Today's career spotlight is on a designer who's a personal favorite of mine. I first met Dana at a trade show in 2012, right when I was getting my boutique off the ground. I fell head over heels for her colorful designs and have been decorating with her pieces ever since. It's been a joy to follow the evolution of her line and to see the cool collaborations that have come her way, including a recent fabric and wallpaper partnership with Stroheim. If you've ever contemplated designing your own products for the home (like me!), you'll be hanging on every word. Say hello to Dana!

Name: Dana Gibson Longenderfer
Age: 48
Title: Founder and designer, Dana Gibson
Location: Richmond, Virginia

How did you get started as a designer? Did you get a degree in design or textiles?
I wish I had known I wanted to design home products but I went the liberal arts route.  I actually majored in English and Studio Art and then went on to graduate school in English. I didn’t think art was going to carry me very far, but I always loved it.

I love that you're a fellow liberal arts girl. (I studied French!) Have you always known you wanted to design your own products? 
After graduate school, I taught writing and English literature at a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This choice was based on an adventurous spirit paired with my more practical side. During the summer break, I took art classes including ceramics, which I fell in love with. I was so happy and content in the studio! Making beautiful objects was a much better fit for me than managing a classroom of teenagers — I knew I had found something I loved.

When did you know you were ready to make a go of it? 
I really didn’t know much about how the industry worked. I just knew from seeing what was out there that what I was making was different and filled a niche market so I charged ahead.

That's awesome! You're such a go-getter. Tell me about the process of designing a piece from start to finish.
Usually I am inspired by something in the marketplace, say an Hermès tray. I don’t want to copy that tray — I just want to reinvent it a bit. I consider color, pattern, and scale. I love mixing an ethnic print with something as tailored and traditional as a serving tray. By the end of the process, my tray doesn’t look like a copy but a nod to a classic home product. 

I love how playful your work is. Have you always been drawn to color?
I respond strongly to color. It's exciting! But I like it in small doses when I'm decorating. One of my favorite artists, Vuillard, painted in neutral ochres and umbers but there are slivers of color where light falls in his paintings. That's how I like color to perform in a room. I like to start with a neutral base on the sofa and chairs then add touches of color. I like the surprise that color can offer.

Collaborations, design work, trade shows... You've got a busy schedule. How do you stay organized?
I keep paper by my bed for late night note taking. Writing that thought down allows me to go back to sleep, but often I can’t read my scrawled writing! I have two employees who help me in the studio and a bookkeeper. But I still do a lot of the marketing myself on top of design work and the minutia of every day like lost boxes or damages. I’m busy all day which I like.

Like you, I'm better when I'm busy! Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I look at all of the applied arts as well as fine art. Sometimes I notice a color combination that is unusual — like a navy blouse and a turquoise scarf — and work it into my collection somehow. My eyes are always roving. I go to flea markets and into my friends' homes.  Trend spotting just occurs because my eyes are wide open and I’m lucky enough to be exposed on a regular basis to the finest design in the world through trade shows and designer markets. I have fashion pictures tacked to a board above my desk beside vintage fabric cuts. I also keep binders  full of rooms I’ve seen in magazines and I use Pinterest and Instagram. All of these inspire me.

How would you describe the person who's decorating with Dana Gibson items?  
She likes color and usually wants to preserve a majority of the items she’s had over the years. She wants a room facelift rather than a complete redo. Old antiques are easily  updated with bold modern fabrics from my new Stroheim line. A wall in a vibrant print adds just the right note, revitalizing the room. The customer who likes my line of products is usually used to fine things in her home but she doesn’t want her house to look like her mother's. She is smart, vivacious, and optimistic about life.

What's the most rewarding part of your job?  
I love when customers say they love my stuff.  I do hear this a lot but I absolutely never tire of it. I want people to be happy with their choice and when I hear that a product I made actually enriched their lives, my job is done.

And the least fun part? 
The least fun part of my job is dealing with customers sometimes. I should have a customer support department but usually I’m the one fielding their grievances. Being tolerant and kind on the phone is a lost art for some. The majority of my customers are not like this but when it happens, it’s definitely a bummer.

