HGTV Program Makes Area Designer A Star

 Bloomfield Hills designer Corey Damen Jenkins shows his flair

Article by Susan R. Pollack

Corey Damen Jenkins, an interior designer in Bloomfield Hills, almost didn’t return a phone call from HGTV inviting him to participate in “Showhouse Showdown,” a nationally televised reality design competition.
“I felt at first that it was a joke, someone messing with me,” says the 35-year-old designer.

Jenkins, who was one of two Michigan designers cast from among 52 considered, went on to win the competition with his Old World Italian farmhouse design. It featured hand-scraped planked floors and Tuscan-plastered walls finished with an eight-step hand-application process.

Filmed in Midland but called “Saginaw Michigan Showdown,” the episode aired recently on HGTV. During a Saturday open house, about 800 locals came out in the pouring rain to tour. The first 100 were given scorecards to determine the winner. And Jenkins is now a featured designer — along with the likes of Candice Olson and David Bromstad — in HGTV.com’s national Designers’ Portfolio, an online resource viewed by millions.

An Oakland County native, Jenkins spent 10 years in purchasing for the auto industry before launching his design firm, DWV: Design with Vision, in 2009. Homestyle recently caught up with the busy designer to learn more about his work:

Congratulations on winning the showdown . How did you get involved?
The folks at HGTV saw my website and gave me a call. I didn’t call them back at first. … Later, when they called me back (to say he’d been picked for the show), I almost dropped the phone.

What did you do then?
I drove up to Midland, which is not exactly my background. I wanted to get to know the area.

Was the show challenging ?
I’ve never had to design so quickly! I prefer to bake my design versus microwaving. It really showed me what I could do under pressure and tight time constraints. Gorman’s was very supportive and enabled me to get custom pieces quickly. Showrooms at the Michigan Design Center — Robert Allen and Kravet — supplied the fabrics that gave the house that really luxurious finish and feel. And several local family-owned companies, such as Designer Furniture Services, donated literally thousands of dollars and manpower. That’s how I was able to maximize my budget.

What’s your background?
I grew up in Pontiac and Auburn Hills and later Rochester Hills. I graduated from Pontiac Northern (1996).
Early on, I always knew I wanted to get into this field. When I was 6 or 7 years old, I was rearranging my parents’ furniture. They did a major remodel when I was maybe 13 and I came up with some ideas: I had a color swatch with my mom’s handkerchiefs and scarves and I drew out sketches. I was very serious.
In school, I took architecture, drafting, everything that was remotely related to design. I took a lot of trade school classes — I just loved that.

After high school?
I had an opportunity for a scholarship to the Center for Creative Studies (now the College for Creative Studies) in Detroit. And I had an offer from a New York-based construction firm looking for interns for historical hotel restoration projects. I decided to move to New York at 19 and worked on some gorgeous renaissance-style hotels.

What happened after that?
Then I had a bit of a career shift. My dad’s a banker, my mom is in the banking industry and both my (younger) brothers, too. I was making a clear break from tradition. My dad really wanted me to focus on business; he didn’t want any starving artist kids.
So I did purchasing for 10 years in the automotive industry. It was a postponement of my dreams but I’m really glad I got that experience. Now I know how to crunch numbers, too. Eventually I got laid off.

Then what?
I did decorating here and there, some nonprofit community work, pro bono design projects. … And then I decided to take control of my own career, my own destiny. In 2009 I started DWV: Design With Vision in Bloomfield Hills.

How’s business?
I have two assistants working for me. We’ve been able to maintain a consistent flow, mainly word of mouth. Most of our work is in Grand Blanc, Davisburg, Northville, Ann Arbor, Oakland Township, and I’m starting now to get some in Birmingham.

What are you working on?
Right now I’m juggling six different projects. One is a family in Northville with a very Park Avenue/contemporary meets traditional mix. And her sister hired us in Ann Arbor for a huge, 22-space project. It’s in a totally different direction, more rustic.

The Northville project is an entire first floor — kitchen, breakfast nook, parlor, foyer, two sunrooms on each end of the family room. In the living room we installed a black and white, Greek key-pattern carpet. The walls are a soft taupey gray and the sofa is a bright lemony velvet. It’s modern-traditional, very clean, very exciting. There’s lots of crystal but very contemporized.

Any other cool projects?
I’ve been working with a Davisburg couple on their home since 2010; we stepped outside the box with honey-colored walls and fun plaid carpet. They called us back to remodel the kitchen, a study and the second floor. I’m excited about the study: I’m covering the walls and ceiling with a vintage-looking geographic map. There’s a chair rail framing the room’s perimeter and from that point down I’m running a masculine hound’s-tooth wallpaper.

I like doing the unexpected, something different. If I can move clients outside their comfort zone even 5 percent I feel I’ve done my job.

How would you describe your design style?
A fresh continental mix of traditional and modern design. I like things mixed and matched. You’ll never see me do a 100 percent period room. Like with the HGTV Tuscan house, I had crocodile-skin upholstered chairs — so whimsical. I can’t really explain the rationale. If it works and I’m feeling it, I just do it.
I try to stay away from trends. I don’t want to have to “Botox” any of my rooms — I don’t want them to look dated. In our economy staying power is very important.

What do you do in your spare time?
I love working out, hitting the gym. Staying fit, mentally healthy, is important — this is such a detail-oriented job. I still love drawing — there are sketches on my website — and I love reading decorating books, trade magazines. I really eat and breathe and drink the stuff.

spollack@detnews.com
(313) 222-2665

Pollack, Susan R. “HGTV Program Makes An Area Design A Star.” The Detroit News” Homestyle Section H, May 11, 2012: Pages 8, 9. Print.

View the article in our blog:  http://coreydamenjenkins.blogspot.com/2012/05/detroit-news-hgtv-program-makes-area.html