Dream Jobs: Vanessa DeLeon

Dream Jobs: Vanessa DeLeon

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Jennifer Hunter
Feb 12, 2015
(Image credit: Vanessa Deleon)

Welcome to Dream Jobs, a series where we ask some of the coolest, smartest and most creative people working in design today to tell us all about their jobs and just what they did to get there.

I met Vanessa at the top of 30 Rock in a swanky boardroom where we were screening an episode of Nate Berkus' recent NBC show Dream Builders (she was one of the contestants) and eating a fancy lunch. But that wasn't her first foray into TV; she's also appeared on the Food Network, HGTV and contributed her expertise to publications like Time and Cosmopolitan. So we thought we'd ask this accomplished lady just how she got into Interior Design in the first place and what her life looks like now.

What’s your official job title?

I'm an Interior Designer and the Principal of Vanessa Deleon Associates located in New York City. We specialize in high end residential, commercial, and hospitality interiors.

When did you know what you wanted to do?

When I was in high school and college I worked in my father's furniture store. I quickly realized that I hated selling the pieces but loved the opportunity to influence a space with my creativity. Creating made me happy.

Where’d you go to school? What did you study?

First, I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology. I graduated with a degree in Fashion Merchandising and got an internship at Ralph Lauren. Every day felt like a scene from the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I realized that I didn’t see myself there and I wanted to be my own boss. Shortly after, I attended Berkeley College where I studied Interior Design. While still in school, I launched my own design firm.

How did you score your current job?

My first design job started while I was working at my father’s store. I would advise his clients and, before long, I built a name for myself. I branched out and opened my own company in his store. Before long I was able to expand and even got an amazing opportunity on HGTV’s Design Star. After that, things really took off and my business did a 180.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My day is never typical. I usually wake up around 6:45, although, with my husband recently opening a new restaurant I’ve waking up earlier with him to have breakfast. Running this kind of business is a 24/7 task. Between emails, calls and texts I am constantly on the run. Of course there is always the really fun days of shopping with clients and being able to see them get excited about a design coming to life. I’ve spent early mornings at rainy job sites and sunny afternoons in the beautiful Caribbean. Late night design presentations for clients in the office or going out to homes and literally bringing the concepts to their doors. Never a dull moment!

What’s the coolest thing about your job?

I get to create. Working in residential and hospitality means that people are living, dining, vacationing and making memories in spaces that I’ve designed. To be able to give something to someone that they can enjoy for years to come is such a rewarding feeling at the end of the day.

What’s the worst part of your job?

The worst part of being a designer is dealing with vendors. I just want the perfect piece for each design without compromise. Too often I get broken promises of lead times, items going out of stock and backorders. Manufacturers make mistakes, like making a chair frame with the wrong dimensions. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how high-end a manufacturer is, there is always some kind of lag or hiccup, so being resourceful and knowing how to rectify the situation quickly, swiftly and professionally is what sets me apart.

What advice would you give to someone looking to do what you do?

Live by the triple "D" motto: Drive, Dedication and Discipline. This motto has helped me to blossom over the years. You can never doubt yourself or what you're capable of. If you want something go after it. Procrastination does not equal success; the time is now!

What else should we know about what you do?

I’ve been pegged as a lifestyle expert with a passion for cooking and all things fashion. I’m also a brand ambassador and have started designing my own products. Currently, I am developing a new lighting line along with tile, textile and accessories.

See more at Vanessa DeLeon.

Thank you, Vanessa!

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