By Janice Harris
If you’ve ever attended High Point Market, the biannual (and largest) gathering of the furniture design industry, then you know that designers and trade professionals are a tight-knit group. It’s easy to meet people and catch up with friends, old and new, during the five-day event. And, truth be told, it’s these meet-ups that make the Spring High Point Market so special.
As you may know, our Media Team here at House Tipster has been working closely with internally-recognized interior and product designer Christopher Grubb to highlight some of the biggest movers and shakers in the design industry. Thankfully, we were on-site when Christopher Grubb met with his great friend, designer Corey Damen Jenkins, and an amazing interview resulted from this reunion.
If Corey’s name isn’t on your radar yet, it will be soon. He was recently named “New Trad Rising Star” by Traditional Homes, and he was on-site at High Point Market to present his newest collaboration with Hudson Valley Lighting. We absolutely love the way he incorporates architecturally-inspired design elements into his work, and we think you will too.
Here’s a snapshot of the exclusive interview between Christopher Grubb and Corey Damen Jenkins.
Christopher Grubb (C.G.): Corey, being named one of the New Trad Rising Stars by Traditional Homes is very exciting. Tell us about your career and how you got here.
Corey Damen Jenkins (C.D.J.): To get to this point took a lot of hard work, elbow grease, and sacrifice, but it has all paid off. I believe you have to be humble in [design] because this career throws a lot of curveballs and things don’t always go the way you want them to.
My career has had some twists and turns. I wanted to do interior design early on. In fact, when I was 7 and 8-years old, my mom was redecorating my home, and I was keenly interested in what she was doing-- I had opinions about things, even then. When I turned 19, I got my hands dirty with design… Then I moved to Michigan, and I worked for an automotive company doing design for lobbies and cubicles. In 2007, I was laid off and decided to launch my design firm, which I did in 2009.
C.G.: Talk about the type of work you do. Is it more commercial or residential?
C.D.J.: We do commercial and residential design. Obviously, a lot of our work is on the residential side because we’ve been blessed with a lot of magazine press featuring our residential interiors.
[Regarding what I enjoy designing,] with commercial, there’s less emotion involved. With homeowners on residential projects, there’s more emotion and involvement, and the payoff is the mother with tears streaming down her face and the husband beaming with joy-- and you don’t get that with commercial.
C.G.: Can you talk about your work with American Standard DXV and the style and elements you used?
C.D.J.: American Standard DXV was an amazing collaboration. They gave me a 12’x12’ space and let me do whatever I wanted, as long as I used their plumbing fixtures. In the end, I created a library around the oval-shaped tub, making reading a focal point for relaxation. It was fun, and we used heavy traditional architecture, with Florence as my inspiration.
One thing I did with this project was that I painted all the architectural molding a bold green, which was actually the color of the year. It was unorthodox and unexpected, but whether you love or hate the green, it arrested your attention. I believe that’s the point of design. It’s not functional; it’s there to create a lifestyle change.
I got a lot of positive feedback from that project, and some negative feedback as well, but that’s what art is about. In the end, I want to do what is best for the project and client.
C.G.: Since we’re talking design, let’s talk about your line of lighting with Hudson Valley Lighting. You’re the first designer to do licensing with them! What was your inspiration for the line?
C.D.J.: I have a lot of different influences, but I definitely like to look to fashion for inspiration. I tried to pull [fashion] into play because light fixtures are functional, but they should also be a statement maker. I also wanted to make this line into sculptural art pieces. For example, Calypso is a worldly, cultural take, while Zariah has an empire chandelier with modern, hard lines.
If you can take what works and remix it, keeping it functional and affordable, then those are the boxes you need to check off.
C.G.: Lighting can be a challenge for people. What were some of the ways you kept consumers and designers in mind when you created this collection?
C.D.J.: When I design, I pick my light fixtures first, and I do the layout of the furniture concurrently. I think of it as the jewelry of the room. And yes, there are rules when it comes to lighting, but there are things you can do to cheat the rules and still make an amazing space. If you do careful planning [of the room], you can get away with bombastic, over-the-top, “wow” fixtures.
C.G.: What about table lamps? What did you want them to add to this line with Hudson Valley Lighting?
C.D.J.: I’m excited about the lamps in this collection because they all have big personalities. The Tang lamp has an amazing imperial finish; the depth of color is mesmerizing. It’s a big lamp, not a wilting flower, and it can ground the space and flank a sofa properly. And Keita is gorgeous with an organic element that is sexy and fashion forward.
After seeing Corey Damen Jenkins’ work in both interior spaces and these lighting products, there’s no doubt we’ll see him at future industry trade show. We know you’re eager to see our video coverage of this exclusive interview, but while you’re waiting. You can also view his new collection with Hudson Valley Lighting here.
We want to extend our sincere gratitude to Christopher Grubb and Corey Damen Jenkins.
To learn more about Christopher Grubb, check out his House Tipster Designer Spotlight.