Colour Outside the Lines- A Visit To Casa De La Vanderdogan!

If you have been reading interior design blogs for any length of time, you will surely be familiar with Casa De La Vanderdogan- the gorgeous home created by my dear friend, blogger and interior designer Artie Vanderpool.  The name Vanderdogan is a combination of Artie and his partner, Scott Akdogan's last names. The home has gone through many design changes as Artie is always "putting something in and taking something out!"

 Casa De La Vanderdogan

Artie is one of the pioneers of blogging, beginning back in 2008. With his Dutch blond good looks and seemingly endless creativity, he took the blogging world by storm and continues to enthrall with his always witty and insightful tales of the adventures at Casa and Garden De La Vanderdogan.  In addition to being wildly talented, Artie is also one of the nicest bloggers out there, always happy to be of help to others. I had the great pleasure of meeting Artie and getting to know him when he and Scott visited here at Casa Mimi (doesn't quite have the same exotic ring, does it)?  In spite of his always hectic schedule, Artie graciously agreed to let you all get to know him a little better, as well.


Q-  Please tell us about your childhood and how your desire to be an interior designer developed?

I had a fantastic childhood.  I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who pushed me to follow my passions and was there to cheer me on while I did it.  I grew up in a small West Texas town where there wasn't much available in the way of interior design inspiration and resources in the mid-80's and 90's.  But, I remember watching television shows and movies and having such a fond appreciation for the architecture, the furnishings and the way that it was all put together that I began to emulate and crave that in our home.  Now, you have to remember, I was all of 10 in 1992, during the Christopher Lowell, Lynette Jennings heyday and I remember watching their shows faithfully, begging my mother to let me use some of her leftover fabric to make no-sew pillows. Later came Trading Spaces, a TLC hit that catapulted designers like Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder into television fame.  They weren't always fine examples of interior design, but it was the bug if you will, that forged that desire to create better, more beautiful spaces for other people for a living.

Q-  You have been blogging since 2008- what has kept you fresh and motivated all these years?

I don't know that I'm so fresh; for the longest time I just pulled photos from google images that inspired me in some way and showed them on the blog.  Now, I've stopped that and focus more on my house and garden. I think that my biggest motivator is being able to share with a group of friends who are like minded.  My friends here don't necessarily share my passion for interior design, but my blog readers do, so when I'm stuck or just want to show off the latest of my collections, I have a group of people I can trust to give me feedback.  That's what makes it worthwhile for me.

Q-  You were one of the early bloggers.  Are there any big differences between blogging then and blogging today?
I know, I have never felt so ancient!  So much has changed since I started blogging, which actually was a fluke in and of itself.  My blog started as a way to catalog my progress and ask questions about my garden in Zone 5.  I had no idea what I was doing in the garden and I thought that perhaps a blog would open up the doors to a community of people who would help me along.  It sort of took a curve months after it started and interiors became the focus.

I do think that the blogs of the period when I started were more natural, free thinking and simply people putting out their ideas and photos in the hope that someone might take inspiration or answer questions.  There was an ease about them and you really felt connected to the writer.  Now, there are some newer blogs with more and more coming on the scene each day, that are so impersonal, almost commercial.  they seem to be only focused on grabbing numbers to gain income from ads or sponsorships, get their foot in the door of magazines or papers or heighten their status.  It's not good or bad, just different.

Q-  What impact has Scott, your partner had on your blog?  You use many of the pieces he amassed in prior travels- the Turkish rugs, paintings, etc. How has this influenced your design style?

Scott doesn't really impact the blog, although he has pushed me to continue blogging in my bouts of being unmotivated.  He has however, through his collections and personal aesthetic, greatly influenced the decor of our home and I think elevated my taste level a bit.  Before I met Scott 7-years ago, I never layered a home like I do today.  I think in my attempt to blend our styles I found a new, more sophisticated aesthetic...which translates into the visions I have for clients.

 Scott is an award winning amateur cook

Q-  Where did you begin your interior design career?  Did you have a mentor or have you made your own way?
I started doing interior design in Texas.  It was a great place to start because there were a lot of people who wanted beautiful homes and had the money to spend.  In the south, your home is your calling card.  When you visit someone, you just don't see the main rooms of the house, they take you on a full tour and the more "finished" the house is, the more successful you appear. Of course, I was inspired by some really beautiful homes of friends but I didn't really have a mentor or mentors until I became more serious about interior design when I moved to New York.

Q-  Several years ago, you made the switch over to being a full time designer.  Has this proven fulfilling for you?  How personal does each design become for you? 
It's been difficult on some days and the best thing I've ever done on others.  There are so many pieces in running your own business that I didn't really expect or understand and sometimes it's hard to enjoy the design part because you have to weed through the bookkeeping and tax detail of the other end.  But, at the end of the day, it's my passion and there is no greater joy than doing what you love every day...and getting paid for it!

