“The only constant is change.” With Penny Bauder & Deborah DiMare

The only constant is change. When I became a vegan designer, which was a tremendous change in my business, it changed my life exponentially. It gave me tremendous purpose. Not that I didn’t have purpose before as a daughter, sister, mother, business owner etc. But having my “aha” moment was incredible. As Iman says “A […]

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The only constant is change. When I became a vegan designer, which was a tremendous change in my business, it changed my life exponentially. It gave me tremendous purpose. Not that I didn’t have purpose before as a daughter, sister, mother, business owner etc. But having my “aha” moment was incredible. As Iman says “A woman must always reinvent herself.” Change is good. It keeps you open, inquisitive and yearning for more.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah DiMare.

Deborah DiMare is the founder and owner of award-winning humane design firm, DiMare Design, as well as the Vegan Design Organization.

“The place we live in can and should do three things: reflect who we are, bring out the best in us, and contribute to a better world.”

That is the driving principle behind the beautiful and trendsetting work of interior designer Deborah DiMare, founder of DiMare Design. DiMare Design has their own 100% compassionate custom furniture line, offers custom interior design services, space planning and remodeling throughout the United States and internationally. Deborah’s design philosophy is based upon cruelty-free design, wellness/sensory environments and sustainable sourcing. DiMare Design focuses on humane interiors.

Passionate about animal rights, Deborah enjoys educating her clients about cruelty-free (vegan) design. “If I can bring awareness to the inhumane treatment of animals by demonstrating that ultra-luxury interiors can be created without endangering the lives of animals, then I’m doing my part. There are endless options for durable luxury fabrics and environmentally sustainable materials and decor that are not made from animals or that don’t result in ecological damage threatening other species… or our own.”

Deborah’s approach to her award-winning projects is also sensory. She combines specific textures, scents and colors to create optimal wellness/healthy environments for the sensory needs unique to each and every one of us. Benefits range from stress relief and increased optimism, to relieving allergy symptoms and providing a peaceful milieu for those with particular needs, such as children or adults in the spectrum of Autism.

Deborah is also a frequent educator and speaker at industry conferences and gatherings worldwide. Her organization, VeganDesign.Or, has certified design industry professionals in humane & wellness design practices all over the world.

Deborah was born and raised in New York. She moved to Miami in 1997 and has enjoyed raising her daughters in Florida. She and the family, including Lucca, their dog, enjoy their free time on the beautiful beaches of Miami. She is an advocate for animal rights.

DiMare Design has served South Florida, Bal Harbour, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Fisher Island, Sunny Isles, Golden Beach, Aventura, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Coral Gables and Pinecrest. Nationally: New York, California, and New Jersey. Internationally: Europe, South America, Asia and the Bahamas.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

You ready? I was raised in a very colorful, ethnic and awesome home in a small town on Long Island, not far from New York city. My dad was of Italian descent and my mom is Jewish. Both my parents were Bronx born and bred. They were first generation American. My mom went to college when she was 30. She couldn’t afford an education when she was young. I can recall her taking my sister and I to classes with her when we were young. I once called out someone cheating in one of the classes. Funny. My mom was ahead of her time. She was an activist and very liberal. She exposed my sister and I to everything. My great grandmother, Hannah (whom one of my daughters is named after), was of Russian descent. She lived with us until she passed away when I was 10 years old. She was my best friend and taught me compassion and kindness. I adored her. She kept kosher in our home which was interesting since we ate a lot of Italian food. I have the most wonderful memories of my family sitting at the breakfast table. My grandmother eating matzoh with sweet tea and my dad eating bacon and eggs with Italian lard bread (made with prosciutto). I didn’t discover anti semitism or racism until I left NY. Our families all got along beautifully. There was tremendous love and respect for one another. The grandmas used to sit together, talking with their very heavy accents comparing Jewish and Italian recipes. My dad’s name was Dickie nickname for Dominick, and my Jewish grandmother lovingly called him “Dickala,” with her heavy Yiddish accent. I had an amazing childhood filled with lots of love. My sister and I were blessed.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

VeganDesign.Org mission is to change the way consumers and companies think about animal derived products and learn that there are ideal alternatives that don’t cause harm to living species and the planet and don’t trigger illness the way animal-based products do. It’s not just a place to buy a vegan pillow, it’s about learning why that “humane & “clean” pillow is so important to the world and to the well-being and health of all breathing creatures, humans and non. It’s about making change and getting loud!

