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Inspired Interiors

Derrick “Dax” DeCristofaro blends his personal style with client visions to create artistic living spaces.

Derrick “Dax” DeCristofaro (courtesy photos)

With more than 25 years of experience under his belt, Derrick “Dax” DeCristofaro has made a name for himself in the world of interior design. The Houstonian blends his love of storytelling, his eye for the uniquely stunning, and his joy of curating experiences for his clients to execute a wide range of projects. Today, Dax is expanding his business and re-entering the world of home staging, having made national headlines with a high-profile project right here in H-Town.

“The first indication that I was drawn to beautiful things and people was when I was 11 years old,” Dax says. “I grew up in Miami Beach, right off the Venetian Causeway, and I had access to international culture.” The designer explains how his family and upbringing inspired his love of art and beauty. “Our home was modern and mid-century, and there were a lot of influences that fascinated me. There was a museum called Villa Vizcaya that was close to my house, and I’d play there all the time. James Deering, who built it, had lots of lavish parties. He was never married, and even though [his sexuality was never disclosed], he helped me identify my own sexuality.”

Dax explains that his foray into interior design work came later in life. “I started as a professional equestrian, riding dressage. I graduated from Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre with a degree in equestrian studies, and then I moved to Texas. I worked for an architect part-time to make money, and learned a lot of technical aspects from that job.” Once he determined interior design was where he could combine all of his interests in a single profession, Dax split his time between Texas and New York to attend the Parsons School of Design to get his degree in interior design.

Having learned from some of the best in the field, this self-described introvert applied those lessons back home in Houston. “While working for the architect, I started doing small residential projects and eventually started my own business, DAX Design Studio. Two things that some very prominent designers taught me early on was that I needed a clear point of view so people could recognize my work visually, and that I needed to know my worth,” he says. “My personal style is a narrative approach, meaning I’m here to tell a story through design. [Good design can] either tell people who you are or who you want to be.”

The designer sees himself as being highly intuitive in the way he blends his own creativity with his clients’ vision for a space. “There’s always an initial meeting to determine chemistry, expectations, and budget. You get a vibe [when you first meet], and I’ve made it a rule to not work with mean, angry, difficult people,” he says unapologetically and with laughter. “I like working with nice, open people. After the initial meeting, I get to know them, their lifestyle, and how they live.” 

Clients can rest assured that their time will be valued throughout the decision-making process. “Most people think they want their project done all at once, but once they get into it, they like that it’s a process. I speak very frankly—this is what you get. I hope people appreciate it in the long run.”

“Most of my inspiration comes from what clients tell me about themselves, because if I listen, they’ll tell me everything,” he continues. “It’s then my job to dissect and create from that. I pull inspiration from everything, but I like to buy, procure, and curate good furniture, good art, and good pieces.” 

Having just completed a design project for a 30,000-square-foot plastic-surgery center in Clear Lake, Dax reflects on some of his favorite projects. “The projects that are still in my heart are the ones where people give me the freedom to be creative. Their best thinking allowed them to get to where they are, and if they allow me to do my best thinking, we might get somewhere they never expected to go.” 

Business is booming for Dax, and the art lover is expanding his company in a big way. “I just re-launched my home staging business under the blanket of Dax Design Studio,” he says joyfully. “I was just hired to do the Houston ‘Darth Vader House,’ and was featured in several national publications.” 

As for his advice to the next generation of interior designers, Dax encourages them to drop all of their hesitations and go for it. “I’m of that age where I remember that gay men [were expected to be] interior designers, hair dressers, or florists. Today, you can be whatever you want to be,” he muses. “Trust your gut instincts. Knowledge is power, but in the design industry, experience is the best teacher.”

For more info, visit daxdesignstudio.com.

This article appears in the April 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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