COLUMN – Designer Dernell
A free spirit passionate about bettering people's lives through her art
Name: Dernell Alleyne
Education: Christ Church Foundation School; Barbados Community College;
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill; New York School Of Interior Design.
Qualifications: Associate degree in French and German for tourism and business;
Associate degree in interior design;
Bachelor of Science in business management.
Occupation: Interior designer.
Hi, Dernell! Would you do us the honour of introducing yourself to the world?
I am Dernell Francilia Alleyne. I am a follower of Christ, a free-spirited being with an intense love for nature. I’ve been told I am artistic, but I think I just love beauty in many expressions; and if I can create that in any way, then that’s when I feel most at peace.
What are you passionate about?
I love learning. I love being exposed to the arts. I am passionate about seeing people’s lives improve through my “art”. I love being able to help people, and being successful drives me as well.
Do you have a philosophy that you live by, and, if yes, would you share it with us?
[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly].
Philippians 3:10, Amplified Bible.
Nothing else is more important. I am not fully there, but I put this before me as a reminder.
After leaving the Foundation School, you decided to further your education in the area of foreign languages. Why this area?
I had many careers in my mind whilst growing up –– from being a vet to a rock star. I think at this point in time foreign languages were the second most interesting subject area to me, after art and history. So I did that with the intent of being involved in the tourism sector. Even though family members were encouraging me to take up art, I could not think about what career I would possibly have doing sketches and doodles.
What influenced you to pursue undergraduate studies in business management at UWI and not further develop your foreign languages?
I think I was a bit jaded to be honest. Also it felt too focused in one area; so I thought being exposed to a plethora of business disciplines would give me time enough to think about what I really wanted to do. Perhaps at the back of my mind I was setting myself up to have my own business!
Where did your love for art and decorating come from?
I always loved art and I’ve always enjoyed decorating my home. I can still vividly remember some of the things I drew in my childhood. I suppose it’s just something wired into me. I can’t say it’s in my blood because I don’t think any of my parents had an artistic bone in them.
Why did you decide to go back to the Barbados Community College after UWI?
After UWI, I never really settled into a job; and the idea of a nine-to-five seemed a little depressing to me. It was during one of my “stay at home” stints that a close friend of mine encouraged me to do the interior decorating course.
As a person who loves colour and art, if you were to be a colour, which one would you be and why?
I would be turquoise. I am cool and calm. I can be indecisive so I definitely would be a mix of blue and green. I am definitely a tropic baby!
Earth, wind, fire or water. If you had a choice, which one would you be and why?
Water of course. It’s like my personality, fluid, graceful and soothing. Plus you can’t live without water. Water is life.
I understand that for two years you were a teacher/tutor. Was the transition from student to tutor difficult, and what was that experience like being a tutor?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult; challenging but very interesting. I enjoy working with young people, and I found out I also love teaching! I taught business subjects at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polythenic. Most people when they hear that are very surprised because I have a quiet unassuming nature, but I always rise to the occasion whether it be teaching, sales or overseeing a project.
In each case, it’s important to meet the student/client where they are, and this isn’t only in the “coming down to your level” case, but also in exceeding huge expectations.
Once trust is gained, it’s easy for students to like and respect you. Everything is about relationship. I hope teachers realize how important being a good role model is and also showing genuine care.
Your love for art evolved from just being a love to something you could use as a career. What was the experience like preparing to go to New York to study design?
The road to New York was a little bumpy, but I had my cheering squad all the way. The amount I needed seemed quite daunting since Plan A had fallen through the chasm. Anyway, I dried my tears and threw all kinds of fund-raisers: a back in time party, a dinner, a breakfast, a garage sale. Let’s just say I was in pure hustle mode. I even sold “sucka bubbies” on the beach!
Eventually I knew I would have to apply for a student loan since there are only so many sucka bubbies one can sell; so I did that. But I never wanted to burden my parents with a large loan, even though they were extremely supportive.
There are probably hundreds of interior design schools around the world. Why this one in New York?
New York truly is one of the capitals of design period. And if I was going to study design, I wanted to study in a place and environment that embodies it. Also, I had family that lived there.
What was the experience like living and studying in an international city, and how has it added to your career development?
