Danielle Monti-Morren and Raoul Morren ooze a cool, creative energy. Not in the “I’m cooler than you” way, but in the way that made me want to talk to them for hours. Global Style Directors for the British furniture company Timothy Oulton, the design duo helped launch the Dallas store last summer and returned to change things up. Based out of Los Angeles, they spend most of their time traveling to Timothy Outlon stores around the world (think Paris, mainland China, Barbados), where they work on marketing, branding, and product development for the Timothy Oulton brand.
Their personal life is equally compelling. Danielle and Raoul recently celebrated their anniversary of meeting 20 years ago this January – and have been married for fifteen years. Both living in Atlanta when they met, she was a recent graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology, he was a working musician and artist who was curating art shows for the city. Working together for fourteen and a half of those years as Monti-Morren Creative, they have helped each other develop a style that Raoul described as “eclectic modern.” For those of you who haven’t visited the Timothy Oulton store, located off of Central and Henderson, it’s definitely worth the trip (even if you aren’t looking for furniture). The store is a trove of amazing furniture and decor goods, with perks like an in-house coffee shop offering sweets and vintage candies, vintage cable-knit sweaters and menswear (Outlon’s vintage line “Threads”), and loads of inspiration to take home.
Find out more about Danielle and Raoul (we asked them tons of questions…get ready) and see a sneak peak of Timothy Oulton’s new look after the jump.
D: We love Dallas. It’s such a designer town, so we really feel like all the things that we do, and all the details that we put into a space don’t go missed, in a town like this.
What do you think about the Dallas market? How is Timothy Oulton a good fit?
R: I think that it’s just our being so eclectic and different. Because I know that Dallas for so long has been very Marie Antoinette inspired, very French, and we wanted to bring in the Timothy Oulton concept, that anything can go with anything. There is no right or wrong. It’s like – modern can be with a piece from the 18th century. An eclectic mix is where the interior design world is headed, in our opinion.
D: And in addition, I think the brand [Timothy Oulton] is so suited for this type of a city because, it’s a cliché right, but everything’s bigger in Texas. Well everything’s bigger at Timothy Outlon. I mean, everything that Tim makes is fairly oversized. It’s meant to be used, nothing that we have in here feels precious, it’s not supposed to. It’s supposed to be for people who really live in their homes.
How did you begin working as a couple?
D: I was going to the first trade show that I ever worked and they said to me “we need another person” and I said “well my husband is a freelancer, so he can come with me.” We started doing visuals together. We both worked at two different times for these incredible designers who really influenced how we learned to style.
R: They helped us hone in our skills and develop our own styles. There is a lot that people can teach you, but you have to see things. If you just go to school, but are never really in the environment, it’s hard. It’s very hands on.
D: We also accepted literally every job that came our way. We felt like it was experience that would make us great at what we do. We both feel like every client we had leading up to our huge client now [Timothy Oulton] – every single person we encountered was at exactly the right time in our work experience. It helped us understand how to develop a person’s brand and what that takes. I think most of our clients, or most of the clients we have worked with – and with Tim at the top of that list, are incredibly entrepreneurial, very creative people, and they were looking for someone to come in from the outside with new eyes. When we got with Tim, he already knew what we did with other businesses. He gave us carte blanche, and we worked directly with him on the process, it’s a real collaboration.
D: Yes, I think that we have a very similar style, definitely. But I would be happy living in a concrete box, with two pieces of furniture and one big piece of artwork. Raoul is a complete flea at heart. He loves flea marketing, collecting and finding.
R: But I don’t like buying little things here and there. Like –if I want binoculars, I want 2,000 of them and in one cabinet. So in a way, it’s the same as Dani.
D: We are both attracted to the same types of style, and the things that we are both incredibly attracted to are details.
What do you find inspiring?
D: I am very inspired by cities, the people that live in them, and what their rituals are. You know when you’re in Paris you have people go for their morning baguette and their 4 o’clock baguette? That is for me, the culture behind that is very inspiring. Living that specific city life. And getting to do it globally is very interesting to me because I get to see all of the differences in the cultures, but also all of the things that make it the same as well.
R: For me, it’s very much about nature. Going on a huge hiker, I’m an avid surfer. I can really pull my senses and energy from the ocean. I am very inspired by history, like great museums. Which goes back to my past of curating art. Seeing young men and women who are making incredible leaps and boundaries with the imperfect.
D: And I think we both are very inspired by working with an entrepreneur like Tim. He is the kind of guy who walks into a room, and I don’t want to use that typical cliché of the room lighting up, but his energy and his drive towards being the best on the planet, is what drives the whole company. It’s a very inspiring personality to be so closely involved with.
