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This DC Interior Designer's Bold Home is All About Taking Risks

April 12, 2023

Dana Schwartz, an interior designer in Washington, DC, explains why you should design your home for you — not for your guests.

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Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

If You Absolutely Love It, It's Not Risky Design

When designer Dana Schwartz moved into this Washington, DC apartment, it was an empty new build with plain white walls. Now, the place is bursting with color, pattern and texture you wouldn’t think could mesh so well together. But the key to making it all work is simple: “Ultimately, it’s all stuff that I love,” she says. “It works, because it represents me.”

We asked Dana to give us some tips on taking design risks in your own home. And we got her to share her decor-sourcing secrets.

One secret? That “painting” underneath the neon sign—a quote from the Desperate Housewives of New York—is actually a Samsung Art TV, which many designers use in their work. You can subscribe to an art membership from Samsung so you can change up the image as it suits you. “It literally tricks people,” Dana says. “People are like, ‘Where’s your TV?’ So when it’s off, it really does look like a piece of art. That’s why I just built the gallery wall around it.”

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Photo: Dana Schwartz

Before: Painting These Walls Deep Navy Elevates the Rest of the Decor

Dana's apartment was a plain white canvas when she found it. She quickly decided to paint these walls in Indigo Batik from Sherwin Williams—which she said she treats more like a neutral than a bright color. "It's a really good background for all of the beautiful pieces that I have," she says. "I really wanted a really deep, rich color to help everything pop off of it."

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Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg

An Animal-Print Coffee Table is Just One of the Wild Pieces in This Apartment

Usually when Dana stumbles upon incredible pieces, they're for a client's home. But when she found this faux fur coffee table in a dalmation print from Made Goods, she had to have it for herself. She thought, "I will never even show it to a client, because I have to have that."

In theory, it's a risky piece — it's quite unique, and the pattern could be loud. But Dana loves it, and it works perfectly against a neutral sofa and chaise set. “I’d say, take the risks while you can,” Dana says, adding that she pushes her clients to have fun with their design. “That’s what’s really going to make you love it at the end of the day, and want to be there and host, and have people over and show it off — if you have some fun with it, and if you’re true to yourself in it.”

The box on the coffee table is a piece she found at an antique shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She color-matched the turquoise on the box to mix a custom paint from Benjamin Moore for her kitchen island.

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Photo: Dana Schwartz

Before: A New-Build Apartment Is an Opportunity to Design a Place That Uniquely Suits You

Dana applied hot pink, patterned wallpaper to this bathroom when she moved in, immediately making it her own. In its current, colorful state, it's unrecognizable from its original state, here. "I've had friends say to me, 'I would never think all this would work together. But how you put it together, it just all works,'" Dana says. She tells her clients that they're the only ones who need to like what they've designed, and pushes them to get edgier and take risks on designs they love.

"At the end of the day, it's your home and your style," Dana says. "You're the only one who has to be happy in it.

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