates her neutral-toned color palettes with layers of patterns and textures that keep even formal spaces warm and lively. Her keen eye for combining furniture, accessories, and fabrics from different styles and eras is especially evident in her ability to select distinctively modern furniture and lighting pieces that are full of personality but still harmonize with an interior's overall look. Nam lives in Calgary, where she has recently expanded her practice to include a residential townhouse development.
Here's our conversation with Nam Dang-Mitchell:
What was your first job – ever?
I got my first job at sixteen, working at a clothing store in the mall called Fairweather. They were known for their massive wall of folded sweatshirts in every pastel shade. My folding game is still very strong to this day!
Tell us about your journey into the interior design industry; when did you realize that you could turn your love for design into a career?
I have always been obsessed with fashion, interiors, art, photography, and architecture, and knew I wanted to be in a creative field, but I didn't know anyone working in this area. Having no set path to follow, I decided to simply do what interested me. I studied photography and art history in university. Then I fell in love with graphic design and worked my way up at an advertising firm to become VP of Design. Next, I took a leap with a couple of architect friends and started a design firm offering architecture, interior design, and branding. We designed restaurants and retail stores that we thought our friends would enjoy and soon found ourselves on the cover of Azure, a Canadian design magazine.
Then came love, marriage, and babies. Motherhood demanded more flexibility, so I left my company and just took on projects that my time allowed for. In designing my own family home, I understood how design can have such an impact on our daily lives. Delivering more than just efficiency, design could bring comfort and inspiration, express values and dreams. As my kids grew, so did the projects.
If you could go back in time and give your young designer self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do your best and don't worry so much. Oh, and also, stop putting off learning 3-D modeling!
Where do you find the most inspiration for your work?
I find inspiration everywhere. I love how people express themselves through their clothes, their food, their music, their homes, their words, their art. If you are curious and interested, you can see the cultural shifts that are constantly happening around you. It's good to question the patterns you and your work have fallen into. Don't worry about contradicting whatever identity you think you have cultivated. Your personal imprint will always come through in the creative process. But if you don't challenge yourself, there will never be any growth.
What does your creative process look like?
The first thing I do is learn as much as I can about the clients and their needs. Then I assess the architecture and the site, and I try to determine the overall mood of the project. An aesthetic direction is developed, and the palette is refined. I then sketch out the bold strokes of the project, the defining moments, if you will. It is only then that I start to lay it all out to scale and figure out the details. I usually start with the kitchen; if you can figure out the kitchen, the rest of the house falls into place.
What was the most significant design or business challenge that you have encountered and grown from?
Successfully completing my first residential development where I did the architecture, the interior design, the project management, the accounting, and the sales and marketing, has been my biggest business challenge. At times during the process, I shook my head and thought, what have I gotten myself into? I learned so much, though, and I loved controlling all aspects of the build.
Which upcoming g project or endeavor are you most excited for?
My husband and I have recently purchased a pied-a-terre in NYC, and I am very keen to start renovating it. I keep changing the design though, It's so hard when it's your own place!