How Celebrity Designer Dan Vickery Prioritizes Function in Design
Dan Vickery’s infectious blend of energy, creativity, and dedication has distinguished him as a truly unique artist in the design and architecture field. With an Accredited Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Oregon, Vickery worked in the Portland Metro Area as a real estate developer, designing over 20 homes before moving to Los Angeles, CA in 2009.
Many may recognize Dan as a design personality and television host, with appearances on HGTV’s Design Star All Stars, TLC’s Honey Do, the W Network’s Love it or List It: Vacation Homes, Bravo’s Best Room Wins, the Today Show, and Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda, as well as other news and radio programming, including Kid-Sized Design on hgtv.com. Dan also has a design business in Los Angeles with an interior and architectural focus for residential and commercial design serving clients in both the U.S. and Canada.
Known for cutting edge design with a keen, sophisticated eye for color and style, the co-hosts of The Showroom, Josh Cooperman of Convo by Design and Erika Egede-Nissen of Walker Zanger, were excited to have Vickery as a guest to his get his take on modern and past design while discussing slabs, tile, stone and other materials he uses in his projects.
Porcelain, Marble, Terrazzo, Magna and More
Integrating a plethora of materials in his projects, Vickery has specific feelings about the stone, tile, and slabs he prefers.
Quoting his grandmother, Vickery said, “The little stuff will get you down. That is, when a big moment in your life comes, you deal with it because you’re forced to. But, it’s the little things like the dishes and the kids and the laundry and stuff that pile up, and if you’re not always paying attention to it, it’ll ruin you. You don’t want your countertops, you don’t want your home, you don’t want your space to be one of those things. Everything should be as seamless and easy as possible so that people can focus on the big things and not worry about the little things.”
This is particularly true with marble. While marble has been around for centuries, Vickery said it requires the homeowner to make an ongoing commitment to maintenance.
Vickery favors porcelain instead, such as the Secolo Collection from Walker Zanger.
“Companies have just started developing the technology to make slabs, like 5’x8’ giant tiles that are less than ½” thick. And they’re one of the most durable materials that man can make,” he said. “So to be able to put that on a countertop, have it clean, have it beautiful, and know that it is going to last for the next 100 years versus a marble countertop that is maybe going to last for the next five if it’s not properly treated, is a great gift to give to your client.”
Vickery also shared some of his favorite uses of Terrazzo.
“Terrazzo is an art form that’s been around for hundreds of years. It was started by the Italians where you would take pieces of granite, glass, other stones, and sometimes shell and mix it in with a really fine grain concrete and then sand it down to a really smooth finish. I put it into a home recently—it was on the beach—and it was perfect because it did what we’re talking about,” he said. “It added to the story, had a sense of instant history, felt like it could have been there for a long time. And then you get this beach-feel because of the glass and the shell that are inside of it.”
Another new favorite material for Vickery is Magna.
“Erika (of Walker Zanger) showed me the Magna slabs, and it is literally like tiny chunks of recycled and broken-down bottles, smashed together and melted down just enough to join so that you can still see all of the seams. It comes in a brown, a blue, a clear, a light green, a dark green—any color that a glass bottle comes in, made over in Germany,” he said. “But it told the story for me. That was an instance where I didn’t have to add anything to it. I didn’t have to manipulate it—the material was already telling the story.”
Rural Roots, Big City Design
Growing up in rural Oregon as the son of a jack-of-all-trades farmer, Dan has been rewiring houses, building furniture, remodeling homes and more for as long as he can remember. And with a grandmother and mother who specialized in making quilts, he learned much about color, pattern-matching, and textures.
“If you wanted to do anything, whether it was just fix up a maternity barn for the cows or redo a part of the house, you had to rely on yourself to do it, because there weren’t vendors around, and you had to rely on materials at hand,” he said. “And I just grew up in this family—in this culture—of what have we got, (now) how can we make this work for us? So, it was like kind of ingrained in me before I was in a position to really take advantage of it.”
Still, Vickery knows designs, no matter how innovative, must be functional.
“But at the end of the day, it always has to be functional,” Vickery said. “What I love about design is it’s constantly evolving, right? It’s 2020. Design has been going on for hundreds of years, but every year, there are so many new materials out there – if you work with your vendors and talk to your contractors, you can come up with new and interesting ways to make these materials work for you in a way that they weren’t necessarily anticipated to be used.”
Industry Partnerships are Key to Great Design
Because Vickery is always pushing the edge of design and always trying to incorporate materials that may not be in the ways they were originally intended, he places high value on the industry partnerships he’s carefully established over the years, often turning to them for advice during design projects.
“Interior design is huge. We’re dealing with fabrics, furniture, wood, tile, slabs—it’s too much knowledge for any one person to hold in their head. So, I rely really heavily on my vendors and my contractors. I am learning every day; it’s one of the best parts of my job,” he said. “So, I’ve been in the (Walker Zanger) showroom with Erika many times walking the slab room, talking about slabs. … And it’s that back and forth that develops those opportunities for great design.”
A working relationship that goes back more than a decade, Walker Zanger is Vickery’s go-to supplier for tile, stone and slab.
“Walker Zanger has a great product, they are always working for me, and that’s why I keep going back,” he said. “I can ask a question and know I’m going to get an honest answer in response and that I’m not going to let my clients down because of it.”
History Makes House-Story
When asked about his style preference and how it melds with his clients’ design inclinations, Vickery said it’s a truly collaborative process.
“Everybody asks, ‘What’s your style?’ It’s a hard question to answer as a designer because people are always looking for a specific answer. And if you don’t give the answer they’re looking for, they assume you’re not going to be able to do what they want. That’s not necessarily true,” he said. “A great designer takes your client’s style and elevates it. It’s obviously going to always have an influence of what I personally think is great, but I think that my design is like contemporary or historic.”
Walker Zanger: Helping Design Stories Unfold Since 1952
Celebrating more than 60 years of excellence, Walker Zanger understands the value of relationships, consistency, and integrity. Our brand’s longevity and success are built on partnerships that span generations: from the stone quarries and artisanal workshops where we conceive and produce our distinctive products to the lifelong clients and partners who select our tile and stone.
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