CLARE DONOHUE My passion for good design has taken many turns.
I started drawing floor plans when I was 8. Finding one for a log cabin kit in my dad’s copy of Field and Stream, it made immediate, intuitive sense, and I was bitten. Like most budding designers, I started by redecorating my childhood bedroom. Using my allowance to buy sheets, and following instructions in a home design magazine, I sewed up a fashion-forward quilt.
But I also loved typography, and was lucky to have a high school early admissions program at the local college, where they taught “commercial art.” After transferring to NYC and graduating from the School of Visual Arts, I ran a graphic design studio for 14 years.
That magazine quilt story? I ended up working for the creative director who produced that.
All that while I never stopped designing rooms. I moved all over the city, from apartment to apartment (16 in total), fixing them up for fun.
I was then hired to art direct a series of home design magazines, but the budget and staff was tiny. In an early planning meeting, we wondered who we could find to oversee all the renovations. The editor turned to me with a raised eyebrow and said, “You’re always fixing up your apartment.” So I became the de facto general contractor as well as art director. After that, I made the switch to designing rooms instead of layouts; I’d found my true love.
At first I did all the work myself, but demand grew quickly and I soon trained a crew, which grew into a design/build firm. After a few years I realized I wanted to go back to just designing. Now I work with several independent contractors and focus on design and oversight.
PHILOSOPHY It’s important to enjoy the trip, not just the destination.
It’s a great benefit to have had this varied experience and seen the process of renovation from so many perspectives. It makes me consider all renovations from three points of view – that of designer, client, and contractor – and I believe that renovations work best when they are a true collaboration. As we go along, we’re solving issues and agreeing on decisions as a team.
One thing I learned while working as an art director was that if a crew was having fun at a photo shoot, it showed on the film, and made for great photos. It’s the same with renovations: if the team loves doing their work, that makes for great rooms.
EXTRACURRICULAR We need to redesign our global home, too.
In addition to running my design studio, I helped found Sane Energy Project, a non-profit devoted to the transition to a renewable energy future. Sane is now run by a wonderful staff of energetic activists. A portion of profits from One to One Studio is donated each year to support the work they do.