How to create your dream space with Victoria Hagan - Home Front

Victoria Hagan
Nov 09, 2017

New York designer Victoria Hagan has created homes all over the world, including the official Vice President's Residence in Washington for Joe and Jill Biden. Her interiors are known for mixing modern and classic. Hagan has just released a new book, "Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces." She also designs furniture, fabric and rugs. Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

New York designer Victoria Hagan has created homes all over the world, including the official Vice President's Residence in Washington for Joe and Jill Biden. Her interiors are known for mixing modern and classic. Hagan has just released a new book for Rizzoli, "Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces" that features a home in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, a family place near Palm Beach and a New York penthouse, as well as other projects. She also designs furniture, fabric and rugs. Let's chat.

Good morning, everyone! Thank you for joining me today.  So excited to get started!

Do you think wallpaper is modern?

Absolutely! Sometimes we may use a couple of different papers in one room to accent one wall from the other.

Victoria: I know you decorated the Vice President's house for the Bidens. How was it different working in an historic house that is used for many governmental functions as well as family living?

I certainly wanted to respect the history and traditions of the Naval Observatory, but at the same time I wanted to convey a welcoming feeling as it was the Biden's family home.  No matter who you are or where you're from, feeling welcome is always makes you feel good!


I love your new book. And it's huge! Wondering how you decided on this size - it's almost the width of a coffee table!

Exactly! Coffee table books are some of my favorite accessories. The scale was important to feel like you are experiencing these homes.  I wanted the book to be a great escape!

I bought 3 metallic balls-1 large, 1 medium, and 1 small and tried to place them on our large dining room table with plants ,candles and smaller objects and they just don't look right. How would you suggest using these metallic balls ?

I would add other metallic objects.  Maybe some metallic bud vases and votives so balls are part of the vignette, but not the vignette - make sense?

it must be amazing to design homes in the mountains. What are the challenges of doing projects so far away from your home base?

Trucking and weather!  There were a few nights we almost got snowed in ... 

Your modern interiors all look fresh and crisp. Would you share some of your favorite white paints with us?

Always happy to share! Benjamin Moore Simply White is the color in my Nantucket home - it's crisp, but slightly warm and Benjamin Moore Mountain Peak White is the white I chose for the New York pied-a-terre in my book, it's even warmer. But please remember to always make a sample - finishes always turn out a differently. 

Do you like using wallpaper these days? What rooms are you likely to use it in.

I use wallpaper in powder room and bedrooms most frequently.

I would love to mix some more interesting, textured fabrics and textiles into my bedroom. What are good sources for those?

I think adding different pillows and a throw can add texture and interest to any space, including the bedroom.

What advice would you have for someone who wanted to start out in the design business?

Go to design school, take some classes - there's so much to learn!

What are your must haves in any interior design?

A comfortable sofa, a comfortable chair, and great reading light.  The rest is easy!

You could find a nice bowl to put them in: think clear or translucent or a filigree patter that accentuates the metallic effect. Needs to be the right sized bowl too! I love the thinking behind this centerpiece.

Love the group effort! Yes, it's fun to strategize to get a great looking vignette.

I read a recent list of directions in design these days and they mentioned that people wanted their bedrooms to be cozy sanctuaries. What are ways to achieve this without getting too fussy?

Lighting is very important.  I typically like lamps that have shades to soften the light.   Never overlook your bedding! Make sure it's something you're happy with. And as I just mentioned, lots of soft pillows and throws! You can see in my book, Dream Spaces, there are many different ways to create sanctuary!

What is your dream location to design?

I'm always inspired by a view - whether it's the water, mountains, cityscape ... it's usually where my inspiration begins.

What is the most unique design that you've worked on?

To me, creativity is not about escaping problems, but solving them.  I always love a good challenge and sometimes when a home or space is not working architecturally, you need to go back, review, and get the bones right.  That's when really unique projects come about - when you have a team of professionals all working their hardest to solve problems creatively.

Where do you see your brand moving in the future?

My work is about lifestyles which are constantly evolving and changing. When I see a need for something in the marketplace, I like to design a piece that I can't find.  I always say my day job is like working with a focus group - I listen and try to solve the problems. Comfort and scale are always so important to my work, it's amazing what adjusting a dimension by an inch can do!