Living and studying in New York was a great “growing up” experience. Even though I lived with family, the school situation was still “fast-paced” and you were forced to be a bit more independent. It was amazing also to be in a place, which submerses you in the art form. You could no longer think of interior design as just a hobby, and I needed that. I needed to know that there were people like me who loved interiors as much as I did.
And this thing is necessary and valuable in modern-day life. Having resources so easily accessible by train ride or a few blocks uptown was also very convenient in New York. It’s just an all-round stimulating place to learn.
Oh! and living in an international environment, you learn to take constructive criticism less personally.
Tell us about Habitat For Humanity and Phoenix Cricket Academy and your involvement.
While in Barbados, I tutored young boys at a cricket club on Saturdays in Wildey. I must admit I did this mostly out of love for Daddy, now deceased. Cricket was his passion and this club led by Mr Mark Evelyn sought to shape well rounded individuals.
Habitat For Humanity in New York often looks for volunteers to assist in making low-cost homes livable for those who can’t afford something more. This is something I would love to see happen in Barbados. Maybe I should pioneer that! Shhh . . . !
On completion of your studies in New York, you returned to Barbados and were able to work as a design consultant with Caribbean Homes. What was that like?
That was a wonderful opportunity. I have to thank Mr Mark Maloney for that stint. His support came even before that when he let me work as an office assistant the summer before I took off to New York. Through his company Preconco Ltd, I was able to offer a home staging service for the Valley View Development in Vaucluse.
I basically created five different design packages for the homes and since that was my first project one can imagine how “fussy” I was to be associated with such a reputable firm.
What is Francilia Interiors?
Currently, it’s a small design firm operating from Peronne Village in Worthing. We cater to any budget. And dare I say any size project? Most of the projects, which make our Facebook page are modest-sized budgets, and I do enjoy turning what may look like a disaster into a work of art for a comfortable amount.
I’ve also been able to work on higher-end projects, many of which are still works in progress; but I admit I plug in on the design on the budget factor a lot because we are living in some harder times, and I try to get the point across that everyone deserves to live in a beautiful house!
You can say our location at Peronne Village is a one-stop shop, since I share the space with my fiancé who runs his architecture firm there as well. Whether its interior design, decorating, renovations or starting a project from the ground up, we can make it happen.
Many people view interior design with just decorating. How do you view it? Is it more than that?
Designers have been having this conversation for ages. I do both. Interior design is concerned with not only the aesthetics of a space but with safety and how the space works. Designers must know building codes, the methods of construction and be au fait with AutoCAD and other drawing technologies.
So its not purely an art subject, but includes aspects of science and mathematics. All of this is to ensure that a space isn’t only beautiful to experience but it’s efficient, safe and increases productivity.
Barbados has many shows and events throughout the year. If you had the opportunity to design one, which would it be and why?
Set design for Christmas Jazz. I just love Christmas!
Interior design is all about “identity, image and personality”, which is similar to fashion design. Can you see yourself becoming a fashion consultant?
Funnily enough, I would love someone to design a wardrobe around my personality! As much as I love to see a well put together outfit, that’s not for me. I spend my money on home things first; so my wardrobe needs some help. If there’s anyone out there who can do what I do with an ugly room on a budget, they should hit me up!
You have long, beautiful and healthy natural hair and it complements your “personal design”. What is your view on the “twist-out” natural hair “ban”?
I think it’s silly. I have never seen an over-the-top twist-out. It’s actually a very neat way to wear your hair loosely. I am not sure about all the details of the ban, but it could never be because it’s an extravagant hairstyle.
Personally, I think people aren’t 100 per cent comfortable in their skin, even though their lips say it. Unfortunately we have a way to go. It’s like me and art. One day they will come around!
Who has contributed to your success?
Apart from God, of course, my family. They always knew I had it in me. They see more than I see in myself. My dad who went above and beyond to make sure I finished school, no one on this earth is prouder than he was of me. My very good Sueann Tannis, who encouraged me to still apply to do design school since “you never know; you could get a scholarship or something would work out”. She was right.
I got a grant from the Old Scholars Association of New York. Her positivity is really what led me to not give up just when I was about to say “forget this”. She is so fabulous for that!
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