A nice home without professional interior design “is like the sizzle without the steak,” says David Landy, ASID, and it bothers him that so many homeowners in these days of ultra-low mortgage rates extend themselves on the construction end of projects and leave little money left for the interiors. It’s especially exasperating because those dream interiors clients see in high-end shelter magazine can be within reach and be of great value to the homeowner with a little professional help.
Landy, David Landy Interiors, Mineola, NY, is all about value and
quality. They are the foundation of his design philosophy and at
the core of his decision to move his design studio from the historic
district of Roslyn in Long Island’s Nassau County to his home.
In making the move, he pared back to three employees including himself,
but may actually have expanded the services he can provide clients.
“Going small makes the firm turn on a dime. We can really adjust
to situations, get plans out much quicker, we have our fingers on
more stuff than most people and we can accommodate the client and
get down to the nitty-gritty of what it is they want without a whole
big to-do of going through channels of people. We’ve found
this works very well,” he says.
In fact, it hasn’t at all affected the jobs the firm can do.
“We’ve done some large-scale jobs. Our jobs range anywhere
from a low end of $30,000 all the way up to $500,000,” says
The difference in being small and independent often comes down to
quality. “A department store can charge a three-times markup.
So they take a sofa that they buy for $800 and they sell it for
$2,400,” he explains. “Because we don’t have this
tremendous overhead, we can buy a $1,700 sofa and sell it to the
client for $2,400—the same price as the department store is
selling it for—the difference is quality, and that’s the
difference all the way down the line: the fabrics, drapery treatments,
with anything that we do. We’d rather sell a better product
at less markup and get the quality that will stand the test of time.”
THE RIBBON THAT COMPLETES THE PACKAGE
On the topic of window treatments, Landy is a designer who “gets
it.” He understands the importance of draperies, not only for
controlling light and privacy but also for the livability of the
space, its uniqueness and long-lasting value.
“Draperies especially we like to get involved with,” Landy
explains, “because they are one of the few things, other than
painting and painting techniques, that you can do to a house to
make it really unique. You can buy fabric and you can buy chairs
and things like that, but they’re really not unique. What’s
unique is the combination that you’re putting together. The
actual fabric is being sold all over the United States and the chair
pretty much also is being sold all over the United States, but the
drapery treatment is unique only for that job.
“By getting into the trim and getting into the details that
we can do, [a drapery is] what really makes the job look special.
It ties everything together. It makes it custom. Other than the
floor plans and the layout, which we do, that’s one of the
few ways that people really can see a difference,” he adds.
“Draperies act as a ribbon on a package. If you were to give
somebody a birthday gift and wrap it up but not put a ribbon around
it, what would it look like? Half done,” he says.
Landy knows he has done a job right when a person can walk into
the room and the drapery looks as if it has always belonged there.
“Not in the sense of being old,” he says, “but naturally
a part of the room—not gimmicky, but full.” He never skimps
on fabric, most often specifying three-times fullness for window
treatments. After all, this is what differentiates a professional
from a mass-market outlet.
With a degree in interior design from the University of Connecticut—an
ASID accredited program—Landy also has the knowledge and training
to go about designing a window treatment that fits a room’s
décor perfectly. It begins with a complete, detailed, elevation
rendering of an entire wall to scale, then comes the tracing paper
and sketching out design ideas. He says drawing to scale is one
of the most important skills a designer can develop for creating
good design and presenting ideas to a client. “You must draw
out a drapery treatment to scale. If it doesn’t look good in
scale, it’s not going to look good when it gets done,”
Once the design is done, assembling the many variables comes next:
“How are we going to treat the top? We start playing around
with cornices—do we want a formal look, do we want a casual
look, are we going to wrap it on a pole, how long is the pole going
to be, what kind of finials are we going to use, what kind of trim?”
It’s all in the details, and there are lots of details. To
keep track of them Landy uses a drapery worksheet that has a complete
listing of all the items to be attended to. It addresses each and
every detail so that when it goes to the workroom, there should
be no questions as to what needs to be done.
Landy designers also measure and install the treatments. The company
has tried outsourcing installations, but with nightmarish results—such
as the time an installer walked off the job site for five hours
to attend to personal business, or the time Landy arrived at a home
to find the installer cutting scallops into a cornice because he
thought it would look better.
It helps that Landy, who works on tuning up sports cars as a hobby,
personally has the technical ability necessary for installing. “I
can fasten anything to the wall at any time with any material. I’ve
retrofitted poles to make them longer and that, in and of itself,
is very important because it’s that technical nature that allows
one to see just how this drapery treatment is going to work,”
THE VALUE OF PROFESSIONAL HELP
Most of Landy’s clients reside on Long Island, NY, or in Greenwich,
CT, and come to the firm either as a repeat customer or as a word-of-mouth
referral. They have one thing in common: “The people who usually
hire us want something a little bit more unusual than store-bought
merchandise,” Landy explains.
Most of the jobs are residential (about 60 percent, Landy estimates),
although they also work on professional office space with satisfying
results. Landy believes what makes them good commercial designers
is their residential touch. “When we take that fine touch and
put it toward the commercial jobs we wind up with a real polished
The quality of the design and the work has economic advantages as
well for the commercial property owners. Landy sites projects in
which the companies found getting and maintaining employees was
easier when the work areas were well designed.
Landy’s design philosophy can be stated rather simply: Always
do your best; always use the best materials. “It goes all the
way through the house in everything that we do from cabinetry to
window treatments to flooring... in everything we do we try to do
it the best possible way, but not over the top. We’ve never
been an over-the-top firm,” he says.
Yet in 27 years of business Landy has never had carte blanche, money-is-no-object
clients. “We’ve always had to be concerned with peoples’
pocketbooks, especially today. Design is not on their list of immediate
needs.” That means stressing the value of good interior design,
which is not always an easy sell.
While meeting with clients, Landy may first explain the value of
the services the client receives. “When people hire a professional
interior designer, it’s more than someone who just picks pretty
colors,” he says. “It involves planning, floor plans,
elevations, renderings, meetings to get every detail right.”
He may then explain the long-term value of doing an interior right
from the beginning. He can point out that spending money on good
design upfront will save the client money in the long run. A well-designed
room has a much longer lifespan than a room without the services
of a design professional, which will end up costing more money as
each new makeover adds up.
Finally, there’s a psychological feeling a homeowner gets from
a well-designed room. In the end, when the work is done and all
the pieces are in place, the new room is just more livable.
“My business is in taking interiors and making them look really
good and livable. When you live in an interior where the lighting
is perfect, and the multi-media systems are unbelievable and the
accommodations for switching is right there at your fingertips no
matter where you sit, and tables are there, and the place is colorful
and alive and feels warm and has a really nice look about it . .
. it’s just nice to come home to that.”