The Glass Wall: A Look at Our Design Minds

Dan Garner is an NCIDQ certified interior designer who is a cherished part of JAI’s team. He joined our team with vast experience in both commercial and residential projects. He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, GA (SCAD). Dan is passionate about creating creative, out-of-the-box designs that are as functional as they are beautiful.

Here’s a look through The Glass Wall into the design mind of Dan:

Dan, when did you know that you wanted to be an interior designer?  

It was architecture that first captured my heart. I can’t remember ever wanting to do anything else. From the time I was just a kid, I was always building with LEGO’s and creating detailed and interesting structures. In High School my father was a residential developer and I would walk through the houses that were under construction and picture what they would look like and what I would do to improve them.

I went to college for Architecture and got my master’s degree, but once I got into the profession I realized I was much more interested in design and the entire creative process. I am attracted to more than just the architectural shell. I love all the details that speak to us as humans. Eventually, I decided to pursue my certification in Interior Design so I had the credentials to work on projects from conception all the way through to the final finishing touches.

What projects have you worked on that make you feel proud?

I honestly feel proud of all my work. I’ve had the privilege over the years of working on some inspiring projects. However, if you want to know which projects are among my favorite, I’d have to say the residences I designed from start to finish. I had the honor of designing and collaborating on award-winning homes in Pennsylvania, and to know that those spaces would be intertwined in families lives and memories—well, I found that to be very rewarding.

In your opinion, what is most important to remember when designing a hotel—both in terms of branding and interiors?

Finding the appropriate balance between beauty and function. If either one of these is missing, the guest doesn’t have the best experience and, in my opinion, the project is not a success. I appreciate elevated creativity and design, but not just for the sake of being different. It needs to have functional benefits. What value does it add to the guest experience? That is always at the forefront of my mind.

When was a time that you felt like you failed at something, but later learned that it served to make you a better person professionally?

No project is without flaw or surprise, but it’s how you learn from those things that can make all the difference. Sometimes the surprises on jobs have been challenging to resolve, but other times they have been a blessing in disguise.

My goals have never been to make the most money nor to climb to the top of my profession. My goals revolve around excellence, personal satisfaction and influencing and changing the lives of others through the built environment. I believe my calling is to design with a purpose. I’ve no doubt taken what others would perceive as a step backwards in my career to get where I want to go. Each step has been important, however, in making me a better designer and a stronger leader.

Which architect or designer or artist has inspired you most? How has that person influenced your design style? 

It is impossible to pick just one.

Robert Stern’s residential work is the perfect balance between classic and current. He has an intuition about how to reinterpret classical architecture into a relevant and functional architecture. I also love that he was involved in themed entertainment and took his residential knowledge and applied it to Walt Disney World, including his influence in Disney’s Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts, and the plan for Celebration, FL. He is just brilliant at what he does.

Michael Graves has worked on every brand I love. He knows how to turn on the magic of themed entertainment and how to capture human emotion in his designs. He’s more than an architect—he’s an artist and an industrial designer.

Stylt Trampoli is a hospitality design firm in Sweden that values the narrative of design. They use storytelling to bring brands to life. They start every project with what they call an emotional business plan. It’s “the script of the movie and the blueprint for the experience. It answers the most important question for anyone in hospitality: why should anyone come to my restaurant/bar/hotel?” I am inspired by their work and the value it brings to the people who experience the spaces they create.

What would be a dream project for you?

My dream would be to work on a Disney-quality resort from start to finish. Not just to be involved in the interiors and furnishings, but to start with the concepts and big picture narrative and see that through all the way to the smallest details.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? 

If I weren’t a designer, I would definitely be a fine artist/craftsman. I love to work with my hands and use textures, materials and colors to create. Maybe this is what I’ll do in my retirement years. I have so many ideas in my head, but so little time to execute them. One thing is certain, as long as I am alive, I will be creating.

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