A regular on the pages of Architectural Digest and Elle Decor, New York-based designer James Huniford is lauded for his earthy yet refined interiors. The founder of Huniford Design Studio is a master at mixing surprising found objects with sophisticated, minimalist furnishings, and it turns out he’s also an expert fundraiser. For 15 years, Huniford has helped raise millions of dollars for Housing Works through one of the industry’s most beloved and successful charity events, Design on a Dime. When he isn’t corralling designers for the fundraiser or jetting off to one of his many projects around the country, Huniford also works on his own furnishings line. We’re thrilled this mega-talent is consigning goods from his travels and visits to markets all over the world.
How do you see the distinction between the Huniford Collection versus the Vintage Collection?
The Huniford Collection is a modern collection of furniture that has grown from the custom pieces I have designed for a variety of projects. Our Vintage Collection is composed of pieces collected from my travels and visits to markets all over the world. I collect pieces that I envision will make a strong impact on a room.
You are known for your passion for found objects. How do you explain the value of a vintage piece to people who are usually unaware of its appeal?
Even the most complex and flashy object becomes humbled over time. It develops a depth and a patina — and even shows a little crustiness. I love to mix this sensibility into my work. Once I explain it in that way, people understand the value.
Can you share the story behind the Udi Charka Bowls you are listing on Sotheby’s Home?
I found this incredible source in Tel Aviv on a recent trip to Israel. The attention to detail and unique markings on the bowls are really beautiful, so I decided to bring a collection of them back with me.
What three words best describe your personal style?
1. Inspired 2. Edited 3. Intentional
Is there a design motto or quote that you tell your clients over and over again?
Personal, innovative, unique spaces created for the people who live in them.
How did your life path lead you to design? Was it always your calling?
It was always my calling, so I think life naturally led me to be a designer.
Who is your dream client?
I already have them!
When you design a room, what do you start with? Art? Furniture? The rug? Or is it different every time?
It depends on the client and the space I am working with. When I design a room, I’m creating a space that is meant to be a backdrop for how my clients live and how they interact with their family and friends.
Do you get inspiration for your interiors from your travels? What are some of your favorite destinations?
Always. Some of my favorite destinations include India, Egypt, Israel and France.
How do you incorporate vintage items into your work?
I use them liberally, mixing them in with both very modern pieces and more traditional ones. This juxtaposition creates a sort of dramatic tension that is important in my work.
Since you founded Design on a Dime in 2004, you’ve raised over $17 million dollars for Housing Works. Can you share the origin story of Design on a Dime and how it evolved since 2004?
When I started Design on a Dime in 2004, it was a very different time. I started this event with Housing Works because I saw the compassion and drive that lived within the design community. Design on a Dime was a way to bring us together, to take that drive and compassion we put into our everyday work and give back to our fellow New Yorkers.
The first Design on a Dime was with just myself and four other designers at one of the Housing Works thrift shops. Today, it has grown to include events in both Miami and New York, bringing together over 100 interior designers, 600+ donating brands, and raised over $1.1 million at Design on a Dime New York this year.
If you could only use one paint color in a home, what would it be?
A dusky white. White made less sterile with the addition of some blue or green.
What are your go-to textiles for your projects?
There are many. Our Huniford fabrics collection with Lee Jofa, Chapas, Jim Thompson, Colefax and Fowler, ALT for Living, Jasper by Michael S. Smith, Rose Tarlow, and Rogers & Goffigon to name a few. I could keep going.
What colors and patterns are you drawn to in your work?
I am most influenced by artwork, and I’m often inspired by Klimt, Robert Mangold and the subtle palette of a Cy Twombly.