Interview with Vern Yip

Vern Yip portraitVern Yip is an award-winning interior designer who currently has two shows on HGTV – Design Star and Bang for Your Buck. He also recently launched a home decor line on HSN, is a UNICEF ambassador and has a design firm based in Atlanta. Not only is he working on all of these amazing projects, this year he also welcomed his second child into his family, which includes four dogs!

I first saw Vern on TLC’s Trading Spaces back in the 90s. He was my absolute favorite designer on the show. He always respected the homeowner’s taste and lifestyle, and he could make a $1,000 room makeover look great.

We are so excited that Vern is taking some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about integrating family portraits into an existing art collection. Vern is an avid collector of fine art photography and has his extensive collection on display in his home. (You can see three self portraits by the Finnish photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen on the mantle in Parker’s portrait of Vern.)

Vern Yip

Vern, your family has grown recently with the birth of your daughter this past winter – how do you create a beautiful and stylish home that is also kid and dog friendly?

I think it’s actually really easy especially these days – we have access to materials that our parents didn’t have. A trend right now is upholstering furniture in outdoor fabrics that feel like linen, cotton. They are not stiff like they used to be. You can have a beautiful look without worrying about pb&j stains or dog hair.

Leather is a wonderful material in rooms. In both of our family rooms we have a leather on our upholstered pieces that has a weathered patina that looks better with time.

For us, teaching the kids and dogs what they should be careful about touching is important. Also the dogs are not allowed in every room; they are allowed downstairs, but not upstairs, so it is easier to keep the children’s rooms clean. The dogs also know that they are not allowed on the sofa. Also we vacuum daily – you just have to with kids and four dogs.

Our kids understand what they need to be gentle with and careful with. That’s the way I was brought up – without the whole house being kid-proofed. There are some things that may get broken and that’s ok. They (the kids) have to learn to live in the world – when we take them to a friend’s house or a restaurant, they know how to behave.

How do you feel about displaying family photographs in public areas of the home?

I totally love displaying family photography in all areas of my home. The important people and important moments you have in those photographs make it a home. When you are inviting people into your home, you are inviting them to get to know you.

Large or small?

There is no rule – it’s about what is important to you. The bigger it is, the more important it is that the image is something you want to look at all the time – it becomes a focal point.

Vern, how have you integrated family photographs into your home decor?

We have photos everywhere – we have a family photo area in our upstairs hallway – it is a really large area, more like a foyer, really. We have taken old family photos, photos with important moments, newer photos – each photo is different: they are different sizes, some are black and white, some are color, some are creased, some handled. We tried to figure out a way to add structure to the chaos. We came up with the idea of a set frame size and then we add the photo. It doesn’t matter – every photo floats on a matte and then another matte is cut with a window so the photo floats. You can see the edges – I love that, it’s nice to see the love and that they’ve been handled. I love the character of it. It’s a nice way to organically add photos to your space.

Most people in Atlanta tend to gravitate toward traditional decor. How can family portraits be a modern accent in a traditional room?

I want to disagree. Atlanta has moved past traditional decor. Now the goal is to make the decor yours – a reflection of us – they have to be eclectic. We are in an era that people don’t feel forced to commit to a decor style – they can have a lot of different elements in their decor. We do see a lot of traditional elements in Atlanta, more so than in New York, San Francisco or L.A.

Do you have any tips on framing and groupings of photographs?

It’s easy to incorporate photos in a traditional or contemporary room. Keep the frames simple – simple frames can be either traditional or contemporary. I want the focus to be on the image itself. I like a little more matte – the more matting you have the more the image has space to breathe and you can focus on it more.

We have a back foyer table where we have more family photos in frames – the frames are all different styles, but it works because there is a common thread. All of your frames don’t have to match. Find the common thread that tie the frames together – for instance, the metal or the wood color so it doesn’t seem haphazard. I love dark wood and silver, polished chrome. So I use frames that are dark wood, dark wood with silver or just silver. It works because I’ve narrowed it down.

Thanks, Vern! It’s been great talking to you.