Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dana Gibson for Stroheim & An Interview

Most of you know that I am a big fan of Dana Gibson's wonderful modern Chinoiserie accessories. You may not know that she has just come out with a stunning line of wallpaper and fabric for Stroheim. It is filled with everything I adore - Chinoiserie, leopard, fretwork, ikat, animals, and gorgeous color. This will be a huge hit. Dana was so nice to let me and all of my followers in on the back story of this wonderful collaboration.

Here is some background on Dana, followed by my interview with her.

Dana Gibson descends from a long line of artists and designers. Her mother is a painter and her grandmother was a sculptor. Dana's great grandfather, Charles Dana Gibson, was a renowned painter and illustrator at the turn of the last century. Today, he's probably best remembered for creating the Gibson Girl of the 1890's, closely modeled after his wife, legendary beauty Irene Langhorne. Her great aunt, Nancy Astor, was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons and another aunt, Nancy Lancaster, was an owner of the esteemed firm Colefax and Fowler.

Dana launched her design business, twenty years ago, with a line of hand sculpted porcelain wares. Major retailers including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Henri Bendel took notice, embracing her style and charm. Fashioned by hand and painted in colorful cutting garden colors, many of the same floral and pastoral themes continue to abound in Dana's work today.

In recent years, Dana has evolved from a craft artist to a manufacturer, expanding the range of her home accessories line to also include, hand painted tole ware, vases, cachepots, decorative trays, picture frames, wastebaskets, tissue boxes, lighting, tote bags, tea towels, decorative pillows and furniture. Strongly rooted in the American South, traditional design is at the core of what Dana does. She searches the world for trends in fashion and home décor, creating patterns with a wide variety of motifs and colors that are both classic and modern. Dana is currently licensing her designs to Stroheim, Hamilton Beach, and Miles Talbott.

Dana's collection for Stroheim includes a sophisticated line of fabrics and wallcoverings that embodies the essence of her joyous design aesthetic. It reflects her keen interest in centuries old traditions, seamlessly woven with what is modern and today. Ancient ikats, Chinese vases, painterly florals, birds, animal prints, curvaceous ogees and intricate fretwork are rendered in bold strokes and infused with a distinctly American sensibility. Bold colors are daringly mixed with traditional design that has stood the test of time.

I asked Dana to tell us more about how she came to work with Stroheim, what the process was like, how long it took, and the inspiration for her designs and color palette, as well as her favorites.

"Meeting up with a brand like Stroheim was both fortunate and serendipitous. I was at the New York  trade show with my line of lamps, small accessories and pillows. One of the pillows I had just designed and had sewn up was the Emperor Pillow. I almost didn’t take it. The design and color way struck me as too “specific” and would not fit into everyone’s décor. My assistant, Jane, loved it so we placed a pair of them on two ikat covered chairs I had also shipped to NYC for the show. The pillows were a giant hit and also caught the eye of the new creative director for Stroheim. She happened to be there helping her husband set up his display. So we both sort of think it was an accident or serendipity.

At first I talked with Stroheim about designing a few patterns for them, but then it grew into a full collection. I was lucky, at the right place at the right time. But I had been on a certain course. I’ve been designing products for the home for years now but I didn’t have formal training in textiles or product design. I learned on my feet and over a span of fifteen years, I developed a style that was unique and my own. Owning a business and designing products boils down to common sense. My aim was always to make something a wide enough group of people will love.

So putting the entire collection together took one and a half years, but it felt longer. The colors were handpicked from the pallet I use for my studio collection and most designs are two colors or less. This is strategic because a multi color fabric is harder to place in a room than two versions of blue for example. It’s really funny that the Emperor design, which we planned to offer as wallpaper in the collection, never made it. The reason has to do with finding the right facility to print it and running out of time to do so. Timing, when getting a collection together like this I learned, is always a key element in what gets put in. Once the designs and colorways were chosen, then the “books” had to be made and following that, production of goods, marketing etc.

Most of the wallpaper was printed in the states and the fabrics were printed at different mills overseas. The logistics of getting a collection like this together is mind boggling and I am thankful I didn’t have to concern myself with this. Last summer I visited the Stroheim design studio in New York to choose and pick color combinations for all the designs. Seeing the art boards full of 8-10 strike offs was a wonderful experience. It truly was candy for the eyes and proof we were one step closer.

My favorite design is Trot, probably because of the charm factor. (Dog pattern) I also like Canton which is the jar pattern. The painting is gestural and loose but the rich colors make it formal and elegant. I would say this collection is bursting with color. But it also offers some subdued colorations like the greys and the soft yellows. Deciding on which color palettes to keep and which to toss was a difficult choice and so I relied on my gut instincts mostly. My aim was for the cleanest and purest colors so at times, an off white background is used and at other times, stark white, whichever yeilded the crispest effect.

I plan to use Nouveau Palazzo in grey in my own dining room which is more of a neutral. I am considering doing a wall in the kitchen with the large scale Kuba Kuba. I am envious of anyone with a powder room that needs to be redone. I’d advise using Trot.

It is a lot of fun thinking about the combinations and hearing from others what they like.  The collection for Stroheim is an optimistic and cheerful choice for anyone who wants to up tempo their home. Using the large scale fabric on delicate antiques is a great way to modernize. And papering one wall in a colorful print can give a room that lift. The amazing thing about wallpaper is it can truly transform a room. There are lots of choice in this collection so I hope everyone will take a look."

Here are some of my favorites from the collection. You can see it all here.

Canton in Cobalt

Canton in Pink and Orange

Fret in Pink

Ocelot in Navy

Peregrine in Nsvy

Peony in Pink

Trot in Lime

Trot in Stone

Twig in Grass

Twig in Orange

Peony in Persimmon


  1. "optimistic" is exactly the right word; it is truly a collection that makes you feel good !

  2. 'Trot' is adorable! Love this collection.

  3. Jennifer: I am seriously smitten by Dana Gibson's work. The fact that I am an Langhorne reading junkie aside, I have always embraced color, trelliage, and general happiness in decor. This is so right up my alley, thanks!! Oh and if you haven't read The Five Sisters The Langorne's of Virginia by James Fox, you are in for a treat. Don't get me started on the Mitford's.

  4. Dana'a design style is literally in her DNA. The collection is youthful—and yes, by God, we deserve to cherish saying that long-forgotten word OPTIMISTIC!

    The colors remind me of my college years which included 1969, the summer of love. Here's to more of that.

  5. It is so wonderful to learn more about Dana and I do believe her new line will be an amazing hit!

    The color palettes and designs are so fresh and current. Love Canton, Peregrine and Ocelot!

    The Arts by Karena

  6. Dana is such a kind and down-to-earth lady filled with amazing talent and perseverance. She’s been a great friend to The Gracious Posse ( We love popping into her atelier to see what’s new. It’s been my pleasure to watch her brand grow over many years, and now it looks like it will be sky-rocketing with her new affiliation with Stroheim. You captured her story beautifully, Beth.

  7. your site is such a feast for my eyes...this made me think of you...