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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why I am a Designer- Darrell Schmitt

Well, guilt can sometimes be a great thing. i was at an event last night and I ran into Darrell Schmitt, who I have been hounding for months to do a column for me. He was a man of his word and did it, and it has sat in my in box now for weeks. I felt very guilty seeing him last night, because when you get to know Darrell, there are several things you quickly learn. He is a gentleman who stands by his word, so if he makes a promise you know that he will move heaven and earth to make it happen. He is also one of the busiest and talented designers I know. His work on the Montage Beverly Hills is inspiring, and he has managed to create in a new building a sense of tradition and age that seems perfect. Anyway, I hope that you all enjoy reading his well crafted piece and now I am off to feel guilty about other things!

It wasn’t as though you could stop me from being a designer---I was re-arranging the furniture in my parents’ house from childhood.  I had very early interests in art, architecture, and all things relating to design.  On summer afternoons my mother would pack me down to the local park, where I would eschew the other organized children’s activities to ask the other kids what they’d want their dream houses to be (even young children already have ideas as to how they might want to live), then I’d draw up their dreams and sell the sketches for a penny a story---ten cents got you an elaborate fantasy tower or a cathedral.  My parents provided for me a subscription to Architectural Digest when it was published in black and white, twice a year (this was truly a long time ago).  Being raised in a small town in Kansas, my imagined world of palaces and mansions remained for me fascinating but elusive, as experienced only in books and magazines.   But I found the siren song of beautiful architectural settings ever seductive, and I sought out the images of refined buildings and interiors in every source I could find.  As I progressed up the educational ladder, my interest in the built environment became more sophisticated through my studies of architecture and historic design.   As I began to travel in my later youth, great architectural sites were always my destinations of choice, places where I could hone my eye for detail and experience three dimensionally the spaces I had so long admired only from the pages of books.  A study trip to Europe upon finishing high school was a life-changer for me, opening up my world ever further to the possibilities of art and design.

I studied architecture and interior design in Chicago, and at age 24 opened my first independent design studio in New Orleans.  Both of these cities were immensely influential in broadening and shaping my appreciation of architecture and design.  Based now in Los Angeles for twenty-five years, my career has afforded me many, many opportunities to turn those childhood yearnings for beauty into very three dimensional  hotels and resorts, spas, country clubs, grand residences and yes, even palaces, in far flung destinations around the world.  I have never tired of the quest to create beautiful places---the impulse and the challenge remain as fresh for me today as they were in the dreams of my youth.  What has changed for me, though, is my attitude toward the significance of the role of architects and designers.  I have come to more fully understand the enormous psychological and cultural impact the built environment has on all of society, for better or for worse, in benefitting or deterring the progress of civilization and its effects on the inhabitants of all environments.  For me the practice of design is far more than the conscious arrangement of spaces, furnishings, objects, and light, though it is all of that; it is, most importantly, the exercise of bringing order, harmony, and well-being to the lives of my clients, to make their dreams come alive in a way that enhances how they move through life by creating environments for them that set the stage for their life passages.  I find this a huge but very gratifying responsibility, one that has lent vitality and purpose to all of the work I have done.  As I have come to understand that the built environment is responsible, by far, for the consumption of energy and resources in this country and elsewhere, through the construction and operation of buildings, in a manner of ever escalating consumption of resources over the past century, I have tried to apply my work to the larger goal of working within sustainable practices and design possessing longevity of purpose and quality.  The need for beautiful, uplifting, and responsible design is great in our rapidly evolving world, a challenge I find even more stimulating today than when I started down the path of design

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