Flight of Fancy

Posted on 08/20/2018

Darrin Varden Design is featured in the luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report. The project was an art-loving young family’s apartment in Manhattan’s storied Apthorp Building. Darrin was pleased to work on this project with BP Architects and Riverside Builders, both based in New York, along with many valued artisans, artists, furniture makers, and luxury, trade-only interiors brands. Here is the story:

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DVD_Robb_spread5.jpegAll photos in this story are by Rick Lew. Styled by Darrin Varden, Kevin Hertzog and Jan MacLatchie. To see more images from this and other Darrin Varden Design projects, please visit our Gallery page.

A First: Benjamin Moore’s Century

Posted on 05/11/2017


Darrin Varden was recently invited by Benjamin Moore to design their Architectural Digest Home Design Show booth, making him the first designer ever to work with their new paint innovation: Century.

DSC_0014-12Says Darrin,” The paint is truly extraordinary. It has an inviting, tactile, finish. It is soft and matte – it looks a lot like leather. The palette has been so carefully curated and is so rich and inviting, it is almost hard to choose the colors, you want them all.” However, Darrin chose a deep, rich purple and then created an entire living space using various iterations and textures of it to play off of and underscore the unusually nuanced paint finish.

DSC_0026-24Just as in Darrin’s residential work, custom touches abound in this design, from the use of rich, silvery metals to custom silver-cerused oak millwork and a custom pouf of Darrin’s own design. He called on some of the top design minds in interiors for superb details such as the velvet sectional, striped silk and lush lamb’s wool pillows and whimsically scaled and immaculately feathered sconces.

DSC_0019-17.jpgAnd also reminiscent of the designer’s interiors, this living room vignette was anchored strongly by art. Photography by fine artist Damien Dufresne was given its own recessed niche, lined in the same silver cerused and ebonized oak that appears in the room’s custom millwork. Thus emphasized, the already striking extreme closeup abstract portrait diptych in high contrast silver and black created a sophisticated focal point evocative of thoughtfulness and passion, two of the traits the designer associates with this deep, rich purple color.

DSC_0027-25A finishing touch of note was Darrin’s own “fire and ice” sculpture – a graceful swoop of of silver twigs that seem to rise like a wave of cool flame in the fireplace. “I wanted a custom metal sculpture for the fireplace, but nobody was able to make it to my liking,” notes the designer. Ever the innovator, he willed the sculpture into being by picking up some decorative twigs in the wholesale flower district, spraying them silver and hot-gluing them into his desired arrangement.

DSC_0033-31 “Getting to be the first to use Century paint was really fun and exciting,” says Darrin,”As a designer you’re always looking for something truly innovative that’s also beautiful. Benjamin Moore has accomplished it with this new finish and that sexy palette. I can’t wait to incorporate Century in my upcoming design projects.”

DIFFA, Lladro and The New York Times

Posted on 04/01/2016

One of Darrin’s most rewarding projects in 2016 was designing the DIFFA Dining by Design table for Lladro and The New York Times. The table design has been subsequently published in Interior Design, The New York Times, Manhattan magazine and countless design blogs.

amb_5728-hdrAt the invitation of the paper of record and world renowned porcelain brand Lladró, Darrin Varden fashioned an elegant dining pavilion with a luxury residential feel for DIFFA’s Dining by Design 2016. Starring Lladró’s porcelain lighting and sculpture pieces and elegantly furnished by luxury residential design showrooms Stark and Artistic Frame, Varden’s sophisticated tableau was that of an actual dining room centered with the painting Diagonal Tree by artist Claire Sherman, on loan from DC Moore Gallery. The scene was inspired by the black-and-white-and-read all over aura of legendary newspaper The New York Times.

amb_5661He made full use of Lladró’s Belle de Nuit lighting collection in this vignette, with a graceful repetition of a dozen sconces and a pair of striking chandeliers, all of them including porcelain lithophanes as shades. Light filtered through porcelain is warm and evocative, further accentuated by the transparency of this rich material, which allows the light to filter through the patterns etched by hand on the surface, shining with subtle nuances.

The table centerpiece featured another lavish repetition. Five dynamic, limited edition sculptures of horses in gleaming black porcelain galloped across a rich, fresh, floral field in deep garnet tones studded with Lladró’s Bacchus horse head bottle stoppers. Interspersed were white porcelain bowls from Lladró’s Equus collection by Bodo Sperlain, filled with cherries to echo the deep red floral. The contemporary porcelain dinnerware echoes elements from the sculptures. Says Varden, “These bowls are tactile and inviting, with sculpted horse heads and legs. It’s a delightfully unexpected play on a timeless Lladró theme.”

amb_5696Darrin’s residential work is often inspired by and anchored with large-scaled fine art, and he used a painting as the jumping off point for this scene. “Claire Sherman’s painting put me in the mindset of the charitable component of the occasion, Design Industries’ Foundation Fighting AIDS. I saw these gorgeous, broken, fallen trees, once so strong, ravaged yet still beautiful, still imposing in their beauty, paralleling the destruction of AIDS on the landscape of humanity. The beauty of the memory of those we lost is juxtaposed against trees that are still standing, those for whom HIV is no longer a death sentence.”