I take a great deal of responsibility on when a client trusts me with their home, so they're all very personal and special.  I know some people will laugh that I am likening each project to a child, but it's true.  There's this conception period where all the fun happens, and the waiting period which is sometimes fun and sometimes painful but always too long, and then there is the end result which is just gorgeous, but easy enough for them to live with and grow.  I think that's why I don't show a lot of my client work on the blog because it is so special to me and to them...and I don't want one rude or critical comment to affect that feeling.

Q-  What have you found to be the most difficult part of designing for others?
Husbands!  No, seriously I think nicely explaining to a client why what they currently have has to go instead of being worked into the new design is sometimes the hardest part of the job.  You want to have the best end product so you know that it has to go, but you don't want to insult them; after all, they write your check.  It's a balancing act and sometimes a difficult one.

Q-  You have always embraced traditional design.  What element of it do you especially like?
I am a lover of all things traditional and I always have been. I just find such comfort in the formality and structure, the symmetry and classicism.  Now, by no means does that mean that I only want to create stodgy, old, formal rooms.  I just like using that traditional foundation...then I play with the rest of it.

Q-  What has been your greatest success as a designer?  Do you have anything you particularly regret?
I think that every time I leave a job and the client is happy with the overall finished space- that's the biggest success.  Each job, as I've gotten more notable here, has been bigger than the last, so the budgets are larger, the rooms and homes are larger and the expectation is greater.  It's wonderful walking out of a room knowing that you exceeded the expectation of the client.  My only regret is not jumping into doing this full-time sooner.

Q-  What interior design style have you never liked or felt any desire to try?   Which trend would you like to see go away and never return?

I have never been a fan of super modern or contemporary interior design.  To me, there just isn't enough "stuff".  I'm a lover of collections and I like to be surrounded by the things that I love.  I also crave layers.  So, a contemporary or modern space that makes its mark by being clean and functional lacks that certain collected look that I love.

Gosh, so many of the "trendy" things I hated are already on their way out the door, like upholstered pieces done in burlap and those reproduction bus route reels...hated those.

Q-  What designers have had the greatest influence on you?  If you had your pick, who would you choose to collaborate with on a design project?  
Jeffrey Bilhuber, Mary McDonald, Betsy Burnham, Charlotte Moss...bloggers Joan Ross, Joni Webb, Loi Thai and Brooke Gianetti; they all have things that they've done that have shaped my aesthetic either in small or large part.  Being exposed to their vision has given me a lot of ideas and fuel.  I'd love to collaborate with any of them, but if I had to pick one, I'd say Mary McDonald.  I've loved her since I saw her bedroom on the cover of House Beautiful way back in 2001.  When she became a star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Decorators", I fell in love with her personally and I think working with her would be a dream come true.

Q-  Like so many designers, you change your decor often.  What is your current passion?  What was your best/worst decision in decorating your own home?

Right now I'm embracing color and pattern.  I'm big on stripes...I'm not sure why, they just grab me.  Our house is an old house, built in 1923 with natural gum-wood woodwork that I'm forbidden to paint.  The rooms are small, moody but naturally cozy and warm.  The color just works in our house, and it was the best thing I could have done in bringing it back in after I traded the color for white slipcovers in an attempt to be more "current".  Gosh, I wasted so much money.  Don't get me wrong, I love the look- absolutely adore it and have given it to some of my clients...but I hate it in my house.  It's just wrong, wrong, wrong!

 The beautiful home of one of Artie's clients

Q-  What is your favorite design book?

Wow, it changes from week to week.  Right now I'm working on a project in Jacksonville, Florida and I've found a great deal of inspiration from Jeffrey Bilhuber's book: "Defining Luxury".  I probably hadn't picked it up in a year or so until just last week, but it's my favorite of the moment.

Available here

Q-  Can you describe your dream home location, architecture and interior design?

I can sure try...Lord knows I've put enough thought into it.  I'd love to live in a Spanish colonial with stucco walls and a tile roof, vines tightly covering the corners of the wide facade, gas lanterns lighting the double door center entry.  A formal staircase of bleached pine or oak with antique repurposed wrought iron fencing in place of spindles would draw your eye upward as you enter under a large two story foyer lit by the warm glow of an antique lantern with silicone tipped bulbs.  Wide plank, bleached floors would lead you past the formal living and dining rooms into a family room washed with light from the multiple sets of French doors that draw your gaze to the view of the water beyond.  Large, but personal and warm rooms would be decorated with the best of everything I love; colorful Turkish rugs, leather, linen upholstery, English antiques, antique brass and layer upon layer of my collections, old and new.  Of course, it would have to have a large kitchen with Scott's preferred restaurant style stove and two islands...just because.  Outside, the landscape would be simple.  River clump birch trees planted in threes and fives with wispy decorative grass planted in between.  A patio, terraced into separate entertaining alcoves would lead you to the waters edge where you'd find me...sitting in a comfy chair with a French martini and my favorite design book.

