“A beautifully designed room can sit empty, quiet and untouched, and still speak volumes.”
—Errol de Jager
His résumé might describe him as an interior designer, but that designation would fall well short of the big picture. The scope of work performed on a daily basis by Errol de Jager, principal of DeJager Design, Inc., can stretch from working over mechanical drawings of an oceanfront compound to listening to the life story of a future DeJager homeowner.
“I don’t design for resale,” said de Jager. “The homes I turn over to my clients reflect their story and their story alone.”
A native of South Africa, de Jager made his way to Southern California 20 years ago. Even as a boy, he was infatuated with architecture. That same fervor underlies his inclusive, engaged approach to interior design. For de Jager, breathing life into a home has less to do with Sheetrock and distressed plank flooring than it does with imbuing it with the ”signature” of the owner.
“My vision is holistic,” said de Jager. “Home design is about translating personal stories into a physical space, and in order to succeed it must flow through every part of the process. A house may be a product, but a home is a journey.”
Though he has experience in architecture, landscape and construction, de Jager teams with a close-knit network of leading architects and developers, preferring to work collaboratively with specialists so that everyone feels they are part of a communal process.
“I see myself as an interpreter,” he said. “Dialogue guides the evolution of a physical structure. Happy collaborations tend to create extraordinary results and relieve the stress often associated with building a custom home.”
Since most clients purchase land rather than a home to remodel, de Jager’s projects often begin with empty spaces. Regardless of when he joins the team, he envisions the essence of a house and has a hand in the choices that might typically be left to an architect or homeowner. By the time a DeJager home is ready for move-in, every fixture, beam and archway will have been touched by him. “No matter how minute a component may be,” he said, “it plays a role in the larger picture.”
Over his 30-year career, de Jager developed a four-step process for designing a home that reflects the personality and lifestyle of the homeowner. The steps: theme, specification, implementation and installation, include meaningful collaboration with architects, builders, landscape designers and, most importantly, the client.
The value de Jager places on his design team cannot be overstated. He credits these passionate professionals with keeping the dream alive and on track throughout each project’s life cycle. At the same time, he relishes his interactions with close industry associates. “My staff and the local design community are like family to me,” said de Jager. “You never know who may show up at my dinner table.”
To come up with the theme, or design concept, de Jager devotes one-on-one time to the client to gain a comprehensive understanding of his or her wants and needs, and then with the architect to understand the vision and nuances of the plan.
“The thematic stage is about identifying the dream,” said de Jager, “marrying ideas with expectations and reality. It’s where I have license to listen, interpret and create. It’s a core strength and the essence of my process.”
At the specification stage, de Jager translates the overarching theme to a technical road map that includes everything from flooring layouts and custom-coffered ceilings to marquetry cabinets and hand-forged iron hardware.
“It is important that I work with the architect as we detail the working drawings,” said de Jager. “I select and confirm each surface material, plumbing fixture and doorknob to communicate the intended style of the home throughout.”
De Jager then moves to the implementation phase, where he and the general contractor manage and navigate the construction process. The jovial and kind de Jager has faced virtually every construction challenge, but nothing seems to faze this talented artist. “As long as a client is happy, I can do this from sunrise to sundown.”
It is during the construction process that de Jager works with clients on a most intimate aspect of the home: the décor. He develops and presents to the owner personalized design concepts, providing painstakingly detailed tableaux of furnishings, textiles, rugs and accessories.
“When the construction and implementation phases are complete, my team of manufacturers, suppliers and installers converges on the property for the grand installation,” said de Jager. “Rugs are laid down, furnishings are positioned, bedding is steamed and pressed. Art is hung perfectly, and flowers, photographs and accessories are arranged on bookshelves and in nooks and crannies. It thrills me to present my clients with the ultimate gift: their long-awaited home.”
One of de Jager’s favorite tasks is searching out architectural inspiration to incorporate in a home. His favorite find came about when he and a client flew to Italy to meet with a stone and mosaic vendor and source materials for a Tuscan-themed home in Crystal Cove. De Jager was anxious to identify an Italian vendor to replicate authentic terrazzo marble flooring.
Across from his hotel in Milan, he came upon a courtyard that spoke to him. De Jager asked the stone vendor about the courtyard and wondered whether he knew anyone who could duplicate the look. The vendor led him to the back of his studio, where he showed him a photograph of his great-grandfather constructing that very courtyard. “We knew we’d found our artist,” said de Jager, “so we flew the installers to California, where they worked to replicate the original Italian tile work and the unique designs that we’d created for the home.
“We watched in awe as the art came to life,” de Jager said. “I was so lucky to find and work with a true craftsman. The trade had been in this man’s family for generations. Watching them work was an honor.”
De Jager cautions homeowners not to be too hasty about purchasing furniture and accessories as one might for a model home, explaining that living for a time with unfinished spaces can be a good thing. “The story of a home takes time to unfold,” he said. “Let it breathe. In time, you’ll collect meaningful pieces that speak to you.”
De Jager’s own home, a modest 1,500-square-foot structure that he describes as eclectic, is a far cry from the grandeur of those he designs throughout Southern California. But a large home isn’t for him; he jokes that he lives vicariously through the square footage of his clients.
“What brings me joy are the artifacts and pieces I’ve collected during my travels,” he said. “A cherished book, a piece of driftwood or a work of art becomes a permanent fixture in our home. I’m surrounded by things that I love and am passionate about what I do.”
DeJager Design, Inc. | 250 Newport Center Drive, Suite 200, Newport Beach, CA 92660 | 949.673.7700