The dining room itself was furnished with table bases and chairs from Artistic Frame, which specializes in custom and made-to-order furniture. They partnered with Varden to create an elegant ebonized and silver strié styled finish and custom upholstery for the chairs in a deep red velvet by Stark. A wool sateen by Stark adorns custom benches of Varden’s own design, fabricated by Peruvian Touch custom workroom. The entire tableau was finished in a glistening frame, painted in Benjamin Moore’s aptly named Dinner Party red.


“We often talk about ‘table-scapes’ in doing these events,” said Darrin, but I wanted to have an actual table-scape, with multiple levels and dimensions and a horizon line and a focal point that draws the guest out beyond the space and into their own imagination.” That focal point, the large painting that centers the room, was given additional notice through the use of the backless custom benches, and by flanking it with two chandeliers rather than using one large chandelier in the center. This up-and-down table-scape keeps the eye moving through the design. He also worked closely with floral designer Shula Weiner of Flowers by Special Arrangement to achieve his vision for a rich, tonal mix of deep wine and berry hues in various textures, a sumptuous field for the graceful black porcelain horses.


Darrin Varden’s ‘horizon line’ is achieved by the use of an extremely modern play on a chair rail. He used a swath of sleek black nickel Chemetal metal laminate high up on the walls as a foil for the porcelain sconces, and to divide the two decorative wallpapers he selected from Stark. This effect could easily be achieved at home as a DIY project in any room. “Be sure to choose wallpapers you love,” advises Darrin. He did. On the lower wall, guests of Dining by Design were very the first to see the debut of Paria Canyon. Its organic and sinuous abstract diagonal strata in canyon shades anchored by rich graphite tones extend across the entire floor of the ‘room’ as well. On the top wall and across the ceiling, Stark’s subtly gleaming gunmetal Melanie’s Mica is used, and repeated on the custom tabletop. This take-home idea would work for a real dining room with the simple addition of a glass top to protect the wallpapered tabletop.

Designer rendering of the Holiday House room.

Holiday House 2015

Posted on 11/30/2015

For his second foray at Holiday House, Darrin Varden explored the darker side of love with a Valentine’s Day themed bedroom/sitting room. “I discarded the typical red hearts-and-flowers interpretation of Valentine’s Day and replaced it with an edgy, sensual take on a bedroom,” said Darrin of his design for the 8th Annual Holiday House NYC that he and 21 other top designers transformed for the show house. This spectacular design show is a popular attraction for New Yorkers and tourists alike––especially since all proceeds are donated to support The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. “Like most people, my life has been impacted by witnessing the harrowing roller coaster of fear, courage, treatment, healing and ultimate triumph of loved ones forced to interrupt their lives for a grueling journey to become breast cancer survivors. Thanks in large part to research funded by BCRF, breast cancer is no longer a death sentence, but It’s time to find a cure! This is why I’m participating in Holiday House NYC for the second time,” said Varden.

Darrin Valden Design

Darrin Varden Design

His striking dark raspberry hued tribute to St. Valentine’s Day was well received by visitors and press alike. Very serious art and furnishings mixed with tongue-in-cheek nods to all of the soft and sharp edges of love and seduction. Featured fine artist Miya Ando installed an entire wall of Bodhi (Ficus Religiosa) skeleton leaves, which she dyed individually and threaded together in an ombre effect from ceiling to floor. It joined three other of her original works in the room. Ando’s work has been featured in the 9/11 London Project, 56th Venice Biennale, Newsweek, Bloomberg and ABC News.

Darrin Valden Design

Darrin Varden Design

Mr. Varden designed furniture and lighting for the space, including the centerpiece, a generously scaled tufted bed-and-sofa combination. Crafted by Bespoke by Luigi Gentile, the custom Darrin Varden Design bed-and-sofa combination was upholstered in a luxurious Opious Velvet from Elitis provided by Donghia and custom, hand-dyed bedding from noted textile artist Aviva Stanoff. Setting the tone with the right touch of light was a custom Darrin Varden Design Agate chandelier by Ron Dier via Zimmer and Rhode and a pair of Ventoux Torchiere lamps from Jonathan Browning.

Darrin Valden Design

Darrin Varden Design

Also featured in the space were a credenza, bookcase and pair of pedestals that are custom Darrin Varden Design creations produced by Ivy Square Woodworking. Adorning the walls was a burgundy Maya Romanoff Fabricadazzle wallcovering that added a sultry visual twist with a subtle sheen. This wallpaper has the unique characteristic of being suitable not only for papering, but for wall upholstery, which is what Varden selected for its lush, soft texture. The custom colored area rug was an exact match to the burgundy walls, hand crafted with the expertise of Crosby Street Studios.

