Interview with Benjamin Dhong a San Francisco Interior Designer

Benjamin Dhong is a San Francisco interior designer with an interesting story.“It’s not rocket science; I just read whatever I get my hands on,” he says. “But what’s most validating is the great client reactions. Once we’ve finished a project, that’s when I know I’m in the right profession.” Benjamin Dhong love mixing old and new, traditional and modern and high and low.

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Homedit: Were you always interested in design? Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.

Benjamin Dhong: I stumbled into design serendipitously during a trip to Italy. My friend was celebrating his birthday by renting a palladian villa outside of Vicenza. A prominent San Francisco interior designer was on the trip and in conversations about art, history and plenty of bottles of red when I mentioned that I had plenty of free time and she invited me to work as an intern in her office when we returned.One thing led to another and within 3 years I was ready to take the plunge and go out on my own. I’ve never looked back or regretted a moment. That trip changed my life.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: Where do you find your inspiration?

Benjamin Dhong: Everywhere. Travel, museums, auction catalogs, even movies…the films of Michael Powell in post War England are very inspirational. His classic “black narcissus” about nuns up in the himalayas is hauntingly beautiful.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: Can describe a bit your first interior design project ?

Benjamin Dhong: I created the entire furniture plan in powerpoint and somehow had gotten the measurements wrong and ordered a sectional that was way too big for the room! Thank god I caught it before it went into production or before the client caught on. Interior design is a bit like the smoke and mirrors of show business. It looks all beautiful from the front row, but it’s madness behind the curtain. Of course this week we just installed a 22 foot long banquette that had to be hoisted.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: How would you define your personal style?

Benjamin Dhong: I love mixing old and new, traditional and modern and high and low. But it has to be done in a very balanced way or else it looks like a big mess. I like my rooms to be very calm and serene, but with great interest.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: How long ago did you start your business?

Benjamin Dhong: I hung my own shingle out 4 years ago. We were lucky to be invited to participate in the San Francisco decorator showcase house with 3 months and that is what jump started my career.

Homedit: What kind of people ask for your help?

Benjamin Dhong: I find that my clients appreciate the nods to history or intellectual ideas that I try to bring into all my projects. They like more than just a pretty room.

Homedit: What would be your recommendation for “what to do first” in a decorating project?

Benjamin Dhong: Rearrange the furniture!! It shakes up the perceptions of the client and lets them see the possibilities. Moving about the furniture makes you see them in a brand new light

Homedit: What advice do you have for someone with a new house to decorate and perhaps a limited budget?

Benjamin Dhong: Don’t buy things just to fill up the empty spaces. Better to slowly buy things that mean something and are of value.Go to the flea market and find some pieces with some character and soul.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: What is your favorite book/magazine on design?

Benjamin Dhong: I love world of interiors. It’s a uk magazine. The cover the most amazing and obscure spaces and so beautifully shot. It’s like art.

Homedit: How about your favourite site?

Benjamin Dhong: Now that there are so many wonderful design blogs it’s really hard to pin it down. This week it is because of it’s wonderful mix of modern art and design.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: What you recommend for this year ?

Benjamin Dhong: Continue mixing things up. Hard, soft, old and new.Even modern design yearns for texture and warmth. For me it’s a the power of the juxtaposition. The intelligent pairing of  the unlikely makes for powerful spaces.

Homedit: What is the average time allocated to a project?

Benjamin Dhong: Our projects average about a year. I like to allow time to ramp up so I can give the project some thought before we make any major decisions. Beautiful design is comprehensive and well thought out.

Benjamin Dhong Interior Designer

Homedit: What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?

Benjamin Dhong: Soak up as much knowledge as possible. Go to museums, pour through auction catalogs to see the best of design. Travel, travel, travel!!

Homedit: What are your plans for the future?

Benjamin Dhong: We are getting more and more into working with architects and designing the entire architecture of the houses. I’m happiest stomping around a construction site and see plans come to life!

Homedit: What do you think of our site?

Benjamin Dhong: I love your global outlook. Design is not parochial anymore. We’re all interconnected and are exchanging ideas faster and faster. I love it!{picture 1 from here.}