Do you have any future goals for the business? 
I’m designing a line of furniture with a company called Miles Talbot and am about to sign with a company that makes rugs and lighting. I hope to continue with fabrics, paper, and my own studio line. My plate is pretty full and I’m very satisfied. It’s what I wanted to do for a long time, create products that are exciting and life-enhancing.

I can't wait to see all those projects come to fruition! What's the best advice you've received along the way? 
Do what you love and follow your bliss. This saying was popular a dozen years ago and holds true!

Keep up with Dana Gibson:


I'm really excited about my new bedding thanks to Crane & Canopy. I love the crisp blue border and the quality is amazing. Seriously, is there anything better than climbing into clean sheets? I think not.

I've been devouring this book since we got back from Austin. So many trips, so little time! 

Two things: does anyone else let their dog sleep in the bed? I insist on it. Also, if you're equally obsessed with your pet, you must get Whistle. They sent us one to try out on Rory and I'm never taking it off! It tracks his activity and sleep to make sure he's getting enough exercise. I love seeing the spike on days when we take him to the dog park!  

But back to the bedding. I chose the Linden navy duvet cover and matching shams. White bedding might be impractical with Rory but I can't resist — it's just so classic! Buy a couple extra scalloped sheet sets (so cute!) so you always have a fresh set when one's in the laundry. I topped it off with a throw pillow that's usually on my sofa because, let's be serious, I love blue on blue a little too much.

Oops, how did this get in here? Heart exploding. ;)


I was so excited when I received an email from sisters Anne and Sarah introducing me to their clothing line Buckley K. First of all, there is so much navy and white that there was no way I wouldn't fall in love with it. Second, everything is made in the U.S.A. and available online only, meaning there's no middleman or retail mark-up. Third, every silhouette is classic, chic, and perfect for travel. Fourth, did I mention all the navy and white? Check them out right here and do let me know of any new-to-you lines you're loving lately!


On Carly:

On Mackenzie:

Carly and I took these pictures a few weeks ago on the first true spring day in New York and just looking at the photos brings back happy memories. It's always such a treat to work with the Tuckernuck team! They sent over our favorite pieces from their spring collection and scouted out the cutest streets around Washington Square Park to shoot for their blog. After taking pictures, we stopped by Rosemary's for a bite to eat, a glass of rosé, and plenty of girl talk... truly the perfect spring afternoon. Do check out Tuckernuck's new arrivals for spring — there's a lot to love. A few of my favorites in the slideshow below!


I'm kind of obsessed with the newest items in my boutique and the great news is they can all ship in time for Mother's Day next Sunday! Finding unique products is one of the trickiest parts of owning an online store because I want you to be able to shop everything you love — desk accessories, home decor, jewelry, leather goods, tabletop items — in one place but still share new pieces and vendors you haven't seen anywhere else. Keeping the product assortment tightly edited but also fresh and exciting is definitely a challenge that keeps me going week after week! As always, if you have suggestions for new designers or product categories you'd like to see me add to the boutique, shoot me an email! I'm really trying to update the assortment every couple weeks and I'm really excited about the lineup we have rolling out over the next couple months. Shop what's new here and let me know what you think!


Amy and I took these photos en route to the Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend (I just subbed the flats out for heels — a must for walking in the city!). I had been coveting this striped dress since seeing it on Pinterest months and months ago and pounced when I found it on sale for 50% off online. And I've gotten so many compliments on these new baby blue loafers from Sole Society — they really are the perfect walking shoe and at a price that makes them too good to resist. 

Now let's talk about the necklace. It's by Denver jeweler Elizoebeth Jensen, whose designs are perfect for everyday wear and available in sterling silver, yellow gold, and rose gold. When she offered to send me a necklace, I chose the Gables necklace in yellow gold with a three-letter monogram (though I also love the Shield Crest necklace!). Her jewelry is the perfect gift for ladies of all ages — I would love to have one made for Mother's Day! Elizoebeth is kindly giving away one necklace to a lucky Design Darling reader so decide which necklace you'd most like to receive and follow the steps in the widget below! I'll be contacting the winner on Sunday. Good luck! Oh and if you decide you can't wait until then, use code DESIGNDARLING20 for 20% off at checkout :)


35 restaurants with a view. Have you been to any?!

