Episode 545: Weekend with Dann Foley
Aug 27, 2017
Delighted to have Dann Foley back with us today, sharing what his life is like “away from the office”. Listen and read over his interview here then explore his Website here
Join me now as we get to chat with a good friend and a returning guest to the show Dann Foley.
James Swan Right now, please join me in welcoming Dann Foley back to the show today and let’s discover what his life is like when the weekend comes. Dann, it’s great to have you on the show.
Dann Foley: I’m glad to be back. Thank you, James.
James Swan: Thank you. For our listeners who may not have met you yet, give us a quick 4-1-1. Talk about who you are, where you come from, and the work that you are doing.
Dann Foley: Oh my god, how much time do you have?
James Swan: Oh, we’ve got hours.
Dann Foley: Well, I’m an interior designer primarily. First and foremost. And my firm is Dann Inc. You can find us on the web, as well. Danninc.com. We design primarily residential properties throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. I launched the Dann Foley Lifestyle products for the home line, a series of licenses just three years ago.
We’re just now really taking hold in the market, both the wholesale and in brick and mortar, in retail. You can find everything for the home from bedding to rugs, occasional furniture, lighting, accessories, mirrors, wall art – you name it, and we’ve got it out there. You can also find me now – just started this year – exclusively on the Evine shopping channel selling many of those products and some exclusive products that you can only find on Evine from Dann Foley Lifestyle. So it’s been a busy year.
James Swan: It sounds like it. You remain a very busy man. For our listeners who are curious to see the entire collection, is the collection housed on your website? How would they go about seeing all –?
Dann Foley: Please come to our website. Danninc.com – that’s D-A-N-N-I-N-C dot com. You will find links to our various product lines, as well as to Evine, and you can purchase the items that you see there. If you’re a designer, they’re available at all the major markets through our various licensing partners. But you can always just contact us directly, too, to see and/or purchase.
James Swan: Fabulous. Well we will make sure that all of those links are posted in the “Show Notes” section along with the transcript.
Dann Foley: Terrific. Thank you for that.
James Swan: Oh, of course. Happy to do that. So, a question for you. We’re always curious as we start talking about downtime, about how our guests feel that they are perceived by the world around them. So put your thinking cap on for a moment here, and talk to us a little bit about the staff that you have around you and how you think they perceive you, Dann.
Dann Foley: It’s an interesting question because a number of years ago, I asked that question because I was really interested. I did it outside of work in a social setting and I had other people around who were their family members, so I made sure I got the honest truth. So it’s true. We perceive ourselves in one way, and the world sees us in another. So I think that as far as my staff is concerned, they see me as demanding at times and I can be – well, yeah – demanding is the word. But, I like to have fun at work, so I’m hoping that that’s mixed with a good dose of fun.
James Swan: It’s all about balance, isn’t it?
Dann Foley: Absolutely.
James Swan: How do you feel that your clients perceive you?
Dann Foley: I know my clients see me as a fun person to be with because they tell me all the time that is one of the reasons that they hired me over other designers they may have been interviewing. And they all have said the same thing over the 30 years I’ve been in business, which is, “Your sense of fun, of play, and a passion for our project is what got you the job.”
James Swan: Fun, play, and passion. What a great trifecta that is.
Dann Foley: I like to think so.
James Swan: Indeed. So now bring it a little closer home. Think about your family for a moment. How do you feel your family perceives you?
Dann Foley: They think I’m a little crazy, frankly. I know that for a fact because they tell me. My mother always likes to say, “Oh, you’re the one I worry about.” So I’ve always gone my own way and done my own thing. And we’re a tight-knit group, my family, and a large one. So it’s interesting – I’ve never been one to follow the company plan, as they say. I’ve always done what I wanted and in the way I wanted to do it. So that always sort of puts off people and scares people, especially your own family.
James Swan: Isn’t that interesting how that works? The ones closest to you can often be the most frightened by the fact that you’re stepping outside the box a little bit.
Dann Foley: They want you tightly in that box, secure and safe, and that’s just not my life.
James Swan: Not the script you’re reading.
Dann Foley: Never. Never has been. Many times I’ve thought to myself how much easier it would be that way, but by the end of the day, no. I could never conform to it.
James Swan: Well, it seems to be working pretty well for you so please don’t change scripts at this point.
Dann Foley: Knock wood. I’m tapping my head.
James Swan: Now Dann, we read a lot, we hear a lot in the media, in social media today about work/life balance – about finding that balance. What are your thoughts on that subject and how do you go about achieving that in your life?
Dann Foley: Well, that’s always the big question isn’t it? And for many years in the beginning of my business, my firm, I didn’t take any vacations. I’ve always had to travel a great deal for my clients. We’ve always been – my goal always was to be a designer not in my own backyard per se, but to be able to spread that net far and wide. And I have.
