Designer Darren Henault: It’s not just about looks
By Linda Tuccio-Koonz
When it comes to interior design, enriching people’s comfort and sense of home is essential, says renowned designer Darren Henault, who is involved in everything from fabric to furniture.
The son of a New England textile manufacturer, he comes by his talents naturally. But Henault didn’t start out in the business. His first career was in advertising; a chance conversation led him to switch gears.
“I was on a trip to the south of France with a friend and her family,” he says. “Her father was an architect and he said, ‘You know, the way you talk about design, color, scale, and texture, you should really be an interior designer.’”
Initially, Henault thought he was crazy, but it was just the nudge he needed. For 30 years, he’s been among New York’s top interior designers, with clients including Paul Shaffer (David Letterman’s bandleader), and rock star Meat Loaf.
Henault and his husband have a Manhattan apartment, but live in Millbrook with their teenage daughters. It was a weekend retreat. They moved up when the pandemic hit.
“Most of the stuff in that house that’s not antique is stuff I’ve designed—lighting, furniture, upholstery…” Other items he’s designed and had created to his specifications are in his Amenia shop, Tent, which opened last December.
“Everything I’ve designed for us, which has ended up at the store, is about comfort and family.” Tent is an eclectic shop where you never know what you’ll find, but you know it will be special, unusual, and fun. “I’ve got stuff from all over the world.” (Think everything from Portuguese pottery to flatware from France.)
“For years I’ve been designing custom things for clients… so there’s upholstery pieces for jobs I’ve done, say in Rhinebeck, so there’s the Rhinebeck collection, and furniture I designed for my house in Millbrook, so it’s the Millbrook collection…”
His custom-designed furniture features fabrics from three high-end companies, Bennison Fabrics, Holland & Sherry, and Rogers & Goffigon Ltd. “I’m giving people access to something that’s exclusive—that’s really luxurious. It makes the furniture more special.
“I know what beautifully-made fabric is,” adds Henault, whose childhood memories include climbing around massive piles of fabric while playing hide-and-seek with his brothers in their dad’s textile mill.
By the time he was 16, he was using powders and chemicals to dye greige (unfinished fabric) to specific colors. “Different fibers require different chemicals. I was good at it.”
Henault hated working summers in the hot, dirty mill, but enjoyed determining what was needed to create and match hues. “It was complicated. You had to have an eye for it.”
Today, this self-described “color and texture geek” has an expertise which allows him to easily style and create ready-made, coordinated swatch sets. His talent is greatly appreciated especially by those who find it challenging to mix and match fabrics with confidence.
While Henault knows which patterns and colors work well together, he says it’s not just about looks. They have to feel good, too. “And it’s not just feeling good with your fingers. It has to feel good emotionally.”
When not working, Henault enjoys the Millbrook area with his family. “It’s so beautiful. We have horses and we fox hunt and play tennis. We are very much enmeshed in Millbrook life. COVID was an excuse to stay in that life, and it’s fantastic.”