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July 07, 2009

Color by Design-- David Stark's Perspective

David Stark is the kind of person that gets you thinking.  What can be done with an ordinary object to make it extraordinary?  What would the world look like without color?  His designs are based on careful considerations, but he manages to make the final product look effortless.  We recently had some time to chat and here's a bit of our conversation.

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An example of David's work for Benjamin Moore's Dining by Design table in 2008.  It was so successful that we worked with him again this year!  Every square you see is a paint chip.

Sonu: You have a whimsical fascination (is that the right phrase?) with color chips— where does that come from and how do you incorporate it into your work? 

DS: I’ve always been fascinated with using every day materials in my work, and I have always looked to places like supermarkets, drugstores, and hardware stores for material inspirations.  Like bees to honey, that glowing wall of color chips in the hardware store represented the mother load of creative opportunity to me:  an everyday material, that is accessible (free), recognizable, and so beautiful on its own, but with a little reorganization, can become something else entirely.  I like the fact that the paint chip was intended to be the finished product, simply a device for the customer to decide which paint to buy/use.  But I use it is a building block or a brick to build a bigger fantasy.  For me, one chip is one brush stroke.  50 chips is a small color field “painting.”  1000 chips is perhaps an undulating curtain of color.

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It's all in the details. The table was complete with paint chip party favors to celebrate the company's 125th anniversary.

Sonu: How do the parameters of a project effect you?

DS:  I'm all about parameters.  It's why I realize that I'm a better designer than artist.  An artist invents the problem or assignment.  A designer is responding to homework assigned by a client.

David thrives on the details of budget, logistics, etc. that challenge his creativity.  I couldn't agree more when David said "Having hurdles makes the race much more fun to win." 

Sonu: How does color play into your work?

DS: Color is everything.  Needless to say, the mood, energy, feeling, and vibe are created by color.  Lately I have been trying to break out of my personal color palettes.  We all have them...the palettes that we naturally gravitate towards.  A recent example of breaking out of my color comfort zone is the 125th Anniversary Gala of the Metropolitan Opera we designed in March. 

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A little tweak--using parchment with red and black rather than white gave new life to the concept of paying homage to the Met's deep and rich history.  It turns out the parchment color was used in all their posters over 125 years.

I feel so, so fortunate to have found such a lovely way to make a living, to be an artist outside of the traditional gallery/museum system, and I thank my lucky stars every day for clients that are open to the creative journeys that we take them on.

Sonu: You have had many unique opportunities in your career—can you share one of your favorite clients?

DS: I've had a love affair with Target for many years now.  What a fabulously creative, open mined, fearless group of people that are all about change, speed, and being on the cutting edge.  In my years in business, I have rarely come across another corporation whose DNA is all about creative groundbreaking.  For an artist and designer like me, that is creative heaven.

Sonu: How do you use color to communicate with your clients?

DS: I use color in my events as a painter would.  Color tells the story, creates a mood, is about light and space, creates transitions.  I was originally drawn to floral arrangements because making an arrangement was like making a painting.  Playing with shape, texture, color, and tone in flowers mirrored the act of painting.  Weddings are a wonderful example.  For the most part, there is an elegant part of the wedding, and lately, the "after party" is as much part of the evening as a ceremony.  We often talk about how color can create the change or shift in mood.  Perhaps the Ceremony and Dinner are very subtle and elegant-- soft whites, new spring greens, and dappled moon light.  Then when the doors open to the "after party" space at midnight, a rush of hot, hot pinks and neon disco balls pulls everyone to the dance floor and it's like 4 a.m. at the club!  That's color- PURE AND SIMPLE.


This is a fabulous write up on David and his approach to florals, color, and event design for weddings.  He uses Benjamin Moore's colors to help communicate color to brides so they can share a common vision of the  big day!

Sonu: What's next for David Stark?

DS: I'm really excited about a bunch of things.  Of course, we have a lot of wonderful event projects we are working on...from the Metropolitan Opera's Fall Gala to some exciting new projects that are top secret for Target.  We are also coming out with our very first product line with West Elm called David Stark for West Elm.  The line of holiday decorating elements sets in stores at the end of October.  Further, in April, Monacelli Press is releasing a monograph on our event work over the years.  It will be so rewarding to see the many projects we have done over the years collected in one book.  I guess there you will really see which colors we gravitate towards


David Stark obviously embraces the potential power of color in a unique way & I can't wait to see what he does next.  I've already told him that I'd love to see (and share) his new collection for West Elm and work for Target, so keep on the lookout for that right here, too.


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