So I’ve always traveled a great deal so when I’ve had time off, staying home was fine with me. As I’ve gotten older, I recognize that I still love to travel. I like to say I come from a family of nomads. They’re just people who circle the globe and see everything. So I have that in my blood anyway.
Only in the past maybe five years I made a decision that I needed to also live more and live better. “Live well” is what I tell my clients all the time, and I’ve realized that I didn’t have to have the same amount of money as my clients to live as well, if not better, and I do. I threaten them with that all the time. I say, “Don’t make me shame you into coming there and living a better life because I will.” And it’s true. But I had to do that for myself.
James Swan: It’s important for something like that to start at home, isn’t it? And then you can really become the example to those around you.
Dann Foley: Yeah, there’s this big thing in the media this past year from Arianna Huffington about sleep, and how sleep-deprived we all are because we’re working so hard. And how much sleep we need, and that sleep is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. And it was truly inspirational to me and helped me move toward this greater understanding of my need to be nurtured.
James Swan: So paint a little picture for us. What does it look like for you when you step away from your business and start taking care of you a little bit more?
Dann Foley: For me it started several years ago, anyway, where simply taking two weeks off here or two weeks off there wasn’t enough anymore. I would take a week or ten days. I would always convince myself that’s all I could afford to be away from the office and away from my clients. So now what I do is – the ultimate for me is I take a month and I go to Europe, and I base myself in Paris. And I disappear. I disappear into the streets. And I just immerse myself in the life there. And there’s no greater city in the world for me than Paris.
James Swan: That’s a magical place.
Dann Foley: And that’s what I do. I’ll travel while I’m there. I’ll go to other parts of the country or even other countries. I’ll travel to England and to Italy and other places. But Paris is my home away from home base.
James Swan: That sounds like a rather brilliant plan. Good for you.
Dann Foley: It’s the way to do it. I find that I work better, of course. And I feel better. And I look better because I get to buy my clothes in Paris.
James Swan: A very smart man. And just so I’m clear, this is downtime. You’re not working, correct?
Dann Foley: No, I am not working during that time. As I mentioned, I travel a great deal – I mean, part of every month for my clients – all over the US and further, to Asia, and to Europe, and not so much to the Middle East anymore. But I have to go to India and whatnot for our product lines and to China. So what I do now is when I say I am traveling for myself it is literally for myself. I don’t even check in with the office every day. Every couple of days – that’s it.
James Swan: That’s a big step. I mean I’ve been away for extended periods of time, but I find myself always tethered in some way –
Dann Foley: You know what it is for me and what I would really change, James, was I was always tethered, even when I took time off. And I found that when I can release it, I need the extended period to – first of all, be able to unwind. A week is not enough. I mean the traveling is hard enough. So when you get somewhere, I’m barely able to catch my breath and it’s time to come home.
So what I had found is if I can release it, let it go. Only check in – and literally, only check in – with the office every couple of days. I’m not only much more nurtured but I find that I’m much more inspired. So I come back to work stronger for it, and that’s important.
James Swan: Hugely important, I mean –
Dann Foley: Not just for the clients but even for my own product lives. I mean I have to pump out a lot of new product, almost on a daily basis. So I need that. I need that. And if I do it for myself, then it extends itself to my business.
James Swan: Right. So it’s a win-win across the board.
Dann Foley: Absolutely it is. And by the way, it took a long time to learn that. And nobody can tell you because I heard it for years. You have to go through it.
James Swan: You just have to do it.
Dann Foley: Yes.
James Swan: Let’s play an imaginary game for a moment – sort of a long these lines. I mean, flights a-fancy and stepping away from things – If you could trade places just for a weekend with anyone,anywhere, and at any time, who would you pick and why?
Dann Foley: My goodness. Honestly, I could give you a list. Literally. But for today’s purposes, we’ll go right to the top of the list. I would be the guy who’s Mickey Mouse at Disneyland. I would put that suit on, and I would walk down Main Street, and I would wave, and I would shake hands with kids and families, and take pictures, and climb up on the float, and ride down the middle of the street in the Disneyland parade. That’s what I would do.
James Swan: Wow. I have the biggest smile on my face just hearing you say that.
Dann Foley: I’m the right height for the suit so it works out perfectly. I always say that if this decorating thing doesn’t work out thirty years later, I’ll go put my application in at Disney World or Disneyland or Disneyland Paris.
James Swan: There you go. Combine those. Well, they’d be lucky to have you.
Dann Foley: Well, thank you. I like to think so.
James Swan: Do you pursue any out of the office hobby or personal pursuit that takes you away from your business when you are in downtime?
