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Designer on Designers: Victoria Vandamm Talks Design — and Yachts by Christina Roughan

Growing Up on the Coast Inspired Both Home and Yacht Design Approach

Fairfield County native Victoria Vandamm has been designing interiors ever since she can remember. She was raised in the Stamford/Greenwich area by British parents whose influence on her talent and professional ability was key to her business today. Her mother ran the BBC’s United Nations bureau in New York and was also an artist who taught Victoria many skills including sewing, painting and pattern making. A traveler with an ear for linguistics, by age 15 Victoria was a private tour guide at the UN, able to name every country by its flag.

Her early experiences led her to art school to study fine arts and, after graduation to seek a career in fashion. Victoria’s first job was at Porteous, Mitchell & Braun, a department store in New Hampshire, established in 1938. There she headed the display and drapery departments and learned everything about installing window treatments, including the engineering behind the cuts of fabric and the mechanics of installing drapery hardware.

Longing to be closer to New York City, she moved back to Connecticut and landed a job as the manager of the Nettle Creek Shop in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich, a home store franchise that sold everything an interior craved.  In 1978, after six months there, she purchased the business. She was 22 years old.

At the same time, she founded Vandamm Interiors to establish herself as an interior designer as well as a shop owner. As her business grew, she took on a partner, a business relationship that would last for 15 years, and opened a wonderful in-town design store on Greenwich Avenue. The design business was growing fast.

Victoria was the buzz around town and her work soon went global. She designed homes throughout New England including Newport, and also worked with clients across the United States and in Europe. As boating was part of her coastal childhood, it was natural for her to add yacht design to her portfolio of services. Her travel schedule to implement client projects made her retail presence less practical, so she moved from Greenwich Avenue to a part retail, part design studio on West Putnam Avenue, which she maintained until April 2009.

At that time, Victoria had the opportunity to pursue her yacht design specialty in the Maldives. She traveled back and forth to this exotic locale from July 2009 until April 2011, which she describes as, “…a life influencing experience!” During this period, she designed a number of private yachts working with boat craftsmen and honed her skills in spatial planning. After 34 years of retail she moved her business to a 1790’s farm hand’s cottage in Stamford from which she serves her clients today.

Victoria designs like an artist, approaching each room as if she is painting a canvas. Every detail is carefully curated and combines beauty, form and function. In the Q. and A. below you can get to know more about Victoria’s yacht design approach and her other interests. You can visit her work, which is frequently featured in design publications, at vandamminteriors.com.

Questions for Victoria Vandamm

CR — What are the key challenges in yacht design?

VV — Weather, water, sun, space!
Weather: It doesn’t matter how big or small a boat is, the seas are bigger!
Water: While many yachts are climate controlled 24/7/365, they are still on water — often, quite salty water — and that affects all sorts of things.
Sun: Everything has to be treated to prevent fading from the sun! Windows, fibers, wood, everything!
Space: With yachts of any size, you have to be very creative to find or make storage and to decide how to use space. Some spaces become multi-purposed, ie a daytime gym can become a club at night complete with dance floor and disco lights. Hot tubs often have tops put on them to transform them to floors or tables!

CR — What elements of excellent yacht design can positively influence home design?

VV — Creative and efficient use of space.

Also, awareness of design. I find that, often, clients are very willing to be ultra-creative on their yachts, where they won’t be in their land-based homes. I think it’s because a yacht is often a place to show off rather than a place to come home to on a regular basis. But homes can often benefit from a bit more ‘show’ that might at first push the comfort envelope.
LIGHTING is VERY important and one gets the chance to be very creative with it on a yacht. Some of these techniques translate well to the home. “Scenes” are important.

And to get to know Vikki a little more personally…

CR — What are you currently reading?
VV — The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

CR — What is your favorite song?
VV — “I’m your Lady” by Celine Dion

CR — Two things you couldn’t live without?
VV — Color & Sight

CR — What would surprise our readers about you?
VV — I am a professional ice skater, and I have sailed the Newport-Bermuda race six times

CR — Favorite water destination, lake or sea?
VV — Sea, of course!! I love the smell of the salt air!


 

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