Design Secrets from Dana Ricciardi

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Dana Ricciardi, owner of Dana Ricciardi Designs, is the result of a childhood fascination, innate talent, training and education. This Chicago-based interior designer first got her start when she was young, experimenting with her own bedroom. As she matured, she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Wisconsin and later received a post-graduate degree in design from Harrington College of Design. Ricciardi, whose style integrates both traditional and modern influences, knows what it takes to create stunning rooms that can stand the test of time and speak to the desires of her clients. Haute Living caught up with her to figure out exactly how she does it.

How did you get started in your career? Why did you want to become a designer?

As far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed the personal gratification derived from expressing my creativity by decorating with colors, fabrics, furniture, and accents. It started with my childhood bedroom, where I was continuously making changes in wall coverings, furniture arrangement, and content, ever improving the functionality and always appointed expressing my personality. As I matured, so did my focus. While attending Harrington College, I also undertook a 14-month internship where I gained invaluable hands-on experience and knowledge in my chosen field.

What exactly do you do, and how do you do it? Is there a step-by-step process that you always follow? If so, what is that process?

Designers have their own approach to a new project. Of course the first step is to assess the magnitude of the design project; gain an in-depth understanding of the clients’ design and style preferences; identify some of the client’s personality traits; determine the intended purpose(s) of the room; qualify the approval process; and establish budgets and time lines. Once I feel comfortable that I completely understand the task at-hand and client’s desired end result, the design process begins.

About how long does it take to complete an entire project? How many projects do you have going on at once?

Since no one design project is exactly the same and no one client is exactly the same, every timetable is different. What’s important when it comes to a timetable and a client’s satisfaction is to accurately forecast the completion date. To be a successful designer you have to be understanding and tenacious at the same time. The number of projects is really determined by the extent of the projects. Of course, you want your practice to be very busy and very successful, but never at the expense of quality and performance. In this business, your only assets are your past satisfied clients, so reputation is everything. It’s all about balance, working hard and being smart.

What makes an appealing room? Do you have any design tips, secrets or rules that you always follow?

I thrive on creating rooms that are both livable and lovely to live in. In design it’s important to coordinate both modern and traditional aesthetics, while at the same time having a strong sense of placement.

What inspires you to design?

Just as an artist, I see a room to be decorated as a blank canvas. Something that I can create with imagination, color, and resourcefulness. I love the challenge to create an environment that portrays my client’s taste and personality, while as the same time provides comfort and function-ability. So I guess the challenge inspires the passion from within to offer the best of my creative ability.

How would you describe your signature design style, if you have one?

My signature design style comes from both traditional and modern ideas. Although that describes my taste, I don’t like to limit my clients or myself. I am open to all different styles as I find each one fulfilling and rewarding.

What is your favorite type of room to design?

I love to design and decorate most the room that my client retreats to for total comfort and relaxation. Whether it’s the kitchen where the family gathers or a family room with a large screen TV, if that’s the most important room in the home to my client, then that’s my favorite. It’s very rewarding to be in the position to positively impact people’s lives through design.

What’s your ultimate dream room to design?

That’s a hard question as a designer! I look at all rooms I am designing as the ultimate dream room. I want every room I design to be transformed into the best possible room.

What are your plans for the future? Where can you see yourself and your company ten years from now?

I hope to continue this amazing journey in the design world. Every year I learn more and bring my new knowledge to my next challenge.

Is there any designer you would love to collaborate with?

Kelly Wearstler is my biggest inspiration. If there were one designer I could collaborate with, it would be her! Her style is timeless and she is the queen of glamour.

For more information on how to contact Ricciardi, visit

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