My daughter and son-in-law just bought their first house, which is shall we say full of potential. All the walls and floors need to be cleaned, repaired, and refinished or painted, and the endless possibilities are overwhelming. How can they come up with a plan for what to do to a blank slate? They're still in the student-loan-payoff stage, so they don't yet own any signature piece around which to build a design. Thanks for any ideas!

I've done a lot of Ikea shopping ... I think you can find great quality at a good price point and it's important to buy things that you love.  I know it sounds crazy, but I still own all of the pieces from my first apartment - I just move them around! That being said - a good sofa is a good starting point.

We have an L-shaped sectional pushed up against a wall in our family room and one wide 20x50 framed canvas art above it. The art piece was hung to be in the center of the wall. Now I want to hang a 20x20 picture frame on the same wall. I have room to the left of the art piece but there won't be another frame on the other side of the art piece. Would it look weird to have a large art piece in the center and only one photo to its left? Or should I try to move the art piece to the right a little?

My sense is to move the one large piece to the right, or take a different approach and add more pieces to fill the wall.

I just received your new book and love it! How did you select the 10 projects featured?

I wanted to share the fun I have designing around the country.  I also wanted to share my philosophy of how one can design their own dream space.

The Washington powder room you posted on Instagram is charming. Can you tell us the sources you used? Can you explain the combination of cafe curtains and Roman shades?

Of course - the wallpaper is from Gracie, the sconces are from Marvin Alexander, the faucets are from P.E. Guerin, and the gilt mirror was found antiquing in a local shop.  I use cafe curtains and roman shades quite often when I'm trying to achieve a level of privacy while still allowing light in.  This was the case in this Washington townhouse which has views onto the street.

I keep reading white kitchens are on their way out. Any ideas for something modern and fresh?

I don't tend to go with trends, but we've done some soft grey-blue kitchens, as well as soft sage.  I tend to use lighter finishes in smaller spaces, but that's just me! If you like a white kitchen, but want to add some interest, you could try changing the color of the island or the base cabinets and get the best of both worlds.

I am trying to find a reclining sofa that will fit well in my modest family room. Most seem so over-poweringly large. The room is 12x18 but because of a sliding glass door to the backyard on one side and an equally large entrance to the living room directly opposite, the space available for furniture is really only 12x12. Would I be better off with a sofa and ottoman combination, so I could put my feet up without having to get an over-stuffed, overly wide, sofa?

I have never found a comfortable reclining sofa - and they do tend to eat up a space - so I would definitely go for a comfortable sofa and ottoman!

In addition to your own line, are their other vendors you could recommend which you frequently use when choosing furniture and fabrics? Your style is always so clean, unique yet inviting.

My favorite trick is to Google what I'm looking for and see what pops up! It opens up Pandora's box of possibilities ... 

I'm 67, and shopping to replace furniture I bought more than 30 years ago, when I was young and just starting out. My difficulty is that while I can afford far better quality now than I could years ago, realistically I might be looking to downsize or move into an "active adult" community sometime in the next 10 years or so. How do you balance buying for quality and longevity when one's personal longevity (at least in that house) is questionable?

I think having a comfortable sofa is important.  I know the fashion today is to have things lower to the floor, but I don't know many people who really love that.  We typically like a 17" seat height.

You can never go wrong buying a new sofa.  I think there's a happy medium - I wouldn't buy the most expensive, or the least expensive - somewhere in the middle, you will get good quality.  Just pick a fabric that's not too fragile you would have to worry about and you should be good for the long haul.

What a fun morning! Loved your questions, hope my answers were helpful! Part of the reason I wanted to publish my new book, Dream Spaces, was because I wanted to share my design dreams with a broader audience, so it was really fun chatting this morning. Thank you, Jura, for including me! xx Victoria

Thanks so much Victoria. We appreciate you being on the chat and your thoughtful responses. Next week click on for my guests  Julie Carlson and Margot Guralnick from the design site Their new book Remodelista: The Organized Home is full of delicious ideas for beautifying your home by organizing and simplifying it. See you then.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

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Victoria Hagan
Victoria Hagan, New York designer
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