We Are Upstate NY with Kingston Design Connection Founder + CEO Maryline Damour
Inside+Out Upstate NY is pleased to present an exclusive interview with Maryline Damour, founder of Kingston Design Connection and co-founder of interior design firm Damour Drake, Kingston Design Connection hosts the much anticipated annual Kingston Showhouse, with a mission to connect makers, vendors and contractors to each other, to potential clients, and to the growing design scene in the region. In its ongoing efforts to build community through design, Ulster Habitat for Humanity, was selected. as this year’s nonprofit recipient with plans to build three homes a year going forward In honor of this year’s fifth annual event…meet Maryline Damour.
INSIDE+OUT: Maryline – Tell us about yourself: Where were you born; how did you wind up in the Hudson Valley?
MARYLINE DAMOUR: I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and I moved to Kingston in 2016 to start my interior design business and partnered with Fred Drake (a local housebuilder) to create a full-service design and construction company, building houses from the ground up and doing interiors.
What was the inspiration behind Kingston Design Connection?
When I moved upstate, I had a need to connect with contractors, makers, artists, etc… so I could do my work. I found that professionals in the area were not connected and I had a hard time finding a network in the local design/building industry. I created the annual Kingston Design Showhouse (and the nonprofit that produces the showhouse, Kingston Design Connection) as a mechanism to connect these professionals.
Why Kingston and how has it evolved over the years?
I had a weekend house in Kingston from 2005-2010 and saw a big influx of creatives moving to the area. When I moved back in 2016, this population was much bigger (and still growing today). Shopping around for a location for the showhouse the first year in 2018, I decided that Kingston, with its variety of creatives, had a ready pool of folks who would be interested in supporting this idea, a local government engaged in supporting the artist community and a wealth of amazing architecture that could support an ongoing showhouse.
Tell us more about your interior design/construction firm where you build houses from the ground up. What type of projects do you prefer and how prospective clients can find you?
Clients can find us at our company, Damour Drake website and our social media Instagram account. We are a full-service interior design/construction firm, doing all aspects of home construction and design, including whole-house builds, exterior and interior renovations and landscape and vegetable garden design.
What was your favorite project to date? What would be your dream assignment?
We love doing full-service design to realize a complete vision. We are currently working with homeowners on their property which includes multiple houses: renovating the interior of all the houses; building new outbuildings; and marrying all the existing structures with architectural elements and landscaping. I’d love to have design projects that take me around the world. So far, I’ve worked in the US and the Caribbean.
How does one join KDC and what can one expect as a member?
We are not a member organization. Participants in our various activities throughout the year (annual showhouse, speaker series, and other pop-up design projects) connect through their involvement. Our tagline is Building Community Through Design, and as we come together with these design activities, professionals in our community connect for artistic and business purposes.
Tell us more about the 2022 Kingston Design Showhouse.
Our fifth annual Kingston Design Showhouse is Oct.7-23 in a lovely turn-of-the-century Victorian house with many original details. As most homes have been sold in Kingston (and as individuals are buying commercial properties and turning them into residences), this is our first commercial-to-residential conversion. Many houses on Maiden Lane, where the Showhouse is located, were commercial properties for many years. When the home was previously carved into office space and apartments from its. original residential status, it lost the first-floor kitchen. This conversion included creating a kitchen from a parlor space and a new bathroom out of the former office kitchenette, bringing the house back to its original function. In addition, in recognition of water scarcity (recently Kingston had a drought emergency), our landscape designer removed all the grass from the front of the house to create a garden to conserve water using native plants.
Here’s a sneak preview of this year’s showhouse. You can get tickets HERE
Above photos: Green faux-marbled painted wallpaper custom handpainted by Porter Teleo | Lighting by Hudson Valley Lighting
This year, the house includes 11 designers taking over individual spaces, 10 of whom are from Upstate NY. We also have a number of special events planned, including a book signing and a cooking demo with Hudson Valley resident Maya Kaimal of Maya Kaimal Foods. You can get tickets HERE,
What’s one question you’re constantly asked or what’s the biggest misconception about your business?
On the Kingston Design Connection side, the annual Kingston Design Showhouse was created as a mechanism to support the development of our region’s design and building industry. This is still our work today. Though we are growing and include participants from across the country, more than 80% of our participants each year (from individuals to businesses) are based in the region.
In terms of my client work with Damour Drake, we don’t only do whole-house builds and big renovations. A lot of our work includes one-room projects, updating a bathroom or kitchen or decorating a living room.
The Hudson Valley is growing rapidly. I imagine this is a good thing for your business, and if so, in what ways?
There has been a growing interest in interior design over the past few years, in part due to new transplants. This has benefitted the design/building industry in the region as a whole including our own businesses, both on the showhouse and client work side.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
Same answer for above. In addition, we are working on building an addition on our own house and have been sharing the process on my Instagram @maryline_damour as my partner and I design and build everything. It’s a good-sized addition with 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a mudroom, a library and a living room. Finally, we will live in a finished home instead of a constant construction zone!
What impact does your business have on your community?
Through the showhouse and our nonprofit Kingston Design Connection, we’ve connected over 600 design/build professionals over the past 4 years. Individuals from various creative disciplines have gone on to start businesses together and develop new products. We’ve also donated over $500K of design/build services through our work developing our past four showhouses and donated over $15K to local nonprofits.
What local businesses do you rely on to be successful?
All local businesses are important to the overall health and success of our communities. The majority of businesses we work with, both through Kingston Design Connection and Damour Drake, are local businesses and we particularly like to support family-owned businesses
What is missing in the area that you wish we had?
The mechanism that we create through Kingston Design Connection to bring together the design/build industry is a small part of a broader need to do this across upstate NY.
Who or what inspires you personally?
As an entrepreneur who has created a number of varied businesses, I look to other successful business people, like Martha Stewart, who has continued to build a relevant brand across multiple product lines.
Tell us something about yourself that people might be surprised to know?
I am an introvert and would prefer to be home reading than almost anything. Because I’m out in the world connecting with others, people assume that I’m social.
If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be doing?
I’ve done many things (marketing executive, chef, fashion stylist, writer) and there is still so much I want to do. It changes almost daily!
What would be your dream local Staycation?
I’ve been to Mohonk Mountain Lodge for the day but would love to stay the weekend or longer
What is your current state of mind?
Frazzled! We are in the throws of the fifth annual Showhouse and every year I’m on pins and needles on whether we’re going to pull it off!
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Connect with Maryline