Talking with...David Stark

Did you start out planning to be an event designer?

No!  When I was in art school at RISD, I had no idea there was even a career called EVENT DESIGNER.  I majored in Painting.  I got my BFA from RISD and an MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York, and I by accident, I started working with flowers for parties as a way to support my painting habit.’ Little by little I got more and more enmeshed in that world until 20 years later, I realize that I have now donned a title:   EVENT DESIGNER!

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere, really.  The hardware store, the corner deli, flea markets, antique stores and especially at art galleries, museums, theater, the movies, my travels . . . I am really open to just about everything everywhere, and I am a sponge.  The internet is also a really incredible tool, and my team provides a never ending amount of visual stimulation, challenge, and excitement. I am very lucky to be surrounded every day with such brilliant, inspiring folk.

What are your 5 favorite design tricks/elements?

Hmmm . . . I don’t know if I have a set of “tricks,” per se, but there are things I think about a lot, in just about every scenario:

1.    When a room fills up with people, what is the décor you see?  We focus on what is above people’s heads so that when the room is crowded, there is ambiance aplenty.
2.    How can I make something that people have never seen before?
3.    How can I use a material that is a surprise and that has conceptual meaning embedded into it that speaks to the actual event at hand?
4.    How can I make something look as if it has not been labored over, that is “just” miraculously “happened.”
5.    How can I make an icon?
I am always fascinated with how various designers translate inspiration bits into the final process.  Let’s take for example a recent project of yours, the neon Bar Mitzvah.  And while we are on the neon theme- i love the NEXT sign with neon flagging tape!

Thank you!  Neon was never really a starting place in those projects but naturally grew out of what the event was about or was a reaction to other elements from the event.  For example, the NEXT sign was created for a gala for the American Friends of the Israel Museum.  The design of the room was actually having a dialogue with the evening’s invitation that was a lenticular hologram, rendered in neon pink and green, and emblazoned with the words ART and NEXT, switching back and forth when you moved the card.  For us, an invitation is like a film’s “coming attraction,” and for a party, that invite needs to hint at the magic that is in store for a guest.  Of course, one needs to deliver on that promise when the guest gets to the party!
Many of us fell head over heels for your Wood Shop collection at Haus, are you planning on any more projects like that? How about West Elm?

You are so nice!  I am very proud of WOOD SHOP, and I am cooking up some new ideas like that right now.  Currently I don’t have plans to create another line for west elm, but am always excited about new opportunities.  Who do you think would be good for me to partner with?
Can you offer any sneak peeks into project you’re working on now?  I am working on so many fun things right now!  It’s going to be fall gala season very soon, and we have our plate full with some really amazing projects.  We are doing the Whitney’s gala this year, the National Design Awards with the Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, The Metropolitan Opera’s opening night gala, and a 50th anniversary celebration in Washington D.C. for the State Department’s Art in Embassies program!

Your previous book “David Stark Design” is one of my favorites, tell me about the book you are working on now.  The new book comes out in March.  It’s my second book with The Monacelli Press who is a dream to work with.  We are still polishing up the title (wink!), but it looks a little more deeply into the process of putting together the events we create.  Like DAVID STARK DESIGN, it will be filled with tons of photos of our projects and lots of ideas!

You always seem to know the most interesting artists, be at the best art shows- what artisans/artists would you recommend looking at now?

The other day I discovered a new artist at the Ascaso Gallery in the Wynwood section of Miami.  Ignacio Iturria paints magical still-lives that at first glance look like normal studies of objects but then there is a double take, and tiny moments of childhood surprise you within the picture plane.  http://www.ascasogallery.com/
I am also really vibing on Nathan Vincent’s work.  I WISH, wish, with that I could have his crocheted locker room in my house!  http://nathanvincent.com/


  1. Great interview, Raina. I love the decoration tips from an event manager's perspective. So interesting!!

  2. A complete visionary! Some of his spaces take event design to a whole 'notha level! So tech-savvy and filled with wonder...almost like walking into a completely futuristic fantasyland...Love that this line is blurred between designer and trailblazer...amazing work! Awesome feature!

    Would love to get your thoughts on my most recent hotel renovation when you get a chance! Hope to see you soon!

    Peace. Love. LOL!

    Haute Khuuture Blog

  3. Two great talents that go great together! ;) Love David's work! (Does anyone not?!!) I can't wait for his next book and may well be taking ideas for my upcoming wedding. Unless, of course, David is just *itching* for some pro bono work to fill up all of his free time. ;)

    Great feature, Raina!