Darrin Valden Design

Darrin Varden Design

“I put a 50 Shades of Varden spin on my Valentine’s Day room with unexpected design elements. I’m combining the chic pieces with the sensational,” said Darrin. A Fireco Coffee table from Phillips Collection that replicates smoldering molten lava intensified the dark vibe of the room. “I was drawn to the harsh and rugged texture of the sides of the table paired with a high gloss surface on top,” explains the designer.

Darrin Valden Design

Darrin Varden Design

A vast array of decorative accents outfitted the room adding to the sexy Valentine’s day theme. Highlights included a fierce pair of black matte porcelain lion statues from Lladró accenting both sides of the sleek fireplace, a deep burgundy Farrow & Ball paint and  custom Burnt Redwood & Pomegranate scented candles by Mine Design Co. and a pair of Dodd chairs from The Bright Group upholstered with leather from Moore & Giles. Additional accessories from John Salibello and Angela Brown, Ltd. were the perfect finishing touches for this Valentine’s Day bedroom/lounge with a dark twist. Noted product designer Stacy Garcia, who also did a room in Holiday House, interviewed Darrin about his vision. The interview location? New York’s Museum of Sex. Have a look:

Photos in this post: Marco Ricca

Designing for a Cause

Posted on 01/08/2015


Every once in a while, a synergy comes along that’s irresistible. So when online consignment geniuses Viyet asked Darrin Varden to curate a collection of their fantastic furnishings as if designing a room, he was enthusiastic. Darrin wondered if he could tie in one of his favorite nonprofit design entities, The Alpha Workshops, by designing the fantasy room around one of Alpha’s awesome textured wallpapers. Viyet was game, and raised the ante by generously donating a percentage of their sales to Alpha to celebrate Darrin’s curation and his devotion to giving back. Their profile of Darrin’s designs for causes as well as the curated collection, are here on their super cool blog. The promotion raised a nice sum for Alpha, and we could not be more delighted!

Darrin’s Rooms In the News

Posted on 01/08/2015


Traditional Home, generous media sponsor of Holiday House, which benefits The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, wrote a lovely piece on last year’s rooms, including ours. Each year the house raises hundreds of thousands for research.


New York Cottages & Gardens, generous media sponsor of Project Design featured the redesigned rooms in their December issue and online. This house, as we mentioned before and in the video below, was such fun and a total labor of love. You can get in on this feel-good feeling – just make a donation to Ronald McDonald House and help families of critically ill children get through a truly tough time in a place that’s warm, welcoming and fosters within its walls an unbelievable sense of community.

Darrin Varden Named a Rising Star 2014 by IFDA

Posted on 01/07/2015

Rising Design StarThe International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), recently named four designers as 2014’s Rising Stars of Design. Interior designer Caleb Anderson, multidisciplinary architect/designer Neal Beckstedt and product designer Michele Varian were all named, along with our own Darrin Varden. The awards were presented during a lovely evening at the Kravet showroom in New York’s storied D&D Building, and were bestowed on the Rising Stars by design legend and industry icon Charles Pavarini III.

The Ripple Effect

Posted on 05/09/2014


In this era of seemingly back-to-back disasters, both natural and otherwise, first responders are a lifeline for thousands. Observing their deeds, others can’t help but feel inspired by those courageous enough to face catastrophic events. Their actions cause a reaction, an urgency to find ways to assist those whose lives have been suddenly and cruelly impacted. For the Red Cross of Greenwich Red and White Ball, interior designer Darrin Varden created a table titled “The Ripple Effect” to represent how the good works of the Red Cross, who are on hand at every scene, spread throughout a community following a tragic event. The Ball features table designs from top national and regional designers. Darrin’s table design was featured in Connecticut Cottages & Gardens:

IMG_4348The table was layered shades of red, featuring a dimensional gloss-lacquered Red Cross centered on a 30-inch round, custom-made tray filled with red sand. The sand was ‘raked’ in concentric circles with a Zen sand garden rake. Red trim sewn in circles on a red tablecloth radiated out from the tray, over the edge of the table and down the sides, to emphasize the ripple effect. Guests each received a miniature Zen sand garden complete with rake and red lacquered heart as a thank-you gift from the designer. At the ball, Darrin had a chance to catch up with Mary MacDonald, a design chair of the event.

IMG_4355Darrin called on the top names in interior design handcraft in New York to execute his vision. The custom woodwork was crafted and lacquered by Ivy Square Woodworking, while Marks & Tavano Workroom crafted the tablecloth and 12 napkins. Bart Halpern, Inc., donated the red fabric, called “Bebel,” from the firm’s hospitality line of washable fine textiles.

Says the designer, “This past winter, three blocks from my apartment, a gas leak caused an explosion claiming the lives of many and displacing others, destroying two brownstones and several surrounding businesses. The Red Cross was there right away to assist, to provide comfort, support and all-important logistical aid. Seeing this disaster unfurl before me, I was already signed up for the Red & White Ball, but I suddenly felt even more inspired to create something special, something that echoes the quiet courage and heart of the people who make up the Red Cross.” Darrins table sketch can be seen below. To make your own donation, visit redcross.org.