A bright shift dress for only $58. 

A great new vintage shop by my friend Fallon.

A ladylike top that's perfect with a skirt for work and with jeans for the weekend.

Commonly mispronounced interior design words.

How to deck out your bar cart.

I bought these and this during the Tory Burch friends & family sale. Use code FRIENDLY for 25% off through Monday.

Really pretty new items in my boutique.

The single girl's guide to decorating.

TIME's 100 most influential people of 2014.


scalloped sweater  /  earrings  /  lip gloss  / wedges  /  cuff  /  skinny jeans  /  clutch (25% off code FRIENDLY)

How darling is this scalloped sweater? My friend Kathleen emailed it to me and I don't think I can live without it. Which color do you like best? I probably don't need another navy top but it's so tempting...

I'm really looking forward to a weekend at home after last week's Austin escapades. Tonight Amy and I are headed to the Tribeca Film Festival to see the documentary Dior and I and tomorrow my friend Jane is hosting a dinner party (teach me your ways!). Besides that, there will be lots of coffee, time at the dog park, and wandering my new neighborhood. I hope you all have a good one! xx


I should start this story by saying that my family has always been a fan of grand gestures. When I left to study abroad in France, my parents and my sister brought a boom box and serenaded me while I stood in the security line (I wish I still had the red-faced photos to prove it). When my sister's best friend moved out of town, we choreographed a flash mob to "Call Me Maybe" for thirty of our family and friends to send her off in style. And when my sister graduated from college last year, we booked a gospel choir to surprise her at her party and sing all her favorite songs. My mom and sister are usually the brains behind the operation and it's me, my dad, and my brothers who rally behind them no matter how ridiculous we feel at the time. These gestures, big and small, have always been a great reminder that we're all happiest when we're making other people happy.

My mom had been dreaming up a little project to pay it forward on her birthday. Her vision was this: she and my brother Camden would pick up two dozen pink balloons (ordered to the local florist by my sister) and drive to New York to meet me. My mom and I would walk into Grand Central Station (Camden behind the camera) and pass out the balloons to anyone who wanted one. We'd walk in with two big bunches of balloons, put a smile on a few people's faces, and get to see the 24 balloons dispersed across the floor of the train station before we left.

These things always feel a little awkward at first ("Hi, I'm Mackenzie, would you like a balloon? Oh, no? That's cool, welp, have a nice day!") but of course it was a home run. We started out targeting little kids in strollers but eventually got comfortable handing them out to adults who looked like they were having a tough day or tourists who were posing for pictures. And you know what? Every last one of those 24 people broke into a big smile when we handed them their balloon. 

We met a mom with three teenagers and gave them all balloons. My mom explained that it was her birthday and she wanted to spread a little joy to other people. The other mom had just come from Starbucks, where a stranger ahead of them had bought their drinks. A week before that, she had paid for a woman's purchases at Goodwill, allowing her to buy two outfits instead of one. I teared up thinking about how much better the world is when we all participate in these random acts of kindness.

My mom, brother, and I were standing on the balcony pointing out all the balloons we saw when the other mom came racing up the steps with a pastry from the food court downstairs. She thanked us for making her day and wished my mom a happy birthday. It was completely extraordinary — my mom was so thrilled, and the other woman was so touched — and yet so simple. If I felt a little silly walking into Grand Central with balloons fifteen minutes earlier, I walked out on cloud nine knowing those balloons had made a little difference in two dozen people's days.

As luck would have it, the footage didn't turn out so great but the impression it made on me and my brother is one I won't soon forget. I'm so lucky to have such an awesome family and a mom who wanted to celebrate her birthday by making other people feel like it was theirs. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you!

P.S. If you're feeling inspired and want to put a smile on someone's face, here are a few more ideas for paying it forward. If you have your own favorites, please share in the comments!

