With a past life as a pianist, Benjamin Vandiver knows a thing or two about hitting the right notes. After 15 years at the helm of a piano, however, Vandiver decided to strike a new chord, shifting his creative focus to start his own interior design and lifestyle firm in April of 2012.
“I was inspired to make the switch to better express myself and who I am,” says Vandiver. “Interiors spoke to me when needing a medium to create something artistic and expressive and more lasting.”
Launching first in Nashville, Vandiver credits most of his early success to those he worked with in the beginning. “The people of Nashville were so supportive — it’s just the nature of the city and the great people who live there,” says the designer.
Vandiver opened a second studio in New York City in early 2016 and has become known for his strong rapport with each client. For Vandiver, the best projects usually come down to the people. “I look for nice people,” says the designer. “After that litmus test is passed, I look for good architectural bones.” Those standards have led to an impressive roster of clients ranging from Wladamir Klitchko, Hayden Panettiere, and Connie Britton to Jim Gold of Bergdorf Goodman, Kings of Leon’s Nathan Followill and wife Jessie Baylin.
Vandiver’s work goes beyond sight and touch, citing scent as his main sources of inspiration. “It can be a fleeting moment of time, but the memories really do last a lifetime,” he says.
He’s even gone so far as to stop strangers just to ask what they’re wearing. “I stopped a woman at the Sunset Tower, who refused to tell me what she was wearing other than Frederic Malle,” recalls Vandiver. “The next morning, I went to Barney’s and figured it out rather quickly. [Portrait of a Lady] feels like it’s literally from another life — I wear this in the winter and get stopped on the street on a continual basis.”
For entertaining, Vandiver chooses another Frederic Malle, opting for the fragrance Cafe Society. “It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the ending of a long, Parisian dinner party.” As for what else you’ll find at a Vandiver soirée, the designer guarantees “a really good playlist, Champagne and shards of parmesan cheese.”
Whether Vandiver is throwing a party or designing an interior, it all comes down to intuition. “I gather all the moving parts that I know will work for the space, but when it comes to the final moments of giving the space a soul, I use my intuition when making styling decisions that give it that ultimate lasting impression,” he says. The result has been music to our ears and we look forward to seeing what he tackles next.
“My label is about an ease of life — nothing is forced or manufactured,” says Vandiver. “Natural, organic spaces and products that make you feel safe. At the end of the day, I want someone to enter a space I’ve conceived and say, ‘This feels good.’