Designer Crush: Jane Cunningham


1. Who is your biggest role model?

Margaret Tobin Brown – as in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.  Surviving the Titanic disaster is just a small piece of Molly Brown – she embodies the modern woman:  ran for a senate seat eight years before women won the right to vote, fluent in four languages, worked to change the courts to protect juveniles, acclaimed stage actress and more – a true maverick.   

2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for? 

The Great Gatsby movies – both 1974 and 2013.  There’s nothing better then a New England inspired mansion. Did you know that one of the homes, The Hammersmith Farm; used in the 1974 film, was where John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier held their wedding reception?    

3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?   

I always laugh when someone says that I create magic, but maybe that’s true when it comes to learn about my clients and their desires. There’s probably a secret to the magic, but it just comes naturally to me. I treat each client, as I would want to be treated, as a trusted friend. I do a lot of listening so that I can garnish the important tidbits of their busy lives and weave those into an inspiration for their design.

4. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?  

The use of quartz, not only for countertops but as walls, flooring, and carved tiles for accents and even large scale formats. I also invite new, exciting ideas to add the touch of excitement, unexpected texture (a 3 dimensional wall covering) or even whimsy (a chair made from seat belt materials) into a space. 

5. How do you completely unwind?

I do love a crisp sauvignon blanc paired with a dip in my pool amongst the palm trees at the end of a long day.  However, totally unwinding, away from it all, means sitting on the balcony of my cruise ship stateroom watching the ocean.

6. If you hadn’t become a designer, which career would you have pursued?

I have been extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue my true passions in life – music and design.  I was a symphony musician, clarinet for quite some time and conductor as well.  I truly enjoyed that career and the fabulous opportunities that came my way.  Then, took a leap of faith and said Interior Design is for me – I’ve got to share that love and passion for design with others.  I play my clarinet and my piano on occasion, but for my ears only as of late.

7. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why? 

Scooping Ice cream!  It wasn’t all that horrible, however I was too short to reach all the way into the tall bins to scoop the ice cream from the bottom, so at times I found myself head first in a very cold and sticky situation.

8. What’s your favorite recipe? 

As a child, my siblings and I were sent out to pick blueberries during the warm, summer New Hampshire evenings.  We knew that bringing home lots of plumb, juicy berries in our coffee cans turned blueberry buckets, usually meant the sweet smell followed by mouth-watering sweetness of blueberry cake.  My mom was a fabulous baker and only a smidge of that skill passed to me, however I can come pretty close with her Famous Blueberry Cake Recipe:                             

  • 1 ½ c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs separated
  • ½ c. shortening
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ c. fresh blueberries.

Cream shortening & sugar, Add well beaten egg yolks.  Add flour mixture alternately with milk.  Fold in stiff egg whites and vanilla.  Carefully stir in blueberries.  Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes In a 9 x 9 square pan. 

9. Create your perfect playlist for us.

Lightning round!

10.  Would you rather shop new or vintage?

New – love revivals of old elements worked in new ways, blending wisdom with the unexpected. 

11. First celebrity crush? 

Tom Selleck – Magnum P.I.  I had just moved to Hawaii when the show became popular and I found myself stopping to “gawk” as the crew filmed the red Ferrari and the tall, handsome leading man, especially as they were filming on the beaches!  I got to meet and speak with Tom on one particular occasion – I tried not to drool.   

12. What’s your hidden talent? 

I was a champion Rope Skipper.

13. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it? 

Marche Bacchus French Bistro and Wine Shop – A quaint French Bistro away from the crowds and lights of the Vegas strip.  A respite from the typical and quite unexpected; where you can wonder through the bins and cases of wines to select your favorite vintage and then settle into a table out on the romantic, lakeside terrace.   The fabulous French cuisine coupled with the stately swans swimming by keep me coming back.

14. SF or LA? 

LA  – especially for the weather, but may I say, I’ll always be partial to Hawaii beaches.

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