“Pivot” doesn’t quite cover what Dwell With Dignity has accomplished since the pandemic altered its annual Thrift Studio event last spring. (The word is overused anyway.) After going entirely virtual in 2020, the shoppable fundraiser known for its insane designer discounts is now taking on a hybrid format, dubbed Thrift Studio LIVE. Shop the high-end goods online (Instagram is a good place to keep up) or pay an IRL visit to a pop-up vignette in Dallas’ West Village, designed by Jan Showers’ executive of operations and senior interior designer Zara Taitt. The talented local was chosen by celebrity interior designer Nikki Chu as part of Dwell With Dignity’s Diversity in Design Initiative, spearheaded by the non-profit’s executive director Ashley Sharp.
To learn more about this year’s Thrift Studio LIVE, PaperCity spoke with designer Zara Taitt about her pop-up inspiration, being chosen by Nikki Chu, and her time with Jan.
PC: You’ve been working with Jan Showers since graduating from UNT in 2005. How has working with Jan influenced and shaped your design career?
Zara Taitt: I have learned so much from Jan! She is a genius at putting a room together, as well as an amazing businesswoman. I have learned about mixing time periods, styles, colors and textures; what to look for in vintage pieces; marketing and branding; how to select pieces for a furniture collection; and most importantly, serving our clients well. Since Jan has three different companies, I have had the unique experience in learning more than designing interiors. In my Executive of Operations role, Jan has entrusted me to oversee her businesses, and I have learned everything from vendor relationships and managing employees to marketing and branding.
I listened to your episode of The “Hue” recorded last year, which was beautiful. How do you feel the Dallas design community can do a better job of embracing diversity?
Thank you. I think it is all about exposure (especially at a high school level which is when I learned about this profession), building relationships, communication and being open to new ideas. Dallas is a diverse city and has a strong and talented design community, and Dallas residents will benefit from seeing everyone’s talents from all walks of life. A good starting place is by discovering new social media accounts and sharing different and new creative talent, including architects, interior photographers, interior designers, landscape architects, interior staging companies, artists and any variety of creatives under the interior design umbrella. Even a panel just to open the discussion about diversity and the design world as a whole would be a good step.
Tell us about your Thrift Studio vignette. What influences or aesthetics can we look forward to seeing (and shopping)?
The inspiration is from my memories of summers I spent in Barbados as a child. My parents were born and raised there, and my culture has an influence on everything I do. I was inspired by colors found in the ocean and palm trees. The wicker sofa is blue, the pair of Jan Showers Murano glass lamps are green, and the mirror reminds me of the colors of sand. There is a tangerine-colored glass lamp, also by Jan Showers, that makes me happy just looking at it. A nod to Texas is seen in the Kyle Bunting cowhide rug which Jan and I designed together. The mix of textures was intentional; the wicker, wood, ivory lacquer wood, linen, boucle, silk fabrics and glass all work together. I also liked mixing the traditional style of the caned chairs with the modern curved back chair and upholstered them in a boucle fabric. The pillows are fun too! The palm printed pillows and the silk green pillow are my favorite.
A special piece and one that I particularly love is the original artwork of a woman by Dallas artist Desiree Vaniecia, “Blessed and Hardly Favored, 2020” framed in white gold. I saw her work at the Kip’s Bay Showhouse in Dallas last Fall and loved her work immediately.
Finding beauty in your own home has become even more important over the past year. Has the emphasis on home influenced your current projects, or your approach to your own home’s design?
I have definitely been thinking more about how to make the home more functional and paying more attention to designing spaces that are typically deemed unimportant (mudrooms, pantry’s, hallways, bathrooms). If you aren’t using a room – such as a formal living room – then change it to something you will use. There is no point in having a pretty room that no one sits in. Also, no need to wait for a special event to use your nice china/place settings. Use them whenever possible!
How did you feel when you found out Nikki Chu had selected you for this year’s Thrift Studio project?
It was a great feeling — very honored and excited! I truly hope people like what they see, and it is a great event for Dwell with Dignity.