Recognized by Women’s Wear Daily and The New York Times for her women’s fashion design in the ’80s, Jamie Herzlinger‘s transformation into a nationally celebrated interior designer is something of a tour de force — and she’ll be the first to tell you so. With features in Traditional Home, Trends, Luxury Living, and Lonny Magazine, her propensity for drama, fantasy and originality have captured the imagination of homeowners across the country, and earned her the title of Zillow Digs Designer of the Month for May 2013.
Zillow: Your family has been a fixture of the New York garment industry since the 1920s (Herzlinger’s mother was Nan Herzlinger, notable women’s sportswear designer in the ’60s and ’70s. Her great aunt spearheaded Bergdorf Goodman’s millinery department). How did growing up in such a fashion-centric culture influence your decision to become a designer?
Herzlinger: When you are around beautiful things all the time, you wind up with a great skill of scale and proportion. Attention to detail is key — jackets that aren’t too big, pants that aren’t too long and then all of the small bits like buttons and seams. These details carried over easily into my own aesthetic as I tend to be much more refined.
Zillow: Closing a nationally recognized fashion line to completely start over in a new industry takes a sense of fearlessness. What inspired you to pivot careers just at the height of your success?
Herzlinger: After taking over nearly all of the shop windows along 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Manhattan one season, I found myself wondering, “How do I top this? Where do I go from here?” So I got in my car and decided to go west to Arizona and chase this new experience. I wound up at a luncheon, and a woman came up and asked me whose outfit I was in. Funnily enough, it was my own line and when she found out why I was in Arizona, she said, “Oh my gosh, I have all your clothes! Would you design my house?” Bingo, that’s what I knew I was meant to do.
Zillow: Your fashion line was directed specifically towards women wanting to take a daily activity such as getting dressed and turn it into a celebration. Does your home design approach embrace the same philosophy?
Herzlinger: Part of the beauty of being a woman is always maintaining an air of mystery and fantasy. I like to play with that same sensuality in my designs, incorporating the fantasy life everyone has into the way they live. Many spaces today are made to look androgynous, creating a feeling that’s flat and cold. It’s like sitting down to dinner and having no seasoning in your food. Who wants that?
Zillow: Often clients have a different idea of what is beautiful. What has been the most challenging design style you’ve experimented with?
Herzlinger: One of my projects, the “Enclave,” was a strictly minimalist approach to home décor. I can appreciate that style from an intellectual perspective, but I don’t subscribe to it. So, I had to try and make it my own by finessing it to be more feminine. Teak and rosewood, exotic materials and tactile surfaces made it feel more warm and sexy.
Zillow: We see texture making a prominent statement in recent interior design trends like the shabby-chic movement and the current industrial look. What would be your top design tip for homeowners looking to incorporate a sense of fantasy in their spaces?
Herzlinger: Paint. It’s like changing your nail polish — when you’re ready for something different you can just paint over it or take it off. How easy could it be? I especially love a red kitchen with white countertops. Or, carry the American flag motif throughout with white walls and navy cabinets. Simple.