Modenus caught up with the much in demand, Fairfield County Connecticut based, interior designer Dominic Fusco to learn more about his distinctive style, his influences and plans for the near future.
M. I enjoyed your style which seems to be a refreshing mix of influences rather than a slavish following of any one. The things that came to mind were, glamorous, comfortable and with a sense of humour. How would you describe it?
DF. I would describe my signature style as glamorous as well, modern, dramatic, chic, tailored interiors with clean lines and never over decorated. I always try to throw the unexpected into the mix. Something out of the ordinary being in furniture placement, scale, art work or accessory. Sometimes being a little out of the norm to loosen up the design.
M. How has your style developed over time?
DF. I have been designing interiors since 2005. My taste is always evolving. I do have certain likes and dislikes but I try not to always keep to design principles/rules for they were meant to be broken. When I first started out decorating I would try to keep somewhat within the scope of a period or style. As I began to reflect on this, I found myself leaning toward rooms that were more eclectic and no longer concerned with keeping it all in the same style or period. This mix makes a room much more interesting.
M. There seems to be an element of Asian influence. Have you traveled in Asia?
DF. There are Asian influences in many of my designs. My rooms are always fresh and modern and Asian influences, be they art or accessories, always have a home in my interiors. I never gave much thought to why I am attracted to “Asian Influences”. I am particularly drawn to Foo Dogs/ Chinese guardian lions perhaps for their whimsy.
I have not been to Asia but in the late 1980’s early 1990’s when I was pursuing an art career in painting I was represented by an Asian art gallery and publishing firm based out of Hawaii.
This firm’s artists were primarily of Asian descent. Perhaps this had an influence on me after being surrounded by their culture, art and way of life.
M. I am aware of your background in textiles. At the same time you make a lot of use of hard surfaces in your designs – more than I often see. Can you comment on that?
DF. I do use a lot of plaster wall finishes, mostly Venetian plaster. It gives the illusion of depth where a typical paint finish is 1 dimensional. I love the reflective finish and the silky cool feel of marble. I also do a Strié technique in Venetian plaster that really sparkles like ripples of water. What is also great about this is that I am quite the perfectionist when it comes to color. Instead of being limited to color swatches from a paint company I can mix whatever color I need to coordinate with my fabrics. At this time I still personally apply all my own wall finishes for my clients.
As far as the use of textiles I am more interested and attracted to different textures and their “hand” rather then prints. Odd for someone who designed prints in Manhattan for 10 years I would say? I use prints in my textiles very sparingly because solid colors tend to be more soothing and less distracting to me. When using prints I am more attracted to geometric shapes rather then floral prints unless they have a modern feel. I often tend to gravitate to prints in my carpets for example and use them quite often. I feel I can get away with some bold choices on the floor to ground the space. The use of a strong graphic/print on the floor is less distracting and allows your eye to move across the room without any interruption.
M. I talked recently to a designer who was very fixated on ‘authenticity’ each room being true to an era / influence. Your designs seem to pick whatever works regardless of era. The result is more ‘joyful’ than ‘serious’. Is this deliberate – how did it develop?
DF. I find that many people and designers can get fixated on period rooms. It’s not for me. It is the tension between modern and traditional, vintage with the contemporary, the blend of different styles that speaks to me. It is in this eclectic mix that a room comes alive, so to speak. It creates conversation and interest. Placing different objects or furnishings next to one another from different periods and styles creates a tension and is therefore much more interesting, in my opinion, than everything being the same.
It is my mantra that a room that is “eclectic feels collected, rather then decorated”. It also works great when you are working with a couple that have different likes and dislikes and, by combining two styles successfully, make everyone happy. But this doesn’t mean that you can throw just anything into the room and it is going to work!
M. Your style is very distinctive. Do you only receive enquiries from potential clients who know, and want, your style? Have you ever turned someone away because what they want really isn’t what you do.
DF. I guess I do have a very distinctive style but the trick is to also bring your clients personality into the space.. Having said this, I feel that I can do a lot of different styles successfully but I gravitate to interiors that are modern in feel. Even those clients that like traditional interiors always like to loosen it up and make it more transitional. A lot of potential clients seem to gravitate to designers in which they can relate to and that is fine with me. That seems to be the case on all of my referrals.
