Podcast, Ep. 171: architect Damian Samora

Architect Damien Samora of Ferguson & Shamamian joins the podcast to talk NYC apartment, architect and designer relationships, and more

Photo: Matt Licari

Our guest this episode is NYC-based architect Damian Samora of the esteemed firm, Ferguson & Shamamian. Damian has designed everything from rustic mountain retreats to historic apartment buildings to large family homes. In this episode, we discuss why Damian and his firm always work in tandem with an interior designer, the challenges of working within the confines of NYC apartment structures, what to look for when hiring an architect and more.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Ferguson & Shamamian have a deep-rooted philosophy in designing spaces with interior design at the forefront.
  • NYC apartments are often limited in their structural changes. We discuss how Damian and his team confront those challenges to achieve the client’s vision.
  • How architects work with interior designers to face challenges like finding sources of light even in tiny apartment hallways and combining two apartments into one.
  • Familiarity is often how people choose their “warm” or comfort in their homes.
  • While being at home more, people are more activity-focused. Things like pools, homework rooms, dual offices, etc., are becoming more popular. So are doors and walls!
  • After living in London, Damian’s design was influenced by parts of the English style like respect for context and uniqueness.
  • How furniture structure can evoke a feeling and affect a mood.
  • Why soundproofing and hiring an acoustician can be so important to the function of your home yet is often overlooked.
  • Damian’s tips on where to spend and save; depending on if it’s your forever home.
  • When looking to hire an architect, Damian recommends finding the firm whose work you like then trusting their referral to the individual architect. It should also be treated as any other relationship.
  • Damian gets most excited when clients want to design around their art collection.
  • Are people still doing screens on their windows? Yes, but Damian recommends being selective and not placing screens on every window.

Decorating Dilemma

Hi there!   

I love your podcast and can’t wait for a new episode to pop up every week! I have a dilemma in my kitchen I am hoping you can help with.

We have been in this house for almost three years. We have not done anything in the kitchen except paint the ceiling (it was the same tan as the walls and so dark) and replace the three pendants over the island- which I now can’t stand bc they always look dirty.

 I am wanting to update the kitchen without completely gutting it. I would like to:

  • Paint the walls
  • Replace the backsplash
  • Possibly paint the cabinets (trying to avoid)
  • Replace the pendants and go from three Pendants to two larger pendants
  • New table and chairs
  • Roman shade over sink window 

The granite is not my favorite. I am hoping you can suggest a backsplash to update it. Do we keep the stone backsplash behind the stove?  

The other problem is picking a paint color for the walls. I’d love to keep the cabinets the color they are, simply to avoid the hassle of having them painted and talking my husband into the additional cost. Currently, they are a creamy color. The walls in the adjoining living room are a similar color. So, I’m having trouble finding a color that works with both the living room wall color (BM White Sand) and the cabinet color. If the answer is to paint them, what color do you recommend and do we paint the island, too? The trim in the kitchen is the color of the cabinets, Painting the trim white will just make the cabinets look yellow, right? As I’m writing this, I’m realizing painting the cabinets is probably the answer… 

Would love to have an electrician move the boxes for the pendants and just have two oversized pendants instead of these three.

We also need a new table and chairs. The current table is from Ikea that we purchased as a quick fix when my now 8-year-old was a baby. We are a family of five and my two-year-old is currently sitting on my lap at every meal because no one wants to eat at the island alone. This needs to change! Any suggestions for a table and 6 chairs that are family friendly?

 I’ve attached pictures that show the kitchen and adjoining rooms. Thank you so much for any and all suggestions!! Your podcast is a wealth of knowledge and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!!


Hi Katie,

It’s going to be helpful to think about where your priorities are and then weigh it against what is most cost-effective. Your range hood and your island carry the most weight in those spaces. So unless you are going to replace them, you have to work with them and not against them.

In terms of light fixtures, we would shy away from matching them because they are doing different work. If you want to pull focus to the island, you could try a pot rack light fixture or something linear to give the kitchen some weight. For the breakfast room, we would definitely add a round table. We also like upholstery on the chairs to soften things up (Sunbrella or other performance fabric would be great with kids).

Regarding the window treatments, you want them to be sort of “talking” to each other, and this is a great place to bring in some fabric. The backsplash is always hard and right now it’s grabbing too much attention. We would contemplate replacing the countertops with a matching backsplash. We all agree that we like the color of your cabinets and painting it another color white won’t do much; the tile is the real problem. We also don’t think you need to paint the rooms; just balance the lighting and the window treatments. The island doesn’t necessarily need to change color either, but the stools should tie more to the value of color of the cabinets.  Think of the breakfast room, the kitchen and the family room each as a node that pulls you inward to them. There’s a lot of great space here; don’t be down on yourself and give yourself some time.

Good luck and please send us the after photos!

Caroline has two suggestions; Ballard’s Becca floral fabric has some creamy whites, taupes and blues that will bring all of your colors together. There is also a drapery panel in Becca that is readily-made so you could use that for your breakfast room and use the fabric to make a Roman shade over your sink. Also, our Margot Double Shade Pendant could work for a light fixture over your island. You can even change the lampshades over the years as they are standard size.

Mentioned In This Episode:

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Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.