1. bake cookies for your local homeless shelter
2. call your grandparents
3. leave a 100% tip for great service (I first did this for my 101 in 1001 list!)
4. pay for a stranger's coffee or drive-thru meal
5. put change in an expired parking meter
6. say good morning to someone on the street (for some reason, this is the easiest way to put a skip in my step)
7. volunteer at a school, senior center, or soup kitchen


vintage mirror (similar)  //  sofa via Joss & Main  //  X benches

shelving  //  sailboats  //  baskets

My apartment is coming along, slowly but surely. I feel like the moment I get one corner furnished and styled the way I want, another part of the space starts crying out for attention. There's a huge armoire I need to figure out how to get rid of (apparently my parents don't want it in their garage... weird ;)) and then I'll move a few pieces around to make room for more seating. I'm supposed to host a housewarming party in a few weeks so, even if I don't have the furniture arrangement all sorted out, I think it's time for a little spring refresh. I just ordered frames for a few new art pieces (OBSESSED with the pool photo above) and am so excited to work a few of the new arrivals in my boutique into my decor du jour. And when in doubt, fresh flowers work wonders! 


Thanks to your awesome recommendations (who knew I had so many readers in Texas?!), we had an unbelievable trip to Austin. Here's a recap of what we packed into a little more than 48 hours — I already can't wait to go back and try the rest of your favorites! Prepare yourself for photo overload...

"Breakfast" at Hillside Farmacy
Any breakfast that includes mac and cheese is fine by me ;) Hillside Farmacy is a cute spot in East Austin with old-school medicine cabinets and penny tile floors. I love how many people on Instagram noticed Will's Blackberry — he has an extra phone for work, I swear! #TeamiPhone

Tour of Deep Eddy Vodka
I had my first sip of Deep Eddy when I visited Dallas for New Year's and was pretty excited to get to see where the magic happens. This. Stuff. Is. So. Good. (My favorite is the sweet tea but apparently Texans go for ruby red grapefruit!) They're moving to a new space soon (think on-site tastings!) but it was pretty incredible to see what they've accomplished in a small space. Think they want to take over shipping for Design Darling? ;)

Lunch at Josephine House
Navy exterior, pink flowers, marble countertops... This place had Design Darling written all over it. I had an insane Brussels sprout and quinoa salad and we toasted to vacation with a glass of rosé. Doesn't get much better in my book!

Tour of Katie Kime's office
You all know about my girl crush on Katie Kime so it will come as little surprise that I was obsessed with her office space. Fabric swatches, ginger jars, hot pink packaging, Slim Aarons prints, unfinished furniture... This was basically my version of heaven and Katie herself could not be sweeter. Stay tuned for a few of her goodies coming soon to the boutique!

Dinner and drinks at Hula Hut
I don't usually associate Texas with water so I was pleasantly surprised by this casual lakefront spot. Guacamole, margaritas, and a killer sunset... What more could a girl want?

Breakfast at Elizabeth Street Café
If I lived in Austin, I would be at Elizabeth Street Café every weekend. It has the prettiest exterior, the happiest waitresses, the best Vietnamese iced coffee, and every sweet treat you could possibly want. My mouth is watering looking at these photos...

Lunch at Clark's Oyster Bar
A taste of Nantucket in the heart of Austin and honestly an Instagram-worthy photo opp around every corner. (Wearing this shirt and these jeans c/o South Moon Under!)

Swimming in Barton Springs Pool
A cool man-made pool filled with chilly spring water. Great people-watching and something you can't do in just any city. This was definitely the highlight of our trip! 

Gelato at Dolce Neve
Note to self: hot pink patio furniture belongs in the dream home file.

Dinner at La Condesa
It was pretty dark inside the restaurant but take my word for it: this tapas spot is worth a visit. I credit their fish tacos for helping me putt two holes-in-one at mini golf that night. ;) (Wearing this dress c/o Persifor!)

Easter brunch at Perla's
My mom called me on Sunday morning to wish me a happy Easter and ask whether my clothes still fit because I had been Instagramming so much food — then I promptly went to brunch where we ordered homemade poptarts and lobster rolls. #dietstartstomorrow

- - -

We had such a great time and packed so many stops into two and a half days. Every weekend should be an unofficial food tour, don't you think? The best part is that we ate well, walked a ton, slept more than usual, and came back to New York feeling totally inspired and refreshed. I'm already planning our next weekend getaway — if you have any suggestions for fun destinations, I'm all ears!