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

All it took was one video to prompt Deborah DiMare to pivot her 20-year design career to solely vegan interiors. The video was about dog leather, which is legally made in China. After watching it and fighting the urge to vomit, DiMare put her phone down and decided that she couldn’t sell or use animal-based products anymore.

A lifelong animal lover, she vowed to stop using wool, leather, silk and down a few years ago, but it took time and dedication to educate herself on the full extent of going vegan in her work. With no guidelines or sourcebooks of animal-free interiors existing at the time, she found herself taking on the research on her own. “Google became my best friend,” says DiMare, whose firm is based in Miami. She found that there were animal byproducts in places she had never considered, like shellac paint, which is made from resin created by tropical lac bugs. She also quickly learned not to take claims of vegan products at face value — even sofas that have vegan fabric on the exterior often have wool or down filling. “There’s no oversight on any of this, and it can be very misleading,” she says. “I basically had to start over with how I sourced product.”

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Dog Leather. When I learned about dog leather, it was the final trigger. Knowing what I knew, if I didn’t make change, I would not be able to look myself in the mirror. As a mother, as a human being, I have to protect those that cannot protect themselves. I refused to become a hypocrite. I knew that I had to become educated and learn so I could have the power to make change. You have to be prepared for moments when change can happen. It can be as simple as someone saying “but I only buy responsible wool.” Having the education to explain at that moment that responsible wool doesn’t exist, in a calm non threatening manner, is how, I believe change happens. That was the final trigger for me.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I saw there was a need. Designers were contacting me to learn about non animal based design. They wanted to know the materials I was using, how I was approaching clients etc. So I created an online course. That was the first step. That led to the membership and the trademarked logo. Each step was leading to other wonderful things. Community, people from all over the world wanting to make change with compassionate design. Listening is key. Really listen. What I think is important and how I believe it should be delivered could be wrong. Let go of your ego and listen. We are now creating a series of courses. The newest one is a course for consumers about designing healthy & humane nurseries & kids room for optimal mental & physical development. It’s literally everything I’m passionate about all rolled in to one course. I’m so excited about it. If I hadn’t understood that this was a need, if I had only been focused on vegan design for designers I would have missed out on a wonderful opportunity to branch out in to areas related to my initial concept. Start with something that is natural for you and that you can’t stop thinking about. I love animals, my family and design. So learning about vegan design, learning about chemicals and toxins and how to keep spaces safe is something that is not homework. It’s what I love to do. we’ll expand to wellness and meditation spaces, bedrooms, and design for special needs like Autism, autoimmune disorders or mobility issues.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Many of my clients, especially my luxury projects, originate from referrals. Some of these clients don’t even look at our website or social media. So they might not be aware my company is focused on ethical and wellness design. I was doing a walk thru with a client at the end of a project, going over the rooms and pieces etc.. She was very happy. I then told her that not only do the spaces look beautiful, but there was no tragedy attached to anything. Nothing in the project was derived from animals and a result of suffering. The faux leathers we used were so soft and buttery, they felt like the real thing. She looked at me and was so taken by what I had said. She became so emotional. She “got it.” She connected the dots about energy and environments. It was really great to witness. I’m also starting to see interest from industries that I would not think would care about ethical design. For example, I was invited to speak at “The Future of Naval Design” conference in Italy and introduce attendees about successful sustainability practices within interior design. I’m also on the board for Farm Sanctuary and gearing up to launch a platform full of digital courses beginning with a non-toxic nursery design source for new parents — a venture of my business that I’m very excited to delve into.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

