Interior Designer Danny Russo Breaks the Rules
Danny Russo says that anyone can be a designer, but not everyone can create what he calls “design magic.”
The owner of Daniel Russo Home, an interior design company based in Columbus, he resides in the Short North with his husband in a space that delineates his design philosophy: bespoke and timeless.
The living space in the condo is an open floor plan that includes the kitchen, dining and living rooms. There is a bar area located conveniently to the side of a comfortable conversation area. Like most experienced designers, Russo has a warehouse for storing furniture and décor for his company. He recently tested an unusual pair of barstools—designed to look like large hands—in his home. It is not uncommon for him to audition décor in his own space before recommending it to clients.
“I would not put anything into a client’s house that I would not use in my own house,” he says.
Black walls can make a room feel larger, Russo feels, and he has incorporated the technique throughout the condo by installing grass cloth and vinyl wallpaper. There is a distinction of light and dark throughout the space; the foyer’s gray walls lead to the guest bathroom. Russo envisioned an ethereal aesthetic to create a sense of calm and relaxation for guests. The bathroom is reminiscent of visiting a spa.
He also proudly displays his collection of artwork throughout the home, which provides multiple conversation starters as guests mingle. Russo finds inspiration from every decade for his own home and for his clients, too. Art deco and European midcentury modern are two of his favorite styles. “It’s OK to mix materials and textures,” he says, commenting on the diversity of décor between rooms.
When Russo and his husband moved into their condo in 2004, it was a newly constructed blank slate. They have made several aesthetic changes through the years as their style has evolved. For example, Russo has replaced the kitchen hardware and the oven hood multiple times, as well as the chandelier over the dining table. He adds that it is acceptable to have different brands of appliances in a kitchen if the design goal can still be achieved. The island counter is made of stacked granite from Konkus Marble and Granite. In a trademark, unique touch, Russo added a bronze mirror surrounding the marble to give the illusion of a floating island.
Evoking emotion through design is a top priority for Russo when working with clients. He says an initial meeting with clients will help him determine if they are all a good fit for each other. “I am actively listening to clients for their wants and needs,” he says. At the beginning of every design consultation, Russo asks clients to name their favorite primary color. He believes design plans for every room should be driven by a selection of primary colors, with accents to highlight that color.
Russo started his company in 2008, which was during the height of the economic recession, and some of his clients have been with him since the company’s inception. He has designed interiors for several owners in his condominium building, which initially helped him build his clientele. He loves commercial design as well, designing a hair salon, as well as Bodega in the Short North and Hadley’s Downtown.
In 2017 and 2019, Russo participated in the Columbus Museum of Art’s designers’ showcases. Those who attended may recall his 2019 theme “Decadent Dining in 3D,” during which he partnered with Sony to create a Harry Potter-inspired theme using flat screens as artwork. “You couldn’t tell what was art and what was a TV,” he says.
In addition to his local work, Russo continually shops creative ideas as he shares his passion for design. He is also a guest on 610 WTVN once a month to discuss design trends and related topics. In addition, he co-hosts a podcast called The Design Exchange with Melinda Peters Elliott, another Central Ohio interior designer.
Russo stresses the importance of clients understanding the investment they are making before hiring a design team. In the United States, the average room costs between $15,000 to $25,000 to furnish and accessorize. A powder room remodel can reach up to $25,000, and whole kitchen projects come in at the top of the expense list between $80,000 and $150,000, depending on material selection.
While hiring an interior designer is not always an option based on budget, Russo says design has become more accessible thanks to Instagram and shelter publications like Dwell and Architectural Digest.
It is an often-reported fact that home renovations have increased during pandemic times. Perhaps that is a main reason Russo and other designers are busy, some booked far in advance by their clients.
In January, he planned to launch an online store on his company’s website, danielrussohome.com. There, he plans to offer a variety of items for sale, including décor accessories such as serving trays, bowls and decorative jars. He also is showcasing custom-made artwork. There are modern pieces of accent furniture available for purchase, including bar carts and drink tables that could be used as statement pieces for entertaining. He plans to introduce bedding and rug options in the future.
Russo says his style is always evolving, and he continues to get excited about breaking design barriers. “There are rules of design, but sometimes, rules are meant to be broken,” he says, repeating an adage that designers of all sorts have historically embraced. Outstanding design, in general, comes from knowing which rules can be broken and Russo’s own home is a good example of that with its dark interior and unexpected pops of genius.
He calls this approach a calculated “design risk” and says he uses experience as his guide when deciding to if he should divert from a typical path.
“I have learned the difference between a risk and a mistake,” he says.
This story is from the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Home & Garden.