Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Designing Woman - Diann Valentine

My dear readers, never let it be said that I do not take great care of you. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing an interview I did recently with the vastly talented Diann Valentine. She has designed flawless weddings for Toni Braxton, Lela Rochon and Antoine Fuqua, as well as Boyz II Men's Shawn Stockman. Be sure to get a copy of her book, it was my first wedding book and one I go to time and again for inspiration. Enjoy!
The beautiful Diann Valentine

DE: Where do you get your design inspiration?
DV: I look for inspiration mainly in all of the amazing architecture that can be found from true artists around the world. For example, I think Americans are not very creative but when I look at the work of the artists that built the ancient cathedrals in Italy or the Roman empires I am simply in awe. As I travel the world and experience the beauty that has been left behind by imaginative geniuses I often wonder "how can I give my clients even a glimpse of these gifts."

DE: In addition to being glamorous, there is a sense of flow and even sensuality in your work. How do you achieve this effect?
DV: Every event has to flow. Great parties don't just happen but they are carefully orchestrated into something great. And it requires that I remain in tune and focused on guest experiences. I must anticipate the experiences that I want to unfold long before the room is filled. And even once guests have arrived, I must continue to study their movements and alter the action and "run of show" during the event as I see fit to further enhance the experience for every person in the room.

Sensuality is seen in all of my work because my inspiration for everything I do is love. Love is always sexy. And it is the love for my work and for couples in love that continues to inspire me to design environments that speak to that sensuality. You see, it is more than just designing a pretty space but more so about allowing my soul to be fully and vulnerably exposed so that I can give everything in my heart to each tailor-made celebration. I have a mantra that I use for every project and I call it the DRV factor. Keep it simple! Keep it sexy! And keep it all about love!

DE: Color has the ability to transform not just an environment but also one's mood. How do you steer couples in choosing their event colors?
DV: I simply give my clients permission to look at their wedding as more than a day of white. For many brides, they immediately adopt the stereotypes that western civilization has put on the color white. They envision and correlate white with clean, purity and innocence. It is the same societal stereotypes that steer our thinking to correlate black with bad, dirty and ugly. When you look at the world with open eyes and embrace your true personality, most women find that white is simply not the best reflection of who they are but more so a reflection of what the wedding industry has told them they should be. I am simply willing to do the exploratory and sometimes difficult work that helps my clients look through a fresh lens and see their weddings as a reflection of their true self. Most professional in this field are unwilling to put in this much work because it's just easier to follow a formula. However, I am not just working hard to build a company but rather I am working hard to leave a legacy and one that changes the game--one bride at a time.

DE: How does your design approach differ when designing for weddings vs. residences vs. hotels?
DV: It all stems from the same inspiration of love and architecture. The same principles and the same steps are taken regardless of the project.

DE: With regards to your interior design work, how key is achieving tranquility when designing a bedroom? What should one look for when creating their personal space?
DV: I don't always look to create environments that are tranquil. As there are occasions when I have designed game rooms, cigar lounges, home gyms and other spaces that need to evoke energy, excitement or enthusiasm for fostering brilliant ideas.

DE: What suggestions do you have for couples meshing their separate, distinct styles into one living space?
DV: Compromise. It is not about the woman designing the space or the man designing the space but more so about couples respecting their individual needs for functionality and then incorporating those needs into a common space that they will share. Inclusion is the making of any successful relationship. Although I am a designer, I still listen to my family and take their preferences into account whether I am re-designing a communal room in our house or our family's holiday party.

DE: With all your successes and recognition to date, what keeps you most excited and motivated in your career?
DV: Again, I am inspired by love. My love for beautiful things and good design! My love for people in love and my love for God. And because God is love, I know that I will never go wrong and will never be led astray!

Wiser words have never been spoken.
Diann Valentine is an internationally acclaimed weddings, events and interior designer and producer. Her clients include pop star Usher, Kelis and Nas, Martin Lawrence, Ryan Seacrest and Cedric The Entertainer to name a few. Valentine is also the author of Weddings Valentine Style: Rich Inspiration For Every Woman's Dream Day.

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