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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I am a Designer - Philip Nimmo

I know its a day late, but this posting of "Why I am a Designer" is worth waiting for. Today it is Philip Nimmo. To say that he is a Los Angeles based designer who also makes furniture is like saying Noah just built a boat! Philip is one of the top people in his field, not only because his designs are elegant and unique, but because his designs bring a breathtaking ingenuity and sense of life to them. Also he is a person as generous with his spirit as he is with his talent, a true gentleman, in every sense of the word.

I hope that you all enjoy the insight he brings:


Why am I a designer? Well, “I was born this way,” like Lady Gaga says.
Even if I were the president of General Motors I would still be rearranging furniture.

I really was born to design, though I didn’t know that until I was well into my 30s. When I was a kid growing up on the beach in Laguna I was attracted to the arts – jewelry making, ceramics, drawing. I liked to do anything that I had the ability to take from my mind and actualize into a physical form. Manifesting a conceptual thought is bliss, it’s heaven.


I dreamed up this satchel when I was in high school. I made the metal ornament in shop class and stitched the leather myself. My teacher was amazed. I thought it was cool. The artist was born.

While the plan was for me to study business at USC, that was not for me, and I lasted only a year.  I had to respond to my creative urges, but I also had to pay my bills. Luck landed me at the doors of the Ritz Carlton, where I worked my way up from waiter to catering director.

 I really got to indulge my creative side there while at the same time working in a structured business environment. At the Ritz, we were selling lifestyle, pampering our guests and making sure their needs were met. It was all about offering the best service. That has been my mantra ever since, and it perfectly segued into my interior design business with my clients.


Gep Durenberger, the famous antiques dealer in San Juan Capistrano who was the love of the New York decorative arts crowd, introduced some of us well known Orange County designers – Michael Smith, James Magni – to interior design.  He was a master at layering comfortable interiors.  He would so casually throw down a newspaper and make it look perfectly in place.


Gep truly was an inspiration. From him I learned that interiors are fluid, they’re living, and since things are continually alive that means they are always imperfect. To make something perfectly imperfect is an innate talent. There’s nothing worse than an interior holding you hostage in the sense that something is out of place.

With what I had learned from Gep and with what I was born, I knew that I could be an interior designer. A friend of mine introduced me to my first client, and not only did I discover my calling but I discovered my passion in life.

First, there’s the aesthete in me.  A living environment has to be pleasing in all 360 degree views.

I like to become involved in the architecture and space planning of an interior because I want to make sure that every moment of my client’s experience is one of comfort. That’s the service-oriented part of my nature talking.


Good design is that things can move around. My personality is that nothing is written in stone. My dining table can become my desk. Things can move around and be repurposed. 

I take all of this seriously. My motivation to hone my craft is very intense.  I aspire to perfection. Execution is beyond reproach. I am this way when I’m cooking, entertaining or organizing my closet.

I love my clients. Were it not for them I wouldn’t be in this business. Some of my clients are very specific and focused on the art they collect. And they know my interior design will complement whatever they are collecting.  With each new piece of art that comes into a client’s home we’re rearranging furniture, moving things around –we’re allowing the interior to be alive, letting it move, shift. Sometimes it requires pieces being removed or shifted so that the art may be hung in an area where it’s not in danger. All of these things contribute to the development of the interior design of a space and of a home.

My clients also prompted me to begin designing ironwork, lighting and furniture. It started about 10 years ago with Randy Newman, who needed a large-scale fire screen for his home, which I was designing. He disliked what little there was available in the size we needed and told me, “Philip, why don’t you design a fire screen for me.”

Randy Newman was the first. Since then, clients have encouraged me to design furnishings for them. I feel like an artist and that my clients are patrons.

The ability to satisfy any client means I have to be like a chameleon, working in a variety of styles. That has been a fascinating part of my career. One of my clients was influenced by the beautiful old department stores, with grand dressing rooms and personal service. Formality is important to her in the way she lives her life and her house reflects that, with gilding and crystal everywhere.


Another client, who has a traditional, glitzy home in Las Vegas, wanted a contemporary, minimal feel at his Southern California beach house. I combined a palette of light upholstery against wenge wood walls, and to give the house some drama, particularly at night, I designed backlit onyx walls and a 2-story chandelier of crystal balls.

I am a luxury item. I bring luxury to my clients. The greatest luxury there is is comfort.  I had an amazing education in that.


1 comment:

Barstools said...

Wow! You did a really excellent job!