Q-  Where do you see yourself in ten years?  Twenty?

Ten years from now, I'll likely be in Florida complaining about the tiny house or condo that we bought to get started, getting my business up and off the ground.  In twenty, I'll hopefully be in the dream house you asked me to describe above...dream big, right?

And the ever evolving Casa De La Vanderdogan!

 The gorgeous front door beautifully welcomes guests to the 1922 home.

The woodwork is chestnut colored gum wood which Artie is forbidden to paint, and he jokes that "should I do it anyway, it would spell out divorce, possibly sudden death".  The
hand painted all wood "Hurlingham" sign was found in Virginia.

 As featured in Buffalo Spree magazine, photo by KC Krat

 Artie made the cushion and slipcover. The pillow is axis hide.

 One of the many ever changing vignettes throughout the home

The very recent transformation of the dining room into a sitting room. Artie felt a need for  a change and this was a big one!!

The sofa is slipcovered in an ash gray velvet.

 A previous styling of the dining room. The gorgeous sideboard and the charming window above it add period character to the 1920s home. The tablecloth is brown burlap.

The chairs were painstakingly gilded by hand and covered in a linen toile.

 Styled for a Buffalo Spree magazine photo shoot

  A wall of antique botanicals

 A few pieces of Artie's ironstone collection

 The dining room in 2009
 Another look with a tablecloth made from ticking with a ribbon brush fringe.
  The sunroom was featured in the Lewiston 2011 house tour

 Artie is especially talented at creating a layered and gathered look. The sofa pillows are kilim and the ottoman is covered in a red velvet backed piece of kilim. The sofa and ottoman slipcovers were made by Artie. The painting done by a street artist was bought in St. Petersburg, Russia.

 The bowl of clementines echo the vibrant colors of the kilims.

The poster printed on oilcloth is an antique from the 1920-1930s.
In the living room, a French rust colored velvet sofa was spotted in an antique shop by Artie, inspiring his latest color scheme.  The chairs are covered in lemon grass waxed linen.

 An antique trunk of leather and brass rests on one of many Turkish rugs purchased by Scott while living abroad. Artie slipcovered the ottoman in the same ticking fabric as the dining room tablecloth, subtly tying the rooms together.   

 The living room in a past life featured an Ikea Ektorp sofa Artie had custom slipped in linen.

 The zebra rug was found on Ebay.

  A fabulous tin, hand painted pub sign from London hangs out with an English carved oak secretaire. 

 Looking towards the dining room

 Artie hand painted the initials CDLV on the basket resting in the fireplace.

The silver books in the secretaire are sterling silver bound Torah.  The cross bottle collection are Artie creations available here.

The Mexican santos has moved from room to room throughout the house

 An early rendition of the living room with four leather chairs brought from Texas.

Another early living room design

 More than twenty plus rugs brought back from Turkey offer plenty of color choices.

 An antique train luggage cart from the Cincinnati Railroad

 A glimpse of the master bedroom

 An Artie styled bookcase

 Artie has shared many of his home's design transitions over the years.  In addition to having a beautiful and sophisticated aesthetic, he is amazingly creative, over the years fashioning among other things a lamp out of driftwood (spurring many copies) and a gorgeous trumeau mirror with sconces. 

 I love this and am trying to amass enough driftwood (not easy living hours from the sea) to attempt fashioning one myself!

A trumeau made entirely from scratch

 Artie even sews his own slipcovers and pillows!  The pillow on the dining room chair is Flemish inspired and made of velvet and linen toile.

This amazing dress was crafted out of playing cards for an art fashion show!!!
Step outside to Garden De La Vanderdogan



Artie lives very close to Niagara Falls, New York, not too far from the upscale town of Lewiston which yearly sponsors several house and garden tours. Artie is a regular participant and displays particular skill at creating exceptionally beautiful tablescapes both for the tour as well as for his own special occasions.


Just a peek at Christmas!
Lewiston also conducts a yearly Christmas house tour in which Artie participates, decorating the homes of a few fortunate clients. His Christmas trees are uniquely creative and truly inspiring. It may be summer but I cannot resist showing some of my favorites from the tour as well as from Artie's own home!
  More fabulous trees can be seen by visiting Color Outside the Lines
A look at some of Artie's fabulous interior design for clients
A client's in progress breakfast room 


  I also must mention Artie is THE Cross Bottle Guy!  One of the originators of this beautiful idea, Artie's bottles are truly works of art, crafted with the same ingenuity and thoughtfulness of design he puts into everything he creates!
 Here for more of the Cross Bottle Guy. Here to visit Color Outside the Lines.

A huge thank you to Artie!

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Thanks for visiting A House Romance!