R: Not letting the little things bother you is what I take away from him. You just cannot be bothered by the little things. He sees the big picture. And that’s very inspiring.
So you’re saying don’t sweat the details, but don’t forget about the details when it comes to your home?
D: Yes! It’s kind of a weird juxtaposition in our world.
Do you ever work on residential interior design? Or mostly corporate?
D: We do no residential.
R: We aspire to do restaurants, and hotels.
D: All the projects that we do are commercial for Tim. Spaces can be as small as 1,000 square feet for our new store concept called “Inspiration.” It’s the best of our furniture and all of our new Timothy Oulton handbags and travel bags.
R: It’s been five years in the making. For 12 great pieces.
D: And then you see a shop like this, which is about 10,000 square, and then the largest project we do is 40,000 square feet. That’s our [Timothy Oulton’s] four-story show room in Mainland China. That’s the largest scale project that we have done.
What are some suggestions you have for people who are looking to make a quick change in their home – like you did at the store. What are some of the special details that you think enhance a space?
D: I think lighting is incredibly important. You could take the stetting that we are in right now, and not have a chandelier in it, and it would have a completely different look. When you pop a chandelier into the center of the room I think it just elevates the room. Have that signature piece that says “you.” For example, our big steel ball. If you drop that into the center of the room, you’re creating a conversation piece, a piece that feels eclectic and different, fun, and I think that’s a way to make a room special. What we really love about doing this type of a design is that there is a sense of humor behind it. It’s about living.
R: People get so carried away with color, and all these things, and I think “in six months, you will get tired of that, I promise you.” From my perspective, from the art world, I love a neutral wall. I would rather have the art speak with the color. Let the art, the draperies, the fabric speak with color. Or accessories. It’s so much easier to change.
So what would you say is a good investment piece. If people can only buy one expensive piece, where should their money go?
D: I would say a sofa. Our leather is so beautifully made. The sofas are so artisan, and they are the kind of pieces that have an authentic vibe – even the pieces that have a more funky shape. Tim will test these sofas by jumping up and down on them. We don’t care of children come and crawl all over everything because he really wants furniture that people are going to live on.
I’ve noticed a lot of repetition in the show room. What do you think is a good piece to collect? And where should people start looking?
R: I think you have to say “what speaks to me or what do I love” and just start buying them one at a time. Don’t start showing the collection until you’re at like 15. Once you really have a collection.
D: I think it makes traveling exciting because you are always looking. Things that I’ve seen people begin collecting are like old suitcases, type writers, binoculars. Small things that you can build on, and find them when you are actually looking.
Do you guys have a dream client, a person, restaurant or hotel brand?
D: I think we really hope to do a Timothy Oulton restaurant. That’s a number one on our dream. Every time we do a showroom, we think, wouldn’t this be a fabulous restaurant? But a dream client? I would always say, I don’t know as a client or working with, Karl Lagerfeld. I would love to meet and have dinner with Axel Vervoordt.
R: I think I’d agree with both of those, and probably add, Ian Schrager.
D: (laughing) Black. We love black and we love white. Our house is totally white. And our work is totally black.
So you say go for black walls?
D: Not necessarily.
R: Black shows this furniture the best. But we keep going back to “when are we going to paint the walls?” – because we do have a paint line at Timothy Oulton. But we want to let the art speak, and black is an incredible back drop to make things pop. We know it isn’t for everybody.
D: What we have noticed is that the thing about black is that it is a neutral. People don’t come into Timothy Oulton and say “oh my god, the walls are black!” they come in here and go “wow that sofa is beautiful!” because it pops off of the black.
If somebody is trying to mix different types of furniture on their own, what should they look for?
R: Centralize with your main piece, like your sofa.
D: You have to love the biggest piece.
R: Buy the biggest piece first, and buy off of that. And it doesn’t have to happen all in one shot. Venture out, step into the unknown, and it’s okay for you to make mistakes.
So we do this thing on the D Homes blog called “Love it and leave it” and since it’s the beginning of the year, do you have a few things you love for 2013 and a few things you want to leave in 2012?
D: Maybe ten pounds.
R: For the general public – everybody wants to leave those ten pounds from the holidays.
D: I personally want to leave those high top wedge sneakers.
Like the Isabel Marant ones?
D: Yes. I want to leave the 80’s behind I did it the first time around.
What about things that you love?
R: Really, really worn threadbare rugs, I love the idea of pairing them with beautiful neutrals.
D: That one punch of color.
R: Lots of bling and glam lighting. I want it all mixed – a mid-century chair and a marie Antoinette sofa in an indigo color.
Margaux Anbouba is a D Home Intern.