779 is a special number to Corey Damen Jenkins. That’s because it’s the number of doors the interior designer knocked on before booking his first design project. That’s right—before landing on the cover of national magazines (including House Beautiful last March!), Jenkins went door-to-door in his hometown of Detroit in an effort to kickstart his (then new) career. The year was 2008 and, just laid off from his job with an auto company in light of the recession, Jenkins decided to finally explore his childhood dreams of interior design. It’s a story the designer lays out in his debut book, Design Remix, out this week from Rizzoli.
“I told myself that I would knock until I found someone to hire me to design their home or hit one thousand rejections—whichever came first,” recalls Jenkins in the book’s introduction. Fast forward 13 years and he has a successful firm with offices in New York and Detroit and has been featured in countless magazines as well as in the prestigious Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse in New York.
Jenkins attributes much of his success to a sort of resilience he learned as a Detroit native. “Launching my firm in the midst of the recession in 2009 is a full circle moment because Detroit fell and I lost my job in 2007, so there was really this idea of getting out of the ash and taking flight,” he tells House Beautiful. “I always tell people looking to get into the industry [or, indeed, any industry!], ‘it’s not just going to fall on your lap—you have to hustle and you have to work.'” As he explains in the book, “[in Detroit], we are comeback kids, and whenever we get knocked down, we always get back up.”
In the book’s introduction, designer Jamie Drake compares Jenkins to a peacock, “a symbol of renewal and immortality.” Plus, Drake points out, “the plumage of the peacock is filled with aquamarine, chartreuse, fir, forest, and olive, colors that often appear in Corey’s gorgeous palettes.”
Nodding to Detroit’s Motown musical roots, Jenkins coined the term “Design Remix” to describe his style—his layered rooms often feature classic elements reinterpreted in new ways. “It’s taking what has traditionally worked in design and remixing it with vibrant color and pattern play and different elements that don’t normally, traditionally go together,” explains Jenkins. “So this book is really meant to celebrate traditional design and how we can spin it for today.”
Throughout the book’s pages, Jenkins shows exactly how he does that—touching on everything from mixing custom paint colors to taking cues from fashion and not being afraid to mix patterns (pro tip: It’s all about harmony, not matching). The result is spaces that feel comfortable—even, sometimes, comfortingly familiar—but always exciting, happy, and a bit unexpected. “Rich colors, antiques mixed with modern, funky geometric patterns, these are the things that have always spoken to me as a maximalist,” Jenkins says.
He’s also a firm believer in the importance of instilling good design early on: “I do think that the environment that we create for our children—or the environment that we don’t create for our children—impacts how they view the world,” he explains. As such, the book includes an entire chapter on decorating for children. And no, that doesn’t mean childish murals and plush toys—rather, spaces that kids can grow into while fostering their creativity. Because who knows, you just might be raising the next generation of creative maximalists.
Ultimately, Jenkins believes his bold, remixed style is one that has never resonated more than right now. “I think that over the past 10 years we really saw that gray, minimal, serene look,” he muses. “But I think now people are under more pressure than ever before—they are struggling with loss and uncertainty and they want a more colorful environment. You don’t want to come home to a gray box when it’s snowing and there’s a pandemic. So I think we are embracing those jewel tones, that joyful nature of design. People are ready to be optimistic—they’re ready to live again.”
Ready to get started? Order Design Remix here.
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