Sunday, March 20

Richard W. Herb -- a talented designer shares his passion for design as a teacher and mentor with Nest!

Interior Designer Richard Herb with friend and student Eleni Liapakis
here the student has become the teacher a bit -- Eleni is a savvy marketing and social media consultant and brings her ideas to Richard's firm giving him a social media presence

A designer "Thinking Outside the Box"
by utilizing his talent to mentor others.

Richard's design notebook of inspirations:

above classic American designer Billy Baldwin and one of his books...many of the design influences
 that have shaped Richard's work

Richard loves Paris and finds many design ideas while on his travels
Richard at this year's Brizo sponsored event in New York City during Fashion Week:
collaborative design project with  Roberta Kleedap, Jennifer Rector, Richard Herb and me...Richard took the lead role as we worked together on a kitchen design challenge for Brizo - we were a great team!

Richard Herb teaching his interior design students in Los Angeles
Interior Design is an enriching career and it seems that some are truly born with the gift, honing it over their lifetime often taking classes and gaining life experiences.  But the big question that keeps coming to me is how do we mentor those and pass on this talent.  We may not be able to literally pass on the talent (if we agree with the argument that it is something one is born with), but we can pass on other important skills and knowledge about the business. Unlike other career choices we have to look long and hard to find mentors in the industry. Not many grade schools offer classes to promote interior design as a viable industry, although I do remember one fifth grade art teacher putting slideshows of furniture styles on the projector.  This is one of my earliest memories of being inspired by interior design.  The elderly teacher took her pointer and diligently talked about marquetry, parquetry and ormulu, and recited the Queen's history as they pertained to furniture -- a love for design was born.  The rest of grade school and high school was void of interior design education, even college (with the exception of a few art history classes) there was never a mention of the career choice altogether.  It wasn't until years later when I worked as a public relations professional that I became enchanted with the teachings of my fifth grade teacher again.  Of course this sent me onto another journey altogether, an additional college degree later from Parsons School of Design and I was well equipped with an arsenal of design education to hit the world as a newly educated designer.  The interior design business is often a second or even third career choice for many folks. Why is that?  Are we not promoting the industry enough to our youth?  Whatever the genesis, it is refreshing to see seasoned designers passing their sensibilities and knowledge onto students.  To me, this is "Thinking Outside the Box" because it isn't to promote oneself necessarily but purely for the love of the industry that many teach.  So, bravo to my friend Richard Herb as he takes his passion for design and brings that to his students. 

Here's an upclose look at my friend Richard.  I first met him at the very fun-filled experience I took part in recently when fashion forward faucet company Brizo sponsored a group of us designers and bloggers in New York City during Fashion Week. You may remember I did a couple of posts about the experience:  the Jason Wu fashion Show, the Brizo product development group we were involved in, and the Design Challenge they presented to us at the end. It was a whirlwind three days and a great overall experience. Since that time, something unexpected and amazing has come out of the experience and our group (quite an eclectic bunch I might add) have bonded and even named ourselves "The Dream Team", complete with a hashtag on Twitter and a Facebook Goup. We are excited to embark upon another sponsored event but this time with General Electric in Kentucky this summer.
meeting again and adding more friends
 at the Design Blog Conference in Los Angeles
Lori Gilder, Me, Leslie Fine, Carrie LeskowitzRichard Herb and Eleni Liapakis

Richard was one of my design challenge partners on the Brizo project.  I was immediatley smitten with his quick thinking when we needed to step up and design a kitchen using a Green philosophy of Biomimicry. Without skipping a beat, he set forth designing and drawing an elaborate project. It was easy to see that he approaches design with an ease that takes many years to cultivate. A few weeks later, I reconnected with Richard at the Design Blog Conference in Los Angeles (remember my post about this fun and informative experience), and I had the chance to learn more about him and his passion for teaching interior design as well as meeting one of his students.

bonding with his students...a place Richard loves to be, teaching and learning all at the same time

