Darra Bishop describes her personal style as “Mid-Century Modern, Mod, Vintage Industrial but with a healthy dose of unconventional thrown in for good measure,” and says one of her favorite things in her own home is a pair of vintage orange and white glass Holmegaard capsule shaped table lamps.
While she is busy as current sitting President of the ASID LA Chapter, owning her own residential design firm, bespoke design, as well as being a partner in a boutique hospitality design firm, make | model | method, with a UCLA Extension colleague, Meredith Pominville, her dream project is to design a veterinary clinic one day. “Even the ones on the cutting edge of technology leave a lot to be desired in terms of function and comfort. No one wants to be at the vet, it should be designed to be as comfortable and pleasing as possible.”
We wanted to know more about Darra and how she got to where she is today. Here is what she said:
What attracted you to interior design?
I spent a good deal of time as a child and young adult helping my mother paint and furnish our homes. We moved around a lot, and every new place was a chance to create something beautiful. Interior design remained a deep interest to me, even through my careers in sales, marketing and advertising. I have always felt that one's surroundings can have a material effect on one's mood and outlook.
What are you currently working on?
I currently have 2 larger house remodels and one small, but interesting garage renovation. I love integrating a client's personality into their home. One of the house remodels centers around 2 properties - one house that is being converted into an AirBnB in Topanga that we are designing with a real beachy playful vibe - think bright encaustic concrete tile and bold colored furnishings paired with soft muted linens and breezy fabrics. The garage conversion is on its face an office, but digging deeper, I am creating a very special display / retail area for a client and his extensive childhood collectables. I am very excited about this project because it will end up being an unconventional and deeply personal space for the owner.
What is one of your biggest challenges?
To be a successful owner of a design firm, you need to work ON your business not just IN your business. That means always looking for prospects even when you are too busy to think about additional work. It is difficult being a rainmaker and balancing that with the day to day demands of interior design projects.
What does your typical day look like?
I try to spend at least 2 half days a week at make | model | method so my business partner and I can strategize and find the types of boutique hospitality (independent restaurants, coffee shops, hotels + retail) projects that we want to do. Since our formation in 2014, we've been very busy with mostly multi-family renovation projects and really want to pivot to doing more restaurants and retail, etc. My typical days are divided between project management of projects in construction and design work for projects in the schematic design phase. Every day is a little different which keeps things interesting, but is also very challenging, especially if all you really want to do is shut yourself in a room and get some drafting done!
Best career advice you’ve gotten?
Identify 30 people in your industry that are potential ambassadors for your services. Maintain and deepen these relationships, as your business will be 70% referrals. Hopefully you will have repeat clients, but it is important to have enough prospects and potential jobs lined up do that you end up doing the projects you want to do, not just whatever comes your way so you can pay the bills.
3 qualities that got you to where you are today:
What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to students as they enter the field?
Join ASID. Take advantage of ASID events. These events bring together industry professionals and Industry Partners and will prove to be amazing resources for your design questions and sourcing or specification needs. I have IP resources that I can really lean on when I need an expert - from fabric to lighting to hardware and plumbing - we can't know it all, but we should know where to get the answers our clients need.
Something you wish you knew when first got started designing?
I wish I had been better at communicating my value as a designer. When I first started out, I was excited just to have clients! Understanding that what we do is valuable is a great help in standing behind and sticking to your design fees.
Who do you admire and why?
I am a big fan of Charles and Ray Eames. They lived and breathed their work, had a family that produced their designs, and created things that are timeless (and tremendously comfortable)! There are many designers and architects whose work I admire, but I mention the Eames because I also admire the way they created their work.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Everywhere. Retail stores, Coffee shops, The movies, Pinterest, Shelter Magazines, different cities and countries.
Where did you grow up?
I moved around a lot as a child, living in a few cities in Pennsylvania as well as Paris, France. I went to college in Pittsburgh, PA so I tell people I am from Pittsburgh
Where do you currently live, and how does it influence your work?
I live in the Westside of Los Angeles, but before that, lived for 8 years in Downtown Los Angeles. Living in DTLA absolutely influenced my work. My favorite projects are loft or live work spaces. I love that you can design around how a client wants to use their home instead of the home's layout dictating how it is to be used. DTLA also has so many and diverse hidden gems from an interior design and architectural standpoint.
When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID program?
I started in 2005 (part time) and ended up being the first class to graduate with the MIA in 2011.