Design column: How do you create good design? |

Design column: How do you create good design?

Nancy Sanford

There are many designers whose work, philosophy and style have continued to inspire me. In fact, they are a major reason that I got into the interior design business in the first place. I look at what they are able to create and it not only excites me, but also encourages me to work harder.

In a field that is so subjective, what are the elements and capabilities that enable one to become a great designer? Below is my list along with a look at three of my favorite designers.

Elements of good design

Vision: A designer always has a “story” in mind, one in which objects become characters. The design transports you to a new place.

Soul: It’s an unexplainable presence and spirit. You know when it’s there — and when it’s not.

Artistic technique: This is the understanding of how shapes, colors and designs work with each other. Artistic technique can be learned and enhanced. Vision and soul cannot.

Love: To be a really good designer, you need to love what you do and love working with your clients.

Enthusiasm: It’s the excitement and inspiration that a designer feels when he or she is able to transfer your emotions and ideas into colors and patterns. It tends to be contagious.

Connectivity: The sense of collaboration, reaching a goal together and sharing that excitement is what makes it all worthwhile.

Authenticity: The designer has an opportunity to place his or her own personal stamp on each project, making it unique.

The following people are three designers who embody all of the characteristics listed above. In their own distinct ways, they have influenced the entire industry and, for me personally, provide a constant source of inspiration.

Interior, furniture designer Christian Liaigre

He redefined modernism, creating spaces where hectic modern life quiets down. Christian Liaigre has a gift of being serene but not boring. His color palette is warm earthy shades with a rare splash of jewel tone. Using exotic woods, natural stone, embossed leather, linen and silk, Liaigre always tells a story with his designs.

Interior designer Vicente Wolf

Forging a path for eclectic interior design, Vicente Wolf is often referred to as a minimalist. His interiors are guided by simplicity and the incorporation of unexpected items. For example, the first glance at one of his rooms may appear to be clean and modern, with white walls, off-white oversized upholstery, metal furnishings and very dark wood floors. Upon closer investigation, however, you discover a great Ethiopian chair tucked into the table, a small Indian child’s chair that holds books and a Chinese trunk, all of which add a subtle — but surprisingly effective —dose of groundedness. His work is interesting and luminous, and oh so elegant.

Clothing designer Donna Karan

Clothing designers also provide ingenuity and inspiration as they work wonders with colors, patterns and styles. Karan’s signature couture clothing line is a like a clinic in the creative use of fabrics. She can beautifully drape a model with one continuous fabric, moving from the bias to straight cut. One of her long sweater ensembles brilliantly incorporates and juxtaposes black cashmere, black silk and black leather into one stunning piece. Karan likes to use a limited color palette, often sticking with one color in an outfit, but she pushes the limits of fabric and how it can be displayed. Many of her concepts can be applied to draperies and other uses of fabrics in room design.

Nancy Sanford, owner of Nancy Sanford Interior Design, is an award-winning interior designer who has been transforming residential and commercial spaces in the Vail Valley for the past 12 years. For more information, visit or email Nancy at

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