Q+A WITH INTERIOR DESIGNER EMILY DEL BELLO
Interior design is incredibly personal, something Emily Del Bello is well-versed in. An NYC-based interior designer, Emily has a knack for getting into her client’s minds and figuring out their wants and needs for their homes. Working with families is an area she is especially adept in, and where she can pull from personal experience - having just designed her own home in Darien, CT with her two young children in mind. We spoke with Emily about her design philosophy, her method for incorporating art into her client projects, and her favorite LES Collection pieces. Shop Emily's selects below.
What is your background, and how did you get into design?
I studied at Indiana University, where I received my degree in Interior Design. After graduating, I moved to Chicago and worked at Design Bureau, an Interior Design magazine. I met my husband while working in Chicago, and eventually moved to New York where he was located. Before moving, I promised myself I would work in Interior Design once I was there. I was fortunate to meet Michelle Gerson, and began working for her for the next four years. Once I had my son, Carter, I had to take a step back. Michelle and I are still very close - she’s my mentor for everything.
Tell us a little bit about your style? Do you have any specific design philosophies you look to?
My personal style is very transitional and eclectic. I love sourcing vintage pieces that no one else has and cannot be duplicated - they hold more meaning and make a space unique. When working with clients, I like to focus on finding timeless pieces that are sophisticated and can grow with the families or the spaces they are in. At the same time, I like to add a fun pop here and there to make a space more playful.
I wouldn’t say I have a specific design philosophy, but I definitely go into projects keeping in mind that I want everything to be usable - just because something is beautiful does not mean it is delicate. Equally important is texture. I always make sure to use various textures - doing so evokes the senses and creates a mood without stealing the show.
Featuring LES Collection Vintage
What are your favorite sources of inspiration?
I love going in person to source. Getting out there, seeing objects in front of you, can really get a project rolling. For instance, you can see one chair and think, “Wow this chair is insane, it has to go in the family room - now let’s build the room around the chair.”
Additionally, I look up to the designers and people I truly admire - not just for design purposes, but for everyday life. I love seeing all of the different takes each of them have on a room. There’s also nothing like stepping off the train into Manhattan after commuting from the suburbs to our Midtown office - the city immediately evokes possibilities and inspiration.
You recently completed your own home; tell us a little bit about that process. How was it different from designing for clients?
It was mostly enjoyable but came with a slight sense of pressure, being as it is the home of a ‘designer’. I knew I wanted to make each space one hundred percent livable, as I have friends and family over all the time - the last thing I wanted was to be worried about my two toddlers running through the family room with a bowl of cheese balls. Choosing durable fabrics was easy, but I put a large amount of effort into finding individual pieces that really spoke to me - pieces that were unique, such as vintage and artisan work - that you don’t see every day. Most importantly though, I wanted it to feel like a ‘family home’. There’s nothing more I love than to spend time with family in our living room around the coffee table playing Shoots and Ladders and Guess Who.
When it comes to clients, I focus on their family’s particular wants and needs. It’s easier in the sense that I can detach from my personal views and truly latch on to how they live their lives and incorporate what they love. Then I can help guide them and present them with the top picks we selected for their home and go from there.
What are your tips for making a home family-friendly while maintaining a chic and elevated design?
Fibers and materials are key. Having the knowledge about what is durable and what is more stain-resistant than others is absolutely crucial - knowledge is power here. No, nothing is bulletproof, but we do our best to navigate through items to make sure clients get pieces that are high-end yet sustainable and beautiful simultaneously. Take a kitchen, for example - everyone loves marble, we would drip everything in marble if we could, but most people are afraid of it. The trick is finding ways to make it work, such as mixing marble with a different material stone in places where children eat or food is prepped, but still have the eye drawn to the marble so it feels like a more elevated kitchen.
What is the role of art in interior design? Selecting art for one's home is especially personal; how do you guide your clients through this process?
Art is incredibly personal - I cannot express this enough. Sometimes what I fall in love with, the client doesn’t connect with the way I do. I always like to connect my clients with an art advisor who has in-depth knowledge and a variety of options to help them make their selections. Art is an investment and you need to see tons of it to know what you truly love. Not only does art add personality to a space, but it can also evoke a certain feeling, memory, or time in a person’s life. For instance, a piece I just installed in my home brings me sheer joy when I look at it - the colors and freshness of it make me feel a certain way as I walk by it every day.
Content creation has become a second job for many interior designers. What role do you think Instagram plays in your business, and how do you balance the two?
Instagram is a huge part of the Interior Design business. It has a validation aspect to it - when clients hear your name, they can quickly go to Instagram to check your work. It is also an amazing tool for sourcing unique pieces from all over the world. You can find an amazing vintage table in Australia in seconds, for example, and easily connect with the maker and have it end up in your client’s home. I’m constantly scrolling through to see what is out there and what is new. The exposure it provides can make you a better designer. Instagram is definitely a whole job on its own, but I constantly keep up with it throughout the day. The most important thing is trying to be authentic and really letting your firm shine through so people can feel a connection or be evoked by your photos - it’s making sure something about your page brings them happiness and draws them back to you.
Featuring Bulb Vase by Kirsten Perry
What would your dream project be if you had no limitations?
Our projects - every time we go to a new job site, I think to myself, “this is a dream project, I can’t say no to this.” Even though we are so busy, I haven’t been able to turn down some projects because of how iconic they are. I walk into all of our projects and can’t help but feel so thankful and blessed.
photography by Kirsten Francis, styling by Katja Greeff