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November 18, 2016
Designer Spotlight: Jason Bell
Designer Spotlight: Jason Bell
Based out of Soho, J.D. Bell, Inc. was opened by Jason Bell after many years spent at the well-known firm Irvine & Fleming, an agency known for its exceptional English style. There, he honed his skills as a designer, even becoming a named partner at one point. Eventually, it was time for Jason to open his own firm, and in 2004 J.D. Bell, Inc. opened its door and now claims an impressive roster of clients, both national and international – everywhere from at home in the neighborhoods of Manhattan to overseas in London and Switzerland.

In our conversation with Jason, we learned what brought him to interior design in the first place, what is unique about what he brings to a design situation, and how STARK fits into it all.

Introduction to interior design

Jason’s father was a contractor, so he grew up around construction crews building houses, the sound of saws and hammers never too far from his ears. He would build little dog houses for his dog, but they wouldn’t be your average dog houses – little Jason would decorate the insides. Since his mother tinkered with decorating and interior design, Jason had access to things like her leftover wallpaper – so he would get some and wallpaper the doghouse!

“For as long as I can remember, I was always doing something creative that had to do with homes.”
From changing his room around every month to wanting to paint the walls a different color – the desire to somehow create within the home was always there. He eventually settled on pursuing marketing at the University of Alabama, despite wanting to attend Parsons School of Design in New York.

But during his last summer, he realized he had no idea what he wanted to market. He changed his major and at that point realized he should have been doing interior design the entire time. Little did he know, however, that everything he learned with regard to marketing would eventually help him with his interior design career, so his educational experience ultimately worked out quite well. After breezing through Alabama’s design program, he took the first plane to New York.

Damasko carpet in a Greenwich, CT home.

Irving & Fleming

Thanks to a great contact, Jason was able to get interviews with some huge names in the industry, “the crème of the crop of New York,” as he stated. His contact faxed Jason’s resume all around the city; Jason followed it from designer to designer, meeting with each one. All the visits were positive, and when he returned to New York with his portfolio two weeks later, he had several job offers to field.

Ultimately, he chose a firm called Irvine & Fleming – one of the most well-known names in the industry. (Other successful designers that began their careers assisting the late co-founder Keith Irvine include Tom Fleming, Sam Blount, and Mario Buatta.) He was so successful at Irvine & Fleming, studying under Keith, that he eventually became a partner and even changed the name of the company. In 2004, it was time for Jason to move on and focus on his very own firm.

“I was very lucky with how it all fell together. It was a lot of hard work, but it paid off."
Diamond Stria carpet in a sitting room.

Elements to build off of in a room

When it comes to designing, Jason easily points to two pieces to consider when establishing the tone of the room: the architecture of the space and what is seen out the windows, if they’re there. “When the interior of spaces do not work, it’s usually because they have no connection with the bones of what they sit in, or they don’t complement what you are looking at when you look out the window,” Jason explained. After taking those into consideration, the rug is usually the next piece he works on.

“The main reason for that is because the choices that happen within the rug world of coloration are much less than when you pick paint, for example, and there are five hundred thousand colors to choose from. There’s always going to be some tone of color that you can make work for the walls and the fabrics. But when you’re dealing with, say, an antique rug, you’re stuck with the existing colors. You can’t fight those colors or else your room won’t work.”

Working with STARK

“There’s a lot to choose from. The custom department has changed dramatically in the last 5 to 10 years, largely due to the younger generation that has stepped in, and offered something new.”
For Jason, STARK is a go-to company; he’s happy with every aspect, from the variety of designs (“probably the best part of working with them”) to the sales staff, whom he says is frequently both personable and knowledgeable. “The people who do make it there stay for decades. It’s nice to keep working with the same people there,” Jason stated.

He calls the showrooms beautiful as well, adding, “I’d say one of the first showrooms to try and manage the terrible lighting situation in the D & D Building in New York. Shopping in that building is awful; you go back into your office and everything you thought you were looking at is a different color because the lighting is so bad.” But STARK went all out to redo their showroom, and in Jason’s view, succeeded admirably. “It’s an old building,” he said. “They did a very good job with the presentation there so people can look at things the way they should be seen.”

The largest rug he ever had made

The drawing room with said rug.

While he has worked with STARK on so many projects, each one unique in its own way, one definitely stands out: the largest rug he ever had made for anyone came from STARK. “It was a custom reproduction of an antique rug that we put into a very traditional house,” Jason explained. “That one stands out because the house looks like Downton Abbey. Every rug in that entire house came from STARK.”

Another view of the drawing room.

Another singular STARK-featuring project that sticks out in his mind includes one of the company’s handpainted Japanese wallpapers, which they had custom-made for what Jason terms “a really beautiful dining room,” in which he also decorated with a STARK rug.

“It’s so classic and beautiful, from the wallpaper to the curtains to the custom dining chairs. It’s just a great room.”
Custom handpainted Japanese wallpaper from STARK.

Interior designers all over the world love to use the STARK touch – and we love to shine the spotlight on their many impressive, expressive stylings, from industry veterans like Steven G., Iris Dankner, and Charles Pavarini III to more recently established firms like Amy Berry Design, Home By Jody, and Kapito Muller Interiors. Find out more about these designers and more in our Design Showcase.
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