By Lori Simmons Zelenko
It all started when he was seven years old, this love of building, designing, improving and fantasy-fulfilling. Corey Damen Jenkins principal of Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates confesses.
“My mother knew early on I was destined to be an interior designer. I couldn’t stop rearranging the furniture,” He laughs. “My family, they’re all bankers. So the way my life and career have evolved…not what anyone expected.”
The HGTV star, an award-winning decorator in his own right, is known not only for his genuine and as he puts it, “humble,” attitude as well as his fresh, continental mix of elegance and modernity. One-on-one there’s no gamesmanship with Corey. Passion yes, manipulation no – meaning Corey’s far from the cliché decorator who out divas the client. Drama is not in his game plan. He’s an inspiring coffee companion. Warm and open. Appreciative of a relevant conversation. Able to share ideas and moral guidance in a single bound.
A man – a kind and gentle man – who sees himself as the mortar – the glue that holds ideas together, the unseen adhesive between the bricks, the grace that helps clients realize their hopes and aspirations where their interior is concerned. He seeks only to build. Not a dreamhouse as we see in the movies but an authentic, comfortable home where man and wife, parents and family, children and grandchildren can find their happily ever after. But getting to the happy ending is work – not just deciding that a Marsala glaze will work in the dining room or an Asian theme is a must for the Parlor – but Corey reveals, it’s a wonderfully rewarding life process.
“I’ve saved marriages. Salvaged finances. Made dreams come true. And yes, I’ve been many a couple’s therapist – hey, that’s what couches are for!”
Just as Corey counsels his clients so does he mentor the next generation from elementary school students to almost-college grads. Why? He speaks to growing up with only traditional role models – Policemen, firemen coming to school to share their experiences. He recognizes that these valuable paths of service are not for every child. As his creative bent and artistic talents manifested themselves early, he seeks to encourage kids of any age to access their intuitive core and follow their talents to a place that might defy conventional wisdom.
Thinking outside the room has gotten Corey where he is today. His design sensibility was just celebrated by DINING BY DESIGN New York in support of DIFFA (Design Industry For Fight Against Aids) where he was invited to create a dining installation at the recent Architectural Digest Show attended by more than 40,000 people. He half jokes, “I feel like I met all 45,000 of them!”
Coming up next, starting April 24 is Design On A Dime the Housing Works benefit at The Metropolitan Pavilion where Corey will be among the top designers creating unforgettable room vignettes with new merchandise, which is donated and then sold for 50 to 70 percent off retail pricing! With humility leading the way, he speaks of the space he is creating for Design On A Dime as a remarkable collaboration citing partners Barbara Cosgrove, Bungalow 5, Caracole, Century Furniture, Christopher Guy, Currey & Company as well as German pillow maker extraordinaire Mariska Myers as each and every one an incredibly valuable supporter helping to make this luxe parlor with Pacific Rim flair happen. Working in a palette of emerald green, tangerine and brilliant gold he’s creating an exotic paradise that’s at once sensual and structured.
What’s his advice to the next generation of designers who may find inspiration in his work?
“Don’t take yourself too seriously. Grasp that your relationship with the client is symbiotic,” candidly he shares. “I see myself as the House Doctor – the house is ‘sick’ and I am hired to bring it back to health.” Indeed nurturing creative relationships is what he humbly enjoys; it’s just one more form of “building,” his life’s passion.
Stay tuned to www.millenniummagazine.com for the inside scoop on Corey’s exclusive space for Design on A Dime. Tickets to benefit Housing Works April 24, 25 event are available at www.housingworks.org/events/design-on-a-dime