Seven Questions For Jany Lee From HGTV's Design Star

Friday, July 31, 2009

Reading on your HGTV bio under "Favorites" that pretty much anything by Depeche Mode is a favorite song, have any of your room designs ever been inspired by a Depeche Mode track and if so, what did that room actually turn out to look like?

I have never been asked to design a room inspired by a Depeche Mode song, but if I were to, I would start with the color palette of black and white with tones of gray. It would be graphic, modern, yet bold. I would use texture and print to make a statement, but at the same time making the room feel warm and cozy. I always try to personalize the space for the client in which I would take several of their favorite items and use them creatively as accessories. One example would be to take their favorite lyric and stencil it in a metallic finish on a wall for inspiration.

You're a transplant from Canada and while the great state of Texas is, well, the great state of Texas, is there anything you miss or crave about Canada that you just can't get here in the U.S.?

I find that Canada, particularly Toronto, is very multi-cultural and ethnically diverse. I miss being able to just drive a few miles to get excellent Indian, Caribbean, Portuguese, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Lebanese, Greek and Italian foods. Toronto has several different ethnically concentrated areas where you can find true authentic meals. I love to travel and explore new cultures, and so my palette has grown to appreciate all different types of food. Some days I crave Greek, and the next day I will want to eat Indian!

As an Asian American in design, is it something you think about consciously, and how much does it come up - positively or negatively? If you look at the fields where Asian Americans face stereotypes, do you think design is one of them, and how important do you think it is to have Asian American faces in the interior design industry?

I grew up in a strict traditional Asian family where academics were strongly emphasized and arts never encouraged. I have always been creative, but didn’t pursue it since I felt the need to follow the path of going to a prestigious University in Canada (Queen’s University in Kingston) and graduating with an Honors Degree in Economics. I worked at an Investment Brokerage firm for years, hating my job and being unhappy every day. There is a lot of pressure within the Asian culture to be successful within an academic field of study, but not every Asian will be happy to find a career related to it. I finally made a decision that I wanted to live my best life, to be happy and to wake up feeling inspired to work each day. Naturally, for me, that was to become an interior designer. I gave up my corporate job to start my own business as an interior designer and I’ve never looked back since. I love what I do! I am so passionate about design that I can do it every waking minute and it doesn’t feel like work at all. Whether you are Asian, Hispanic, African-American, or Caucasian, the bottom line is this – you have to work in the field that you enjoy. Time will pass before you know it, so follow your dream and keep a positive attitude! I think it is important to have some Asian American faces in the interior design industry, because it inspires young Asian Americans who may have an interest or talent in the Arts to pursue their dream. I hope that it would also loosen the stereotypical idea that Academics are more respected as a career path. This is the perfect reason to vote for me as your favorite HGTV designer!

Who's the dog salsa dancing with you in your HGTV audition video?

I am very passionate about animals and helping them in any way that I can. I feel that we are a voice for them and that they need us more than we realize. For the past few years, I have been fostering with a local non-kill shelter in Dallas called Paws in the City and that dog was one of my foster dogs. I had found her as a stray in the middle of nowhere and had brought her home to nurture her back to health. Her name was Victoria, but her new adoptive parents have since renamed her Stella.

If you could design a room for some Asian or Asian American actors, musicians, or political figures, who might some of those be and why?

Yoko Ono and Margaret Cho for their eclectic style, I think my imagination could be limitless to create a space that would be out of the norm. Yo Yo Ma to create that pristine and strictly traditional formal room. I would love to tackle spaces on both the extreme spectrum of styles.

What do you as both a person and a designer take away from the HGTV experience?

Although I am very good with time management, being on the show was on a completely different schedule! I learned to be more flexible in my designs and to adapt to unexpected problems quickly. I came up with solutions and executed them in no time!

Last optional question. Have any recommendations for restaurants in Toronto that have good food and a nice design aesthetic?

Susur Lee is an amazing chef that has 2 restaurants next to each other in Toronto called Madeline’s (after his mother) and Lee.

Also, “Thai Basil” is my favorite Thai restaurant outside of Thailand. The d├ęcor isn’t the best, but the food makes up for it.

Monsoon Restaurant was designed by one of my favorite design firms Yabu Pushelberg.

Thanks to Jany Lee for taking the time to answer the questions and for Katie in setting up the interview. Check more out on Design Star at HGTV.