In the Mix

Interior Design: The Legends

Design Miami

Design connoisseur Daniella Ohad’s forthcoming talks program for AIA New York brings together top interior designers from around the world

For the past five years, New York-based design historian and connoisseur Daniella Ohad has been sharing her deep expertise with the public through talks programs that explore the subject of collecting design. Regular readers of Design Miami’s digital magazine, The Forum, will have seen her column, Collecting Design, which to date has recapped her most recent talks with major players in the collectible design world like Simon de PuryBen Brown, and Michael Boyd.

For Ohad’s forthcoming program, she’s broadening her focus. Starting in October, her Interior Design: The Legends program, presented in partnership with AIA New York and ASID New York, will offer the public a rare glimpse into the mindsets of some of the world’s most influential interior designers. Think India Mahdavi, Pierre Yovanovitch, Jacques Grange, and more.

The Forum will continue to benefit from Ohad’s public programs, as she will write weekly recaps of her one-on-one conversations with her amazing roster of interior designers. With much anticipation, we reached out to Ohad to see what she has in store for us.

Daniella Ohad at home. Photo courtesy of Daniella Ohad

How did your passion for and expertise in design develop?

My passion for design and aesthetics developed at an early age. Originally from Europe, my family fled the Nazi regimes there and settled in Palestine before the foundation of the State of Israell. My grandmother had great taste and the most beautiful house—a modernist villa built on Mount Carmel in Haifa. In the early 1950s, when many German immigrants wanted to get rid of their old furniture, she bought it all and furnished her home exclusively with Biedermeier.

It is in my grandmother's home that I first realized the power of great design to transform life. At that time, I did not know that one day I would earn a PhD from the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture; that I would go on to devote my life to education in design culture, spaces, objects, buildings, and taste.

Interior by Olivier Dwek, featuring the Conoid Dining Table by George Nakashima and ceramics by Tony Marsh and Yoshiro Kimura. Photo © Jarmo Pohjaniemi; courtesy Pierre Marie Giraud, Brussels

What inspired you to share your expertise with others?

I am a natural teacher. When you are committed to education, you want to learn in order to transfer this knowledge to others. I learn something new everyday, and it is rewarding. It is like collecting—you live with and preserve objects because one day they will have other homes.

I am a believer in the idea that sometimes in life—not often—you come to intersections that present opportunities that can shape your life, if you know how to recognize them. This happened to me on my first day of college at Tel Aviv University, in a class taught by Israeli philosophy professor Asa Kasher called The Meaning of Life.

Kasher said that all of us have the power to design our own lives and to give them purpose and meaning. There is life, and then there is life of significance. It was a turning point in my thinking. Teaching became my path to life of significance; my contribution to making the world a better place.

With the pandemic crisis—a time marked by instability and insecurity—education has become more accessible to more people while also offering a much needed source of inspiration to so many. For me, teaching in the virtual arena has opened new opportunities, and I love having students from all over the world.

Berkeley Craftsman Project; residential interior by Commune Design. Photo © Trevor Tondo

Your recent programs have focused on collectors—what drives them; what can be learned from them. Tell us about your pivot to interior design for your latest offering?

Interior design has been a primary interest of mine for many years. I have studied the history of interiors and have published numerous academic papers on the subject. I have in fact been teaching collecting alongside the history of interior design for many years, but my audience typically consisted of practicing interior designers and students of interior design.

The field is so broad and enormous today. I wanted to learn from and share knowledge about those who have come to shape the contemporary field. For my new program Interior Design: The Legends, it took me a long time to create the list of speakers, because I wanted to underscore the multifaceted nature of the field today.

The participating speakers have all established international profiles in residential design, are known for their own signature idioms, and have designed some of the world's most renown residential projects for clients who are passionate about the culture of design—collectors, artists, philanthropists, and influencers. These interior designers have developed the knowledge and practice of curators. They will provide insight into the evolution of their work, profession, and the state of décor today.

West 57th Street Residence; interior by William Sofield. Photo © William Sofield

What else can viewers expect from your Interior Design: The Legends program?

The series gives the rarest opportunity to listen to ten of the most original, influential, and brilliant talents of the interiors profession. Those speakers have achieved unparalleled success, have radiated exquisite taste, and have come to define the quintessential 21st-century spaces. If there is an identity to the interior today, then they have certainly contributed to defining it.

I am interested in illuminating the concept of home as seen by these erudite legends. The conversations will explore contemporary principles in materials, colors, and objects; the role of craft in today's interiors; and the relationship between designers and clients in constructing the domestic space. This program is essential for any practicing architect or interior designer, as well as anyone interested in design culture today. ◆


Open to the public, Interior Design: The Legends runs once a week between October and December, but the early-bird price—10% off—is available only until August 1st. Register here.

Participating speakers: India Mahdavi (Paris); Veere Grenney (London); William Sofield (New York); Roman Alonso and Steven Johanknecht of Commune Design (Los Angeles); Pierre Yovanovitch (Paris); Kathleen and Tommy Clements of Clements Design (Los Angeles); Alan Wanzenberg (New York); Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini of Studio Peregalli (Milan); Olivier Dwek (Brussels); Jacques Grange (Paris).

This series is registered for a total of 14 units of continuing education credits with the International Design Continuing Education Council (IDCEC).