As a teenager in the Philippines, Dina Dwyer glimpsed her future in the pages of Elle Decor and Architectural Digest. "The designers whose work I loved studied at Parsons, so that’s where I went." Inspiration led her to Parsons’ AAS in Interior Design program. Today Dwyer is a sought-after Bay Area interior designer who undertakes residential constructions and major renovations with her husband, Richard, a Silicon Valley–area developer.
Their first project together was creating a home in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood. A turn-of-the-century structure that once housed a store and shopkeepers’ living quarters, it was renovated in the Prohibition era to conceal a bootleg operation between floors. The couple preserved vestiges of the building’s mercantile history by keeping vintage fixtures and the original shelving in what is now the living room. A ladder to fit the shelves was salvaged from a New England library. “I began by thinking we’d keep the façade and gut everything to make it modern,” she says. “But it made sense to respect what was already there.” Dwyer also preserved traces of her home’s past by painting some floors a red hue reminiscent of their original color.
The process transformed her approach to decor, which now includes buying auction items for “the story behind each piece,” says Dwyer. “They reflect how the context of objects evolves over time. How we use vintage objects today makes their storied pasts more meaningful.”