I can’t speak for everyone but I do have many likes and dislikes and an ideal client is one who loves what you love. Having said this, a good designer always designs for their clients not for themselves. After all this is their home and the design must reflect that. After I come and go they truly have to be comfortable in their surroundings or I would have failed. It does help however if they are familiar with your body of work and your signature style if you have one. This way you are able to express yourself and be free. This takes a lot of trust from your client which usually comes after you established a working relationship with them or they are familiar with your body of work.
I have and will continue to turn away clients where I feel I can not give them what they are looking for. I must truly, as an artist, be comfortable with my clients and their taste. This being said, if you love what you are doing and passionate about the design it is going to be a success. If a client and I do not have the same passion or relate to one another I can not give them what they want to achieve. Having said this, it is always best for all to pass up a job rather then doing it only for the money.
M. I enjoyed the green picture in the office. Who is it by? How did the client react when you suggested it?
DF. It is a picture of a slipper orchid titled “The Queen”. The artist is David Leaser. He is a photographer that I met two years at the Architectural Digest Home Show and I love his work.
I selected this piece for my partner’s office who is a landscape and pool designer. He loves orchids and he loves the piece.
When designing small spaces I love to use over scale artwork as it makes a huge impact in the room. It’s all about the drama. As a matter of fact my partner nicknamed me “Drama-nic” instead of Dominic. He is a handful!
M. I love the concept of art in this gym! Was it a suggestion by the client who wanted some motivation? Your idea?
DF. This Home Gym/Cool down sitting area was a Designer Show House that I did in 2006 in Greenwich CT. It was filled with statues of Carrara Marble sculptures of torsos, male and female and paintings of beautiful women and the physiques to match for inspiration.
The room was such a hit at the Show. It was published in a book for Benjamin Moore called “Paint Style” and also was featured in an editorial for a Home Décor Magazine.
M. Your use of colour is refreshingly bold. Are clients nervous of its use in such a confident way? How do you help them overcome it? Is it influenced by your background in fine arts?
DF. Over the years the use of color in interiors had been primarily none at all. A lot of beige. Every time I think of it I think of Albert Hadley who had a problem with the lack of use of colors over by many designers. Not me. I haven’t met a color I didn’t like. The trick is getting the right hue and saturation. However, I limit my palette to three to five colors although there may be many shades of a particular color. I tend to lean towards a monochromatic envelop with pops of color especially in small rooms. It gives your eye a chance to move across a room without a lot of distractions. And by the use of this monochromatic envelope it allows you to change accessories, pillows and even carpets to give a room a fresh look when you get bored or during different seasons.
I think the use of color is indeed influenced by both my former careers, fine art and a colorist/textile designer in a converting company in which I honed my talents for mixing colors and the relationships between them.
M. You are clearly very much in demand. What is your secret / formula for having clients who want you to work for them?
DF. I’m very flattered about your high opinion of my demand. It is always a struggle to find what you love to do and to make a go of it business wise. However, once you are doing what you love to do, success will come. Unfortunately I do not have any secrets formulas.
M. What next? What would be your dream project?
DF. I was invited this year to do the Architectural Digest Home Show where I introduced a Modular Paneled Wall System for plaster finishes in which I routed out channels into MDF so you can insert different extrusions like metal or wood to create a grid pattern with no visible seams. This was a huge success. Many of my colleagues whom I have become acquainted with over the years and many of whom are on the Top 100 List of Architects and Designers for Architectural Digest Magazine had visited my booth and thought the idea was brilliant. Still working on the details and we will see where it takes me.
As far as a dream project. I would love to develop a niche with hip, young musicians and entertainers that are as fun and as dramatic as my interiors are and who live in exotic locations for me to travel to and decorate.
So, if you happen to be a young, hip entertainer living somewhere exotic and are in need of an interior designer with a capacity to produce the unexpected – you know who to call. Our thanks to Dominic for finding time to talk to us. Please find more of Dominic’s work on his website.