One of Curbed’s Young Guns class of 2016, Danielle Arps is playing it cool as the interior designer of choice for New York’s tech scene. Specializing in start-ups, she describes her style as a “clean-lined, industrial aesthetic with a natural material palette and dashes of (on-brand, of course) color.”
In 2009, Dani landed her first big freelance job with Codecademy. In New York, there is a definitive start-up culture in which founders are friends and get together regularly to compare notes. Dani’s Codecademy work did not go unnoticed—soon she was designing spaces for companies like SeatGeek, Contentedly, Fashionista, Venmo, Gilt, and KitchenSurfing. At the 2017 CMG International Summit, Dani will be sharing her thoughts on designing for start-ups, emerging trends and materials, and the “crazy ride” of being a design entrepreneur.
“Start-up culture is all about being scrappy and utilitarian from the get-go.”
For Dani, startups have been ideal commercial clients. “Startups give you more freedom… You present them with your aesthetic and what you see for the space…. I gravitate toward startups. I also just love working with the clients. A lot of them are like, ‘Do something cool! We want a sleep room,’ or, ‘we want a hidden room,’ ‘we want bean bags.’ I’ve been able to do all those things. Start-up culture is all about being scrappy and utilitarian from the get-go. They usually begin with one or two people in an apartment or a dorm room, with their only tools being a laptop and writing surface. The movement toward minimalism is partly about staying true to one’s beginnings, but also about being hyper functional. I like to approach the design of a space with one overarching concept that’s woven into the company’s narrative—something that can be both striking and functional.”
“I like to approach the design of a space with one overarching concept that’s women into the company’s narrative.“
Pratt Institute’s Master of Interior Design program cultivated Dani’s analytical design chops, putting function and programmatic needs first. “Pratt ran the interiors program like an architecture program. It was all about process and concept.” At the beginning of the program, this drove her crazy. Arps remembers thinking “When are we going to get to materials and colors?!”
Arps remembers thinking “When are we going to get to materials and colors?!”
Now, she acknowledges that Pratt’s rigor has served her well, particularly for commercial work. “I really start from a space-planning point-of-view,” Dani says. “Start-ups like Facebook and Google brought about a new office culture, one that’s more about collaboration and the idea of a community; there has to be a level playing field. Programmatically speaking, this generally means open offices. Through my work, I’ve discovered that open-plan offices don’t necessarily bode well for everyone. I’m more of an introverted person so I wouldn’t do well in this setting. I try to find a balance between public, semi-public and private spaces while also including fun and quirky elements. I’ve done hidden meeting rooms, 30-foot stadium seating and even designed a chair with start-ups in mind.”
Along with Dani’s appreciation for programmatic design, she also has a passion for form. “I think art and interior design is the same thing. Interior design has art within; it just has to be functional. It should also make you happy.” Her minimalist aesthetic means that the pieces she included in her projects have to be thoughtful and well-designed. “Part of minimalism is an appreciation for good design. Because you have so few pieces that they have to look stunning in whatever space they’re in. Having one striking desk and a beautiful chair can make a huge statement.”
“Part of minimalism is an appreciation for good design.”
Dani’s modern aesthetic is often punctuated with natural woods, potted plants, space-defining paint color (or wallcovering), and cubed hideaways, including upholstered seating with plush cushioning and high backs—much of which she designs. With a Certificate of Furniture Design from Copenhagen’s Danmarks Designskole on her resume, Dani collaborates with furniture makers in Brooklyn to prototype her pieces, including her namesake Dani Lounge. Arps also designs custom lighting and textiles for her clients.
Join Color Marketing Group in Portland, November 9-12, for this year’s International Summit to hear more about Dani’s exciting trajectory and the companies that inspire her design.