I’ve known Dara Caponigro since the One Kings Lane days, when she was the Editor-In-Chief at Veranda. After a career spent on the editorial side of design, she jumped to the brand side and is now the Creative Director at Schumacher. In 2017, she even wrote a book about style titled The Authentics. Talk about a second act! I had such a great time talking with her about everything from her personal design style to the best thing she’s read lately. I know you’ll enjoy Dara Caponigro’s sense of style as much as I do.
Name, Age, Where You Live
Dara Caponigro, 56, The Fieldston neighborhood in The Bronx (the best kept secret in NYC)
Give us an overview of your career.
After a brief stint post college working at the Bronx Zoo (this was before I even lived in The Bronx, when I thought I wanted to be a vet), I became the assistant to the Director of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum followed by an assistant position in the decorating department at House Beautiful. I got that job because I handled snakes at the zoo and my bosses figured, if I could handle snakes, I could handle anything. I worked my way up at House Beautiful from assistant to Associate Editor to Decoration Editor to Decorating Director. I then moved to Elle Decor as Decoration and Design Director which I did for a few years before I left to become one of the founding editors at domino where I was Style Director and helped shaped the voice and content of the magazine under Deborah Needleman. The recession hit and I lost my job but about a year later I was approached about becoming the Editor in Chief of Veranda. After 3 1/2 years there, the writing was on the wall. The world of magazines was changing and I wasn’t happy in the new environment. I resigned one day out of nowhere. The words just came out of my mouth! Shortly thereafter, F. Schumacher & Co approached me and I became their Creative Director in the fall of 2013 and I’ve been so happy ever since!
Tell us about what you are doing now.
At Schumacher, I oversee product development (we come out with new collections every single month!), digital and print marketing, PR and events, visual merchandising, licensing and I’m Editor in Chief of The Bulletin, a twice yearly glossy magazine that covers the world of design.
Where did your love of design come from?
My mom. She was an interior designer and an absolute renegade. She dragged me to the D&D from the age of four and redecorated our house constantly – it was her laboratory. Her eye is incredibly sophisticated and she’s not afraid to try new things. She’s the only 87 year old I know that wears camouflage pants!
After 30 years of being a magazine editor, what’s the thing you’re most proud of from that phase of your career?
Two things: taking Veranda from a regional magazine to a national one that was on par with the big guns; and growing Veranda’s readership, advertising and newsstand sales in the middle of a recession.
I’m also incredibly proud of my time at domino. It was a magazine that really resonated with people and empowered them to embrace their personal style while educating them at the same time. It was a unique time with all the right people in the right place and I will never forget that experience of putting together a magazine with such an amazingly smart, stylish and fun group of people.
Now you’re the creative director of the iconic design house Schumacher. What’s your day-to-day schedule like?
My day to day is nuts! I wake up early and return emails from about 6am to 8 and then get to office around 9:30 where I’m in back-to-back meetings from the second I walk in the door until about 6:30. I could be meeting with our VP of design, Pamela Marshall, selecting colorways of upcoming designs or planning collections for next year. Or I might be working on design ideas for some or our licensing partnerships (case in point, our recent one with Williams Sonoma) or delving in on special projects like the jewel of book we just created called 100 Rooms to Know and Love with our Style Director, Tori Mellott. One of my favorite things is brainstorming with the executive team about what’s next at Schumacher!
What’s surprised you most about the job?
How incredibly complicated and expensive it is to bring a wallpaper or fabric to market. I took them for granted but there is so much expertise and investment that goes into making our products and so much of it is done the old fashioned way – by hand – because it imparts a richness that cant be beat!
How did your years at Veranda prepare you for this job?
The experiences at Veranda and Schumacher have been similar. Both brands needed some “dusting off” when I arrived so it was really about analyzing their DNA – getting to the core of the brands – and bringing out what was best about them in a fresh but authentic way.
How would you describe your personal design style?
I’m not a big fan of perfection. It makes me feel like I’m suffocating. I’m drawn to things with a story that show their age but I love modern, too, so, for me, it’s about a mix.
Where do you get design inspiration from?
Travel mostly but it can come from anywhere. Mostly, I pay attention to what I’m yearning for personally and it usually translates into a major trend down the road.
What are some of your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?
I try not to pay too much attention to what other people are doing. I feel like it make one’s eye tired but I do love Tori Mellott’s. She’s hilarious and I’m always amazed by her ability to find images I haven’t seen before.
What advice would you give someone who’s not sure where to start on their own personal interiors project?
Don’t jump in too fast. Decorating is expensive so sit with things for awhile before pulling the trigger and try to hone your style by collecting images you love and referring back to them over time to make sure that look is where you want to go.
What do you think is a sign of a truly great interior?
Something that takes your breath away but doesn’t try too hard.
Culturally, aging is viewed as this sad thing. In reality, I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t feel bad or sad. I feel better than ever. What’s the key to changing the conversation about aging?
Never lie about your age and never apologize for it. I never say “ I can’t believe I’m so old”. If you’re lucky, you get to get older. It happens to everyone and you definitely get better and happier the older you get! It’s actually quite liberating!
What’s the best thing you’ve read lately?
What’s your go-to hostess gift?
Anything from Neue Galerie. Their gift shop carries the most thoughtful items that you can’t find elsewhere – from Viennese soaps to wrapping paper sets to Murano glass salad servers.
Do you have any family traditions?
My kids and I make an apple pie every Thanksgiving. It’s the one holiday we always host. I try to make my grandmother’s pizzelle cookies with them at Christmas time. When they were little, cut out paper Valentines and winter snowflakes were a must. Sadly, I can’t seem to get them interested in those anymore.
Do you have any seasonal traditions? Summer? Holidays?
Because my kids are ten years apart, it’s hard to take a vacation as a family so, at the end of August, I usually do a week with my husband and son and then fly somewhere to meet my daughter for a girls-only holiday.
Who would play you in the movie of your life?
Maybe Diane Lane. Everyone always says we look so much alike. I also get Juliane Moore – I like that one because she’s a design aficionado.
What’s the last thing you bought online?
I buy everything online (although when I do find myself in a store – nothing beats that experience). Most recently, a Dyson vacuum cleaner and The Laundress laundry soaps.
What would you put on your menopause registry?
That’s a funny one. Europe in October (such a busy time at work – I never get to get away) or Patricia Urquoila’s Husk chairs for B&B Italia.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
The ability to heal others
If you had a warning label what would it say?
Stay away when fatigued or hungry.
Shop The Authentics by Dara Caponigro: