Based in Chicago, our partner Adèle Young is the talent behind VDL Interiors, a design firm focused primarily on residential interiors and some commercial offices, creating well-designed, beautiful places. Adèle was raised in Cape Town, South Africa, by an architect father and a ballerina mother—she credits that immersion into the arts for her creative mind that is drawn to design. We learned a bit more about Adèle to get an inside look at her inspirations and work.
What sources do you read/visit for information, like blogs, websites, magazines, etc.?
For inspiration my number one go-to is UK Elle Decoration. I started buying it many years ago, long before I knew this would become my career. I also usually peruse local design magazines such as
Chicago Home & Garden and CS Interiors to keep a pulse on what’s hot & happening in the interior design industry in my city. Actually, I subscribe to several magazines, so this list can go on for a while! Among them is a South African design magazine, which allows me to stay up to date with all the incredible design going on in the place where I grew up.
There are a few blogs I give a quick once over every day, but I’ve discovered that if I follow my favorite bloggers, designers and companies on Pinterest I can see all the resources I like in one place – Lumens included! I don’t really have time to delve into blogs, and ultimately it’s an image that will capture my attention. Pinterest is perfect for this. A few blogs that come to mind are Remodelista, Freshome, Contemporist, and Emmas Designblogg.
Do you have a most memorable project? Most challenging?
I really loved doing a bathroom remodel recently. I walked into the job facing a completely demolished space. Part of the challenge was to turn what used to be a kids’ bathroom into an en suite master bathroom for my client. It was a relatively small space, but the end result was luxurious and spalike. The project also offered a chance for me to design a custom vanity that I am very proud of, and the best part is that I have a very happy client, who is now hiring me for more work.
What about your job do you find the most rewarding?
I really love the sourcing process. I start with one thing that inspires me and go from there. With almost every new project I get a rush of adrenaline, thinking “how am I going to pull this off?” and then one thing leads to another until an entire room comes together. It is a thrilling process. Having said that, I think my most rewarding accomplishments thus far have been designing custom furniture. It is the best feeling to know I’ve created unique, one-of-a-kind pieces for some of my clients.
Any trends you’re seeing right now? Or what might be up and coming? Any notable ways you’re seeing products being used?
I have to be honest and say that I rarely actively research trends. They obviously exist, and there is no doubt that my ideas are probably influenced by them. However, I don’t look at resources with a mind-set of “what is hot right now”, only to apply it to my projects in that moment. Every client is unique, and I see every project a challenge for me to come up with an end result that is original. I find comfort in approaching my jobs with that state of mind. When it comes to trends I always ask myself and my clients: “How are you going to feel about this a year from now? Does it have longevity?”
What is your style and how does that play into your work?
The best term I can come up with to describe my personal style is “eclectic modern” – I like clean lines and modern furniture, but loathe sterile interiors. I believe in adding unique elements that give a room warmth, personality and charm. I find the best way to do this is to incorporate a variety of materials and textures in a design solution. In just the same way, when I work on my clients’ projects I really focus on a combination of interesting textures and materials, as well as a well thought out color palette. In addition, their story, likes and dislikes inspire me to incorporate items that create a room or space that reflects who they are.
What type of space do you most like to design?
My business is quite new, so every project is an adventure at this point. I would love to design a restaurant or boutique hotel though. I think my creative side will shine in those contexts.
Do you have any role models when it comes to any kind of design?
My number one role model is my dad, who is an architect. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of me hanging out at his firm and digging into the supplies closet. Sitting at his drafting table was my happy place. Besides that I am inspired by people who have a brand. There is a lot of interior design out there that I don’t find inspiring at all. The designers who do crazy cool things and take risks are the ones who stand out for me. The first example that comes to mind is Kelly Wearstler. It is her style and her brand. Love it.
I was lucky to meet Amanda Hamilton, a dynamic young interior designer from Calgary, in person last year. She is definitely a role model, even though I like to pretend I’m her older sister. Like me, she started her own business, and it is inspiring to see her make her mark in the world of interior design.
You have a completely blank slate (i.e. a room). Where do you start?
I start with a conversation. The conversation is with my client, hearing what their story is, what their needs, desires, confusions, frustrations and visions are…and so much more. People are the ones who inspire me first of all. That is followed by an item, an image, a mood, a piece of furniture, a work of art, a light fixture…whatever it is that captures the energy of that conversation. And off we go!
What design “mistakes” make you cringe?
When I walk into a room where everything is “matchy-matchy” I cringe. Give me visual interest, even if it is subtle. For instance personally, I actually like neutral color palettes, but add some charm with unique pieces, art work, textures, materials or the addition of accent colors.
What does your own home look like?
I live in an apartment in a vintage greystone two flat in a downtown neighborhood of Chicago. It has high ceilings, a wood burning fireplace, and hardwood floors, which are the elements sold the place to me when I was searching for a home. I like modern design, and I’m from South Africa, which means you see a lot of mid-century modern furniture complemented with African artifacts and other items that provide focal interest. The fireplace mantle displays framed art work from a gallery in Cape Town, carved wood African figures, and a couple of vases and objects that I love. I also have a large piece of Marimekko fabric hanging on my dining room wall. I saw it in London many years ago, and
simply had to have it. It pretty much always gets a response when people walk into my home.
If you could give one piece of advice in design, it would be _________?
Don’t conform, and don’t think that anything is impossible. Always push yourself to learn something new.