How the interior designer does custom furniture.
I met Dina Bandman at a de Gournay-wallpapered dog spa—well, a dog-spa-slash-canine-utility-room. It was the confection of a paper she pulled off for the prestigious San Francisco Decorator Showcase back in 2017—the room had a doggy laundry station and velvet-lined accessory drawers. This past year she lit up the ‘gram once more at the Dallas Kips Bay showhouse, designing a showstopping guest bedroom that made us all go: Gawd, I would so do yellow if I could do it like Dina. The paper: a Bandman collaboration with de Gournay and fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu. The yellow: So spot-on it would make Nancy Lancaster jealous. The moral of a DBI design: If you’re going to be a little splashy with the budget, at least have some fun, right? We chatted with Bandman about her San Francisco firm, her lovable first stabs at custom furniture, and her schmorkie—we’ll let her explain that. —Sophie Donelson
Size of your team: It’s me, Emily, Nicole, Jenny, a part-time designer, part-time bookkeeper, and Gypsy, the office mascot.
Years in the biz: Since my first internship in 2013. DBI’s first Instagram post was my logo in December of 2015.
Tell us something about your office culture: Country music on Spotify—George Straight, Jason Aldean, Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift… She’s country, right? Or, when my assistant (who hates country) is in, it’s Jack Johnson. Holiday gifts are always from Hermès!
Any office pets or mascots? #ashmorkienamedGypsy my 10.5-year-old, now 98% blind Shih Tzu, Yorkie, Maltese pooch.
What was your first-ever custom-made piece? I’ve been doing custom furniture since day one! My first piece was when I was interning and helping a friend out gratis just to build a portfolio and get experience. We did custom window treatments in a silver-gray silk dupioni with silver greek key trim, a custom skirted entry table, and a custom chair and sofa! You did not want to look at it too closely—the quality was questionable—but it looked great 🙂
Is there anything you always spec as custom? Sofas are custom 95% of the time, club chairs too, and lots of custom beds/headboards and window treatments.
What custom project are you dying for a client to request? A build from the ground up!
Tell us about a mistake making furniture—big or small? Ugh, I once ordered bar stools instead of counter stools! The blessing was that you could just cut down the barstools and they miraculously became counter stools
Design your personal sofa style at home: Tight-back but all down seat cushions, upholstered in bold Bennison floral print, Samuel & Son bullion, and, duh, three throw pillows. I only have one real lounge space in my home so it had to be functional yet beautiful. So it is.
How did you learn to spec custom furniture pieces confidently? Educating myself by sitting in lots of different pieces, reviewing the specs on them, and determining what is comfortable.
Courtesy of Dina Bandman Courtesy of Dina Bandman
What technique specifically would you like to learn more about? It’s challenging when you find the perfect sofa or perfect chair on the showroom floor but it is too wide, narrow, or deep and you want to modify the dims but do not want to ruin the beauty of the shape or the scale which is what makes it so aesthetically pleasing. I definitely overanalyze when I customize but better to measure twice and cut once!
My first real sofa… Was in the Miami Condo that I moved into right after I graduated from college when I had no business hiring an interior designer. It was from Bentley Churchill and it was an 11′ sectional, 2 piece, so it had a return. High back and silver velvet, which we accessorized with pink and purple silk dupioni pillows. It was a WHOLE LEWK and did not fit through the door and had to be crane-lifted. After 11 years I decided it was time to reinvent my Miami condo. (My friends said it was SO not me, or rather embodied my Russian Jewish American Princess Miami side they did not know existed), so, rather than crane-lifting it out, the handyman cut it up. RIP. The interior designer I hired back then told me in 10 years I would be itching to redo it and she was right!
Photography by Stephen Karlisch; Design by Dina Bandman Photography by Stephen Karlisch; Design by Dina Bandman
What would you love to try someday? Designing a bar or a hotel!
Name a few favorite or go-to textile companies: Bennison, Holland & Sherry, Claremont, Soane.
How do you address upholstery for a family with young kids or pet owners? As I have been told by my rep at Stark, wool is the most durable, easiest to clean, and is a natural fiber.
What furniture trend or piece should be retired? Accent walls. Extinct by now I hope.
Which old-school piece or idea needs to come back? Fringe or a skirt.
Sofas: Skirted, platform, or bare legs? Skirted with a fringe! Or bare legs but then skirted chairs!
Sofa pillows: Knife edge, box, welt, or other? More is more! Trim and more trim.
Sectional sofas: Yah, nah, or when? Living room: NO. Family room: Always.
Generously decorative-pillow bed? More is more, so, absolutely.
Upholstered headboard? Always!
Coffee table or ottoman? Coffee table for formal living room, ottoman for den or family room.
Your best ideas happen: At night in bed.
Dream clients… become friends and learn quickly to “just trust me.”
I’m a sucker for… plaid, de Gournay, white plaster light fixtures.
Dinner with a friend: banquette or barstool? Neither: Across from another at a smaller table!