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The Unique Style of Darlene Molnar

Get to know Darlene Molnar, a Washington-based interior designer, and discover her distinctive style and approach to each of her design projects. Explore a selection of her favorite Artemest pieces and learn more about where she draws inspiration from and how she developed her unique design vision.

Darlene Molnar is an American interior designer based in the Washington, DC metro area. Her experience in the field, following a Master of Arts degree in Interior Design from the Corcoran College of Art, is diverse: from various interior design projects to designing products and furniture, to contributing editorial content to several shelter publications. Her work across these disciplines has enabled her to bring a unique design sensibility to each project. After several years with a top architectural firm in Washington, DC, Darlene decided to open her own design studio in 2010.

Darlene’s style leans towards contemporary, often with a touch of playful charm or subtle edginess. Rooted in her belief that everyone has a signature style within them, that can be translated into the environment, style discovery is at the forefront of her design process. She works on a small number of projects at a time in order to lead the design from the conceptual exploration to its completion. Her dedication to each project, together with her commitment to developing individualized and unique interiors, brings unmatched value to her clients.

Picked by Darlene Molnar

The Interview

How did you first become involved in the world of design? Tell us your story.

I have memories of sitting on the floor as a kid, maybe 10 or 11 years old, slowly flipping through wallpaper books, taking in each pattern.At the time, I didn’t know interior design could be a career, but I enjoyed immersing myself in design magazines and books.You can go all over the world in books, so as a child that was my first exposure to the aesthetics of different cultures.When I got older and realized interior design was something I could pursue professionally, I enrolled in design school and started as a junior designer at an architectural firm.After graduating I established my namesake design firm.It was not an easy start, as I think most designers would agree.In the early years, as I was getting my footing, I also taught several courses which was a nice segue into leading my own studio.

How would you describe your personal style and what’s the personal signature that makes your projects unique?

I consider myself a not-too-serious modernist so my personal style leans contemporary with a nod to the offbeat – a sculptural form, an unusual use of material, or a quirky touch.I can appreciate the way collected, personal items bring comfort to an interior though, so when a client has collectibles or antiques, I enjoy marrying them with modern selections.I suppose it’s the not-too-serious side of me that always tries to include something unexpected or whimsical.

Are there any specific trends that you’re blending in your practice?

In the States, the wave of cold grey everything that’s been on us for over a decade seems to be lifting so that’s a refreshing shift.Trending now is warm browns and beiges and I get a lot of requests for that palette.The earthy palette is lovely to work with, but I think “blend” is the key word here because I do try to blend it into a project while still creating something bespoke to the client.

Where do you draw inspiration for your projects?

Everywhere – travels, fashion, markets, and other designers.I am a firm believer that everyone, designer or not, unknowingly begins collecting style preferences from the time they are born.What we see, hear, and experience accumulates in our brains over a lifetime.The preferences that come to the surface and inspire us can be triggered by anything.I’ve been fortunate to have had the chance to travel extensively around the world – Europe, Africa, Asia, even Cuba – essentially collecting a diverse visual catalogue.I might see something at a market, in a movie, or even another designer’s work and it can take me back to a color, material, or shape that sparks a memory or ignites a buried idea.I can’t always pinpoint where it comes from, but inspiration is in me, it’s in everyone, and can be jolted to life from anywhere.

What’s the decorative piece you enjoy selecting for your clients and why?

Light fixtures!Especially sconces and ceiling fixtures because they become part of the architecture and can say so much about an interior on their own.Whether it is a subtle fixture that blends in or a statement that pops in a room, light fixtures are a great indicator of a space’s personality.

In a hyper-digital world, do you often turn to social media for inspiration? If yes, which is the social media platform you use and why?

I’m on Instagram and have found it is a great way to connect with other designers and be introduced to makers.

What is your favorite project you have worked on and why?

This is hard because they are all my favorites because they are all very different.I recently had the opportunity to bring a local muralist, who I’ve been friends with for 20 years, onto a project to paint a personalized mural on a client’s staircase.It was a favorite moment to be able to collaborate with her!

What would be your dream project to work on?

I’d love to work on niche hospitality projects like a wine bar or boutique hotel.Something like an ice cream shop would be fun too!

What do you think is going to be the next big trend in interior design?

I think, or hope, there will be a gradual shift to more color, even pastels.And I have my fingers crossed for polka dots to make an uprising as well.

Do you have an interior design master that you look up to?

I admire Kelly Wearstler because when I look at her projects, I can see the critical thinking and time that went into them, and I think that those two elements are often overlooked in out fast-paced world where instant is revered.You can see her process in the result and just know it didn’t happen overnight.I also love that she has her aesthetic, but every project is different which I find inspiring.

What epoque inspires you the most in terms of aesthetic?

Contemporary because it is full of experimentation, seeking new materials and methods, trying new ideas.Exploring contemporary arts and furnishings is like being on an adventure, not knowing what is around the next corner.

Patience to make something is a special characteristic, which a craftsman must possess. That patience is exposed in the quality and care of a craftsman’s product