Inside a Designer’s Personal Space

Darrell Russell’s Inlet Beach home is a reflection of his personality and a shrine to his eccentricities


Some people would be surprised to hear that even though you designed your home yourself and had it built, it’s only 800 square feet. What was behind that decision?

That’s all I really need. I designed it for how I want to live without any regard for resale value. Honestly, it’s the first house I’ve ever owned where all the spaces are getting 100 percent use.

But you’ve done quite a great deal with those 800 square feet, haven’t you?

I’ve put more into those 800 square feet than I ever have for larger spaces. Every square inch was carefully studied to make sure it functioned perfectly for me. The property has some great old vegetation and wildlife, but the area is heavy with tourists, so large windows were important for views into the landscape, but visual privacy from the public was also important. I also needed some larger walls for specific artwork that’s very important to me.

Why do you call it the bunker house?

Because it’s literally designed and engineered as a bunker. The entire building is poured concrete, including the roof. I can stay in it through a category five hurricane, although I never hope to test that.

What was your approach to the interior design?

This small house does not follow any normal rules, which is how I operate.

The kitchen is a great example of that. What was your process there?

I wanted a red kitchen with the large wall to be a backdrop for my 1969 “Red Nose” lithograph by Alexander Caldwell. I also wanted vintage metal cabinets and fortunately I found these original 1950s St. Charles cabinets on eBay. I chose the three masks by Johan Thunell above the microwave because they remind me of my daily expressions. The one on the left is my expression when I leave the house, the middle one is my expression about five hours later, and the one on the right is my expression after a full day of dealing with reality.

They say a designer’s own home is always a work in progress. Is that the case here?

In the back of my mind, I think about adding a long art gallery wing to the house, but hopefully that never comes to fruition. I would like it, but it would be completely excessive.

Story Credits: 

Text by Luis R. Rigual

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