Dann Foley: To be honest with you, my idea of hobby probably isn’t the same as other peoples’. But one of the ways that I rejuvenate myself on a daily basis is I have a very strict code that I work out six days a week. And I do it first thing in the morning.
So I get up at 4:30 every day. I’m at the gym or on the track, or whatever the day may hold at 5:00, and I work out for about 90 minutes, sometimes with a trainer, sometimes with a small group. But I’m there. I do it. And that is my go-to that is just for me every day. And that’s how I start my day. And I work out outdoors – I’m very fortunate living here in Palm Springs, California, so year-round you can be outdoors. So I start the day with fresh air and the view of the mountains here. We live at the base of three separate mountain ranges. And it just feeds my soul.
James Swan: I was going to say that’s an incredible investment in yourself on many, many levels, physical and spiritual.
Dann Foley: It truly is because first and foremost, physically it does wonders for me. But the other thing about Palm Springs that many people I’m sure don’t know is that there are several tribes of American Indians who call this land home. In fact, most of us build our homes on what is leased land that are part of the Indian tribes. And the Indians themselves have infused this land and these mountains with their culture and their history. And it’s beautiful. It’s palpable. And to be a part of that every morning is very, very special to me.
James Swan: Wow. Powerful. Very, very powerful.
Dann Foley: It is. I consider myself lucky to live here every day.
James Swan: Indeed. Think about Saturday afternoons in the middle of a great weekend – now, maybe you’re not in Paris, maybe this isn’t while you’re away. This is just a workday weekend. What does the perfect Saturday afternoon look like for you?
Dann Foley: Actually, it’s a very quiet one. If I am home – if I’m not traveling for work or vacation traveling for myself – I cocoon. I don’t get to spend a lot of downtime in my own home, and I enjoy that. And it’s usually time just for me to insulate. So I might wrap myself up in my robe for the afternoon, or I might be outside, but here at home mostly. Maybe a hike into the mountains.
But I prefer that time to be a little more solitary. I need it. I need it to rejuvenate for the coming week. And sometimes I laugh – or I should say people laugh when I say this – but sometimes, on any given Saturday night, I might decide to jump in the car and just go to Disneyland by myself because everybody needs a parade and some fireworks in their life. And that’s how I can spend a Saturday evening after a quiet afternoon.
James Swan: How perfect would that be? Nice. If you decided to have guests in for the weekend –
Dann Foley: Yes. Which I often do.
James Swan: Let’s do some an imaginary guest list here, shall we? One guest from the present, one guest from the future, and one guest from the past. Who would be on the list?
Dann Foley: Wow, okay. I would say – we can start with the present. It’s another designer, actually. And I have to preface it by saying that I was given a wonderful opportunity to sit and have dinner with this person and several other guests a couple of years ago, but he was even more fascinating than I thought he would be and he’s always one of those people who inspires my work. And that’s the interior designer, Thomas Pheasant.
So from the present, I think I would have to select him because we would have a lot to talk about. And I also know him to be a warm enough person that it wouldn’t just be all decorating talk. It would just be talking about our lives and travels and whatnot. He also keeps a home in Paris, so that’s something I aspire to.
From the past. I’m going back to Disney. I’d have to have Walt Disney. I find his entire life and what he built so fascinating and inspiring. Conversation with him would be just incredible. I often think that when I pass through the pearly gates myself, that’s one of the people I’m going to go looking for first.
And from the future, good lord. I’m gonna have to say the future me because I’m hoping it all works out. And I’d just like to make sure so I can calm down a little and maybe get a little more sleep on this side.
James Swan: I love it. Covering all your bases.
Dann Foley: Covering all my bases.
James Swan: That’s great.
Dann Foley: Yes.
James Swan: Let’s think about a future weekend and then we’ll wrap up with this one, Dann, because your time is valuable. What is a destination, adventure, or an experience for a weekend that you’ve not had yet that you would love to have?
Dann Foley: That I’ve not had yet. My goodness. Believe it or not, I live in sunny Southern California, right? So what I crave most are weekends away from that. I want to go to some place like – well, you’re in Maine, or in Portland, Seattle – a place that’s very green, very cool, and probably a little cloudier – a little grey and rainy. That’s a perfect weekend for me now. Most people want the sunshine. I want a change of weather. I want it cool. I want to wear a cashmere turtleneck and have a fire going. That would be a perfect weekend for me.
James Swan: There you go. Well, be careful what you ask for. It may just happen.
Dann Foley: Yes.
James Swan: Dann Foley, thank you so much for a delightful chat today. We really appreciate your time.
Dann Foley: Thank you, James. It is always a pleasure, and I’m always thrilled to talk you and flattered to be a part of Million Dollar Decorator.