Check out Richard's post on his blog called The Professor In Me...I love this view as it gives us insight into what he gets from teaching.  I interviewed Richard to take some cues from him on what inspires him, and why he teaches, as well as a sneak peek at his new venture --  writing a book about interior design:

Q: Richard did you have a design mentor growing up, and how did you decide to get into interior design
Having grown up in the very small town of Sandusky, Ohio there were two experiences that supported my much later in life decision to dive into the interior design world. On my walk to school each day I passed an antique shop that I always stopped in front of to admire the window displays and the treasures within. I could describe in detail many of the items I so fondly admired.
My second experience involved fashion. I worked from the age of 13 in a hardware store in the “downtown” area of my hometown. On my lunch hours, I enjoyed lunch at the counter in the 5 and Dime store as it was so grown up and independent, where was Dolly when I needed her? I  would wander the streets window shopping. My favorite store was the The Manhattan Men’s Store. It was probably the only high end, custom men’s store in town. I made friends with one of the staff – ah yes my very first mentor – attractive, silver haired and “What are you doing here in this small town?” He introduced me to fashion and the concept of “lay away”. I still remember my first purchase – a v-neck cashmere sweater. Each week on my payday, I was permitted to try on the sweater and feel the luxury of cashmere. I knew from a very early age that I was special and creative. My family was not supportive only because they had no concept of what that was all about. I was always fortunate to encounter the right mentors. I started my life as a secondary school teacher in an inner city school, Watts in Los Angeles.  I soon learned that while I loved teaching, it was not going to provide me with the means to the lifestyle I so coveted. However, it did get me to Los Angeles where I worked as a Sales Manager for developers in Southern California. My responsibilities included the model home complexes and working with the designers. It sparked my interest in my third and final career as an interior designer. I went to work for two very talented designers and disastrous business men. The rest is history.
2. How long have you worked as a designer and where did you get your training?
I went to work as an interior design assistant in 1980 and started my own company in 1986. My training is formal with a BA in History, a BA in Mathematics with a minor in philosophy. I also have an MBA in systems design. My design training is a gift of good taste and an inclination for design and of course pushing the wheel barrel which is far more beneficial that a formal education program (but do no t tell my students).  I believe design talent is something you possess and own, and it cannot be taught although we can teach the elements, process and important steps of design.
3. You and I have talked about how we both love the designer Billy Baldwin -- tell me what it is about Billy and others from his time and style that have influenced you and you most identify with? I would have given anything to spending just a short period of time with Billy Baldwin. That dinner that I always fantasize about hosting includes Billy Baldwin, Sister Parish, Dorothy Draper, Coco Channel.  Billy was so far ahead of his time, and his Chocolate brown lacquered walls are sexy. I use his slipper chairs whenever possible and the etegiere – OMG. I ordered his out of print books often, Billy Baldwin Decorates and Billy Baldwin Remembers and give them as gifts to every promising designer that I can.

