Zoë Feldman knows how to artfully mix vintage and modern pieces, has had projects featured in publications including ELLE Decor and Traditional Home, and remains committed to bettering the environment through all of her work. As part of our series, My Design Journey, we spoke with Feldman on her entry into the design field, her appreciation for historic home projects, her emphasis on eco-friendly living, and why shopping vintage when possible is best.
On Her Work With Alexa Hampton and Starting Her Own Firm
Feldman began her design career working under Alexa Hampton at Manhattan-based Mark Hampton, Inc., while also taking classes in decorative arts at the Parsons School of Design.
“Alexa is brilliant, and she knows more than could ever be taught,” Feldman reflects. “There are pivotal moments in your career, and obviously getting a job there was probably the most pivotal moment for me. There was also a moment where she basically told me, ‘You really have it, Zoë. You have the thing that can’t be taught.’”
Hampton’s observation significantly strengthened Feldman’s belief in her abilities. “At the time, I was feeling very insecure because of my minimal training and exposure growing up,” she explains. “I don’t think she knew I was feeling that, but that moment gave me a lot of confidence. Even though I wasn’t where I wanted to be and didn’t know everything, I had a natural ability that she was able to see—and that fueled me, in a lot of ways, to keep working toward my goal.”
There was also a moment where she basically told me, ‘You really have it, Zoë. You have the thing that can’t be taught.'
Feldman’s advice for budding designers? “Apprentice or have a job in the industry with an interior designer,” she says, noting that this experience is key in order to gain knowledge about the business component of the field, meet vendors, learn to collaborate, and more.
On Her Company's Growth
Feldman says that she wouldn’t have given up her role with Alexa Hampton if she hadn’t left New York City, but once she moved to Washington, D.C., she chose to open up her own design firm. She started small, hiring interns from nearby George Washington University to assist her, and now, Feldman oversees a team of 11.
“It’s important that they feel valued, as they’re such an integral part of making the experience happen,” Feldman says of her team. And we can only expect to see more growth from the designer soon. Right now, Feldman—in addition to her usual client projects in D.C., New York, and South Florida—is working on two product lines and a space in San Francisco.
On Her Personal Design Style
Feldman attributes many of her design choices to her upbringing. “So much of my own home and personal aesthetic is directly influenced by my mother,” Feldman says. “I grew up in a home that had fresh flowers in every room. I do my best to bring this into my own house—it's a great way to add freshness and color.”
Feldman’s mother also collected Tiffin glass vases. “I love a good collection so I, too, have incorporated this into my home,” she says. Most significantly, though, Feldman’s parents influenced her love of art.
Art lives in every possible place it can in my home—if I could fill every wall with art, I would. I am actually trying.
“My parents are both art collectors and my mother is a former art dealer,” Feldman explains. “I am lucky to have acquired a wonderful collection of modern art from them. Art lives in every possible place it can in my home—if I could fill every wall with art, I would. I am actually trying.”
Feldman grew up in a midcentury modern-style house adorned with modern art pieces. She reflects, “I mean, that's about as timelessly cool as it gets—who wouldn't be happy to echo this look? The art has given me a great canvas to build off of. Many of my modern pieces are framed in a more classic way which gives it an unexpected moment of interest and allows the art to work with a broad range of aesthetics.”
On Her Favorite Project for Clients
Feldman has greatly enjoyed working on historic home projects. “Restoration projects can be challenging with HOA and city regulations, but on the flip side, they can yield some of the most exquisite design products,” she says. “They allow us to flex our creative muscles by strategizing how to enhance the integrity of the historic architectural details and adding a modern twist with furniture, finishes, and décor.”
Working to uncover and highlight a space’s hidden charm is key, she adds. “It’s hard to get behind the ideology to produce something new when we can’t find what we are looking for,” Feldman says. “Part of being creative is being able to see the beauty in a foundation and reimagining how to bring something back to life. At this point, we need to be looking to the past to get inspired and inform our decisions. Everything has already been done before—our job is to explore ways to reinvent spaces while honoring the bones.”
On Her Commitment to the Environment
Feldman is profoundly committed to addressing environmental issues—a special section of her website, titled “Our Beautiful Planet,” outlines the ways in which her company has adapted green practices as part of their projects, in the office, and more. Zoe Feldman Design allocates 100 percent of clients’ initial consultation fee to one of five charities, three of which benefit the environment and two of which support underserved communities.
“I was inspired by my dad, who is a periodontist,” Feldman explains. “Instead of charging new patients for an exam, he started asking them to donate to one of several local charities—and then he matched their donation. That inspired me.”
When clients sign on to complete a full project with Feldman, the firm makes a matching donation to one of the same nonprofits. “We also plant 100 new trees at the close of every project and quarterly,” Feldman adds.
Our mission is to leave the world more beautiful than we found it, and with ethical sourcing practices, anyone can play a part in contributing to this closed-loop cycle.
Her company has donated over $20,000 to charities and has planted almost 4,000 trees since launching its sustainable initiative in 2018. “In terms of our team practices, we are lucky to have a team that shares the same passion for sustainability and charitable causes,” Feldman says. “We love to participate in upcycling in the office to reduce our carbon footprint, sourcing vintage first, and participating in team events like climate marches or local trash pick-up.”
Feldman is drawn to vintage pieces for several reasons. “Not only do they add character and personality to a space, but it’s also an ethical and sustainable approach in our design practices,” sh says. “Finding the beauty in something that already lived in this world is very important to us. We often find ourselves getting creative with how to repurpose pieces with our ZFD twist to make them feel more relevant, while respecting the original design intent.”
One does not need to implement vintage pieces in every single room within a home to be successful. “This can be overwhelming, and sometimes, there’s a need for a custom piece for sizing restrictions or an in-stock item from a more affordable retailer due to budget restraints,” Feldman explains. “If you are able to select even just a few pieces in your space, you are already being more mindful than most. Our mission is to leave the world more beautiful than we found it, and with ethical sourcing practices, anyone can play a part in contributing to this closed-loop cycle.”