The Style Files: Dara Caponigro

Dara Caponigro is a force in the world of design and interiors. Dara is currently the Creative Director of one of the most well-respected fabric houses in the industry, F. Schumacher & Co, where she directs and oversees product development, advertising and marketing, visual merchandising, and the website. Dara’s presence at the company has seen a total change in the marketing and branding at the company, both of which feel fresh, editorial, and inspiring. Prior to joining Schumacher, Dara held a slew of illustrious positions as a magazine editor. She was the Editor-in-Chief at Veranda and before that, she was the founding editor at the original Domino and held several senior editorial posts at House Beautiful and ELLE DECOR.

It is probably a safe assumption to say that Dara has just about seen it all in the design world. As such, it is no surprise that her latest endeavor, writing the recently released The Authentics in collaboration with photographer Melanie Acevedo, is a celebration of those who march to the beat of their own drum, doing things their own way, blazing new paths, and sharing their unique perspective with the world. The Authentics profiles luminaries from the worlds of art, design, and fashion including Kelly Wearstler, Ashley and Katalina Hicks, Nicky Haslam, and Joseph Dirand among others, who go beyond simply living stylishly, but also apply a sense of authenticity and individuality to everything they do. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Dara about the things that inspire her, her career, and her favorite things. I hope you’ll enjoy the first Style Files interview of 2018 as much as I enjoyed working on this feature. 

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Dara Caponigro: Very edited.  Classic and clean with a bit of an edge.

{Designer Veere Grenney’s London Apartment which Dara Published while she was Editor in Chief of Veranda– Veere also has a fabric line at Schumacher now, where Dara serves as Creative Director.}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

DC: I grew up in a beautifully designed (and very neat) house – my mom was an interior designer and constantly thinking outside the box so our place was her idea laboratory.  My best friend’s house was charmingly cluttered and brimming with interesting things – amazing photographs, letters, books — her dad was the photo editor of Time magazine in its heyday — and there were always cool stories/people/things to experience. I like to think of my own home as a combination of the two – designed, yes, but also full of objects (some with pedigree, some without) that have stories to tell.  I like it to get a little messy. Then, when I can’t take it anymore – I do a big cleaning and start again. To sum it up, I guess it says that I’m passionate about design and love beautiful things, but that I know what’s important in life. 

{A Beautiful Vignette from Dara’s New Book, The Authentics | Photography by Melanie Acevedo}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

DC: Travel, museum exhibitions, nature.

{The Beautiful Fabrics from the Vogue Living Collection for Schumacher Draw upon Inspiration from Nature}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

DC: My mom.  Albert Hadley.  Geoffrey Beene.  

{Albert Hadley}

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

DC: Kindness

{Kata and Ashley Hicks at Home in England as featured in The Authentics | Photography by Melanie Acevedo}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

DC: Ebay and Etsy

{Nicky Haslam’s Home as featured in The Authentics | Photography by Melanie Acevedo}

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

DC: Louis Oliver Gropp, the legendary editor-in-chief:  House & Garden in the 80s, then Elle Decor and, finally, House Beautiful in the 90s – he taught me what it means to be a journalist and how to let people run with their strengths. . Deborah Needleman – the genius behind domino who was so ahead of everything.  She  transformed how Americans think about decorating  by giving them the tools to find and express their personal style.

{A Home Designed by Joseph Dirand as featured in The Authentics | Photography by Melanie Acevedo}

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

DC: Not being in a rush.  Having time to do things well – whether that’s cooking, flower arranging, parenting or working. 

{Miles Redd Relaxing at his Home in Shelter Island as featured in The Authentics | Photography by Melanie Acevedo}

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

DC: At Schumacher, we have so much happening.   Did you know that we have new collections coming out every single month?  I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished  — we’ve completely re-energized the company with gorgeous product (everything from sophisticated cut velvets to classic prints to artisanal fabrics that really speak to handcraft), editorially-driven marketing and social media that is super fresh and engaging,  a new showroom in San Francisco, renovated showrooms (we just finished Boston. Laguna, Dania and LA are next), a groundbreaking website and apps that we are forever improving, and exacting customer service.  We never take our foot off the pedal! 

I’ve also been moonlighting and released my new book called The Authentics in late October.  I worked on it with my co-author, Melanie Acevedo, who is a photographer extraordinaire and also a dear friend.  It was a reaction to, what we see as, a world that is becoming increasingly homogenized and a lot less interesting.  We wanted to focus on true creative originals who march to the beat of their own drum and who do what they do because they are driven to do it, not because they are searching for mass approval.  Filled with gorgeous original photography by Melanie, it is a style book, for sure, but it is so much more than that because we delve into what makes our subjects tick.  They are absolutely inspiring and there is so much to learn from them about finding one’s own voice.

Go-To Outfit: Any kind of dress.  They’re so easy when you’re a working woman.  You don’t need to think about it.  Just throw it on with a great pair of shoes and a piece of jewelry and you’re done.

Style Mantra: Style it up and then take one thing away

Scent: Citrus

Piece of Jewelry: A great cuff, or jewelry from the 19th century. 

Color I Never Tire Of: White, probably because I’m surrounded by color all day.

Flower: Daffodils because they’re so happy, hopeful and unpretentious

Indispensable Design Element: Light, and Fabric (of course!)

Era for Design: I love all of them, even a fussy Victorian piece can be cool treated in the right way.

Fabric/Textile:  They’re all my babies so it’s hard to choose.  I will tell you that I just ordered Talos for our house in the Bronx as well as Design 501 by Frank Lloyd Wright for Schumacher. Magical Menagerie is going in our country house.

Hostess Gift:  Anything at Thomas O’Brien’s and Dan Fink’s new store, Copper Beech,  in Bellport, NY.  I also love Neue Galerie.  They sell a fantastic set of wrapping paper with designs by Josef Hoffman.  Or, lavender wands made with velvet ribbon in the host’s or hostess’ favorite color.  

Meal: Anything that you can only get once a year: fresh figs, soft shell crabs, pumpkin pie.  

Drink:  It depends on the season.  At Christmas, vodka with soda with a splash of pomegranate juice and an orange slice

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work:  Turner Classic Movies.  I’m currently obsessed with Italian and French film from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

What I Love About My City: Sadly, I’ve fallen SOMEWHAT out of love with New York City for the reasons that I did my book. However, I recently went to the South Street Seaport and was charmed by its transformation from a touristy destination with tons of chaos stores to a real neighborhood with fun, cool shops and cafes. How refreshing! 

Hotel:  Lately, it’s The Beverly Hills hotel because it’s so authentic.

City:  Naples, also because it’s so authentic, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. 

Museum: I’ve taken The Met for granted for years but I was just there seeing the Irving Penn and Rei Kawakubo shows.  For some reason, I saw it in a whole new light.  Wow, is that place amazing! I just got back from Edingburgh and I found the Portrait Gallery there mesmerizing. Not only are the portraits evocative, but the stories of the various sitters are unbelievable.  It made me realize why we’re all so obsessed with royalty – their stories are like soap operas – you can hardly believe they are true.

Artist:  Lucien Freud 

Actor/Actress: Elizabeth Taylor, especially in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf

Prized Possession: a Robsjohn-Gibbons dining table that is hard to place stylistically.  It could be modern or it could be classical.  I like that it’s hard to peg.  

Risk Worth Taking: Speeding

Rule to Break: Symmetry

Movie Set Design: I can’t say its my favorite but I love how stylized, glamorous and fantastical the sets are in Top Hat. Pulling those sets off required ingenuity and hutzpah.  

I can never have too many…dishes



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