 4. Are there are any current designers that you find inspirational?
I have many students that I think will fill the role of exciting new designers, and would love to find key ways to promote them. Jason Wu has caught my attention and will watch what is happening with him in the interior design crossover as well.
Design Blog Conference
5. I know you love Paris – do you get design inspiration from travel and if so, which places? Yes Paris is the ultimate intimate, romantic, sexy and design inspired city in the world. I also love Los Angeles and New York.  I drive to work every day on a different route just to experience a new awareness of inspiration.  When in New York I walk and walk and walk for the same inspiration. I have a new project in Charlotte, North Carolina that I am very excited about and will place an emphasis on Federalist Style.  I am also looking forward to a recent trip to Hawaii for Eleni's wedding and hope to find some great design ideas while there.  
6. That is amazing that you teach interior design and are offering to mentor others in the business -- where and what classes do you teach? I have been teaching at FIDM [The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising] since 2002. My favorite class that I teach each quarter is the The Residential Thesis and Practice class. It is the capstone class that students as the last class before they graduate. We give them an existing home. They create a client and design a new home base on their client and spec every item, including furniture in the entire project. The current class are designing homes for clients in the Pacific Northwest, Costa Rica, Kenya and throughout the United States. March are the formal presentations at the Baker showroom in the Pacific Design Center. Exciting , exciting, exciting.
7. I have met one of your students and it is very refreshing to see you have developed a strong bond with them – It must be gratifying to pass on your skills.  Tell me about that? mentoring is a two way street. I learn as much if not more from those that I am fortunate enough to mentor. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity and proclivity for mentoring. Today Eleni and I spent the day doing a video of one of my projects. It leaves me so energized and excited about the future for both of us. I have long had this dream of a cadre of new designers under my mentoring in a warehouse type atmosphere with so much design energy and success happening.
8. I have noted that the student has become a bit of the teacher in the case of Eleni Liapakis – she is able to give you marketing and social media help. Tell me about that? As you well know, I have been forced kicking and screaming into the social networking world. I am astute enough to know that growth is of the utmost importance and like today’s video shoot, I am starting to “get it” and truly enjoy it. Thank you Eleni, Judy, Connor, Tamara, Brizo et al.

Richard's drawing above...
I love his line
"may even save a marriage"
on his website. 

Some of Richard's noteworthy design work

(310) 967-0941

And, now a quick snippet from a manuscript Richard has written -- a detailed book about the design process.  Here's a bit to entice:

"At some point in our lives, most adults are faced with the decision
to change our living environment. For some this may mean moving to a new
location. For many, however, it means deciding to renovate their existing home.
For others it could be a combination of both. This change could be as simple as
rearranging the furniture or painting the walls, but more often than not even these
two relatively uncomplicated tasks turn into something much larger in scope than
originally intended. The reason for this expansion of “the project” is usually due
to our commonly held belief that “as long as we are doing it-we might as well also
"add a third story to our house”. Not to mention the results of the surveys we
just conducted with our spouse, friends, family, the postman and anyone else
who is willing to contribute their opinion. Everyone is going to have an opinion,
which unfortunately only adds to the confusion and uncertainty that lies ahead?
For example, each year in California, over $39 billion is spent on residential
construction. Many homeowners have discovered that improving their present
residence with an updated kitchen, an additional bathroom, new windows or a
new roof can be a more prudent investment than purchasing a new residence.
However, adding a room or updating a kitchen can cost more than a new car,
so consumers should take some time and care in planning a costly home
improvement project. Unfortunately, most consumers spend less time choosing
a contractor than they do choosing a car, but we will address that process in
detail in Chapter Six. So, when the need or desire to renovate happens to you,
where do you start? We have all heard the stories of “nightmare” renovation
experiences or have had the experience ourselves. Take a deep breath,
fasten your seat belt and read on".

exerpt from

Thanks Richard for sharing your design inspirations
and thoughts with us on Nest!

Stop back next week for my April
beautifully inspired tables and 
flowers, flowers, flowers galore


Lori Gilder said...


What a fabulous post! I found Richard's interview and his "Story" fascinating. It just confirms how much we can learn from each other and and how inspirational the mentor/ students relationship can be.

Eleni said...

I agree Lori, I loved how "Richard specific" the interview questions were. You really get an understanding of how truly amazing he is as an interior designer, mentor and person. Great post Tamara...and I appreciate the shout out :)

Leslie Fine said...

Tamara - Great post. I loved reading about Richard- his background and his inspiration and motivation for interior design and teaching. I wish I had been lucky enough in my career to have a mentor like him.

quintessence said...

What a wonderful interview and profile of such an inspiring designer and teacher!!

carriesdesignmusings said...

That was a wonderful, in depth post on Richard. I feel as though I know him a little better now. It takes a special person to be a great teacher and mentor. All to often successful "creative types" let their ego get in the way, but if you put that aside; magic happens.

Anonymous said...

it is very refreshing to see designers giving back to students. I look forward to following Richard W Herb and his career. thank you dearly -- Charlene E