BHDM Design Founder Dan Mazzarini Talks Brand Narrative on ‘DesignBiz’

What is designer Dan Mazzarini’s secret to success? “Brand narrative,” he told Editor in Chief Cindy Allen (@thecindygram) on Thursday night’s episode of DesignBiz, Interior Design’s twice-weekly Instagram Live series.

That lesson is one of many that Mazzarini (@danmazzarini) learned 20 years ago, when he was a new designer cutting his teeth at a retail-centric firm in Chicago. “Twenty years ago was the heyday of retail,” he said. “Everybody had money to spend at the store. Macy’s was huge.” But when retail suffered a dip in the early 2000s, the firm took a hit. As he puts it, “They didn’t have diversity of work.”

“Something I’ve said thousands and thousands of times is to diversify,” Allen noted, pointing out that the pandemic has done to hospitality design what e-commerce did to retail—though hopefully only temporarily.

Mazzarini’s portfolio today exemplifies that. Eight years ago, he and designer Brian Humphrey co-founded New York firm BHDM Design. Today, the company, which Mazzarini has since purchased, applies Mazzarini’s retail know-how to design projects in many different sectors, including hospitality and, more recently, healthcare.

One recent project is dental startup Tend. With a handful of locations across New York and more coming to Boston and Washington, D.C. this summer, the spread-out healthcare chain needed a singular, unifying brand identity to make it memorable. BHDM answered with a “kit of parts” that foster a sense of relaxation and even fun. “So many people have had bad experiences from going to the dentist,” Mazzarini said. “We had to flip the switch. This was BHDM with its hospitality hat on.”

Graphic “swish” wallpaper and illuminated signage combine to create an Instagram-worthy brushing station at Tend, a New York dental startup by BHDM Design. Photography by Adam Macchia. 

So, for Tend’s first location in Manhattan’s Flatiron district, Mazzarini and team conceived a clever, selfie-worthy brushing station that makes use of illuminated signage and graphic, “swish”-themed wallpaper. “It was about developing something iconic for them that people could Instagram,” said Mazzarini.

Another equally Instagram-able startup looking to reimagine healthcare is Real, a digital therapy platform attempting to build community around improving mental health. BHDM designed the startup’s first in-person office in New York, helping the company founders craft an uplifting in-person user experience.

Visitors to Real are greeted by a receptionist, then brought to a lounge that BHDM designed to be communal and, like Tend, reassuring. “I don’t want people to be ashamed [of going to therapy]. It helped to really bring a spirit and palette to this space so that people could see themselves in it,” said Mazzarini, nodding to the warm, neutral tones of the project.

Warm hues and soft seating craft a welcoming atmosphere at Real, a therapy startup in New York by BHDM Design. Photography by Adam Macchia. 

Though construction wrapped on the space just before the COVID-19 lockdown hit, Mazzarini hopes that it will open its doors soon. “It’s about normalizing and even celebrating the therapy experience.”

With many other projects on the boards, 2021 is looking to be a fruitful year for Mazzarini and his team, who have been working remotely for almost a year, now. “We never really changed the way that we worked,” Mazzarini recalled. “Our product is still the same. We still try to collaborate as much as possible.”

And while working from home has mostly been a success story for BHDM, there is still a downside—one that will hopefully be remedied soon. “I miss the camaraderie,” said Mazzarini. “We’re in this business to build spaces for people, and we miss the people.”

Follow @interiordesignmag on Instagram to catch future episodes of DesignBiz at 6PM ET. 

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