My design business began organically. It just “started” after I helped a friend design her home. So needless to say, I made many mistakes along the way. In my first year of business, I was working with an elderly couple. They were so soft-spoken and looked like caricatures of the “sweet grandparents.” I ordered a few pieces from Italy for them. When one of the pieces arrived, it was damaged. They began cursing and screaming at me so aggressively, they could have been in a scene in “Goodfellas.” I remember being so nervous that I wanted to laugh. They were in my face yelling. It was probably a very funny scene. But I recall controlling myself from laughing and started telling myself “ok, how can you turn this negative into a positive? Make it a game. Turn it around.” And I did. I learned then that everyone wants to be heard. Everyone, young or old. We all want to be heard. It’s universal.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I was fortunate enough to get into the Goldman Sachs 10000 Small Business Program. One of the goals of the program was to guide you to realizing your passion and making it a viable business. That program was instrumental in helping me realize that I could help save living beings (human and non) via design. I never imagined my expertise would be so well received. It’s been overwhelming and makes me so happy to have a mission that I feel so strongly about. I feel very lucky. It has become so much more than vegan design. It’s also become about health and wellness which is incredibly interesting to me..

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Education is key. It gives us the power to make change and learn. I am still learning daily. When I became vegan in my design business, initially it was to save animals. I then learned how desperate laborers were also suffering which led to my way of designing being directly connected to wellness and biophilic design (designing with nature). Education is key.

Spend with purpose. Consumers have tremendous control. Don’t buy leather or wool or fur etc. You’re not only saving animals, you’re saving your loved ones from being surrounded by poisonous chemicals. If we stop buying specific items, demand will decrease and corporations will be forced to make change.

Get involved. Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk. You want to save animals? Join a club or organization. You want to learn about biophilia to create natural environments which will save the planet and help people? Join an indoor gardening club etc etc. Then pass your passion on to your children.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

There are endless ways.

1.Focus on specific groups. For example, the population of Autism benefits greatly from healthy & humane environments. Since many children and adults in the spectrum of Autism have sensory issues, they are very sensitive to strong smells and textures etc. Leather, wool and chemicals are not good choices for their spaces. Allergy sufferers, those who can’t sleep etc.. there are many demographics that a business can target with sustainable and environmentally conscious options that will benefit their health and life.

2.Businesses can suffer when employees miss work due to sickness. So, maintain an employees mental and physical health in the office environment. Focus on wellness design which incorporates plants, non animal based décor and furnishings, natural light etc.

3. Millennials and younger generations want to do good. Many choose jobs not only for the financial compensation but for ethics and the environment is one of their greatest concerns. So as a business owner, helping the planet is also meeting the needs of the new generation of employees.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1.Keep your eye on the 8 ball. Stay focused. It’s very easy to get distracted. I have had endless ideas for my business. One of my earlier mistakes was not focusing on one only! The entrepreneurs curse. You can’t juggle to many balls in the air without them falling.

2. People tell you who they are. I’ve had to “fire” a few clients throughout my career. I should have gone with my gut that they were going to be extremely difficult, disrespectful to me and my team and not worth the torture.

3. A goal without a date is just a dream. Time just slips by when you’re doing many things for your business. I’ve learned to continually push to stick to the dates of my goals.

4. Surround yourself with people you like. I’ve had a few times in my career when I hired people that on paper were perfect, but once hired, didn’t jive with my business values. I learned that it’s very important to me, to like the people I work with.

5. Collaborate with others. In the past I didn’t understand the significance of collaborations and how important they are for a business. Learning and working and sharing with others is crucial for a business.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

1.It’s their world, their planet, their future. Every action has a reaction. 150 species go extinct daily, people are sick and dying. Their actions affect everything and everyone. We are all connected by energy. The guy living in NYC is connected to a child in Africa. Everyone deserves to live a secure, safe and abundant life filled with joy, color and full bellies. I like to believe we all want to do good and be proud of our decisions, have integrity and honor. We all want to help one another and making a positive impact on our environment and society is a way to achieve that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The only constant is change. When I became a vegan designer, which was a tremendous change in my business, it changed my life exponentially. It gave me tremendous purpose. Not that I didn’t have purpose before as a daughter, sister, mother, business owner etc. But having my “aha” moment was incredible. As Iman says “A woman must always reinvent herself.” Change is good. It keeps you open, inquisitive and yearning for more.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a yummy breakfast with Gwyneth Paltrow. I think she is fascinating and is opening the eyes of many about alternatives to living that are unique and out of the norm.

How can our readers follow you online?



This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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