Dabito's New Book Is a Celebration of Color and the AAPI Community

Designed, styled, and photographed by Dabito, "Old Brand New" is exceptionally personal, devoted to people in the AAPI community, including his family, who immigrated to America.

Dabito at home

Penguin Random House LLC

“I’ve always loved color,” says Dabito, founder and creative director of Old Brand New. “Color can bring us back in time to people and places.” His company, named for the design blog he started penning more than a decade ago, has morphed into a full-blown design studio, with clients ranging from Samsung to Sunbrella, Crate & Barrel, Google, and more. But his colorful, eclectic, collected roots? Those haven’t changed a bit. It's something he wishes he could say for all those obsessed with white walls who've dug their heels into neutral palettes. 

“As a kid, you’re introduced to so much color,” he says, reminiscing about a childhood fixation with Lisa Frank school supplies and Sanrio characters. “It’s so sad to me that somehow along the way, as we grow up, as we get older, we lose touch with all that beautiful color. All of a sudden, it's like we live in these white and gray spaces, and it’s so strange.”

If color has become a foe, Dabito hopes to usher a hue or two back into your life with his new book. Aptly named "Old Brand New: Colorful Homes for Maximal Living," (Penguin Random House, $35), its pages carefully break down thoughtful formulas for crafting creative, highly functional spaces that address the budgets of renters, homeowners, and those living in multigenerational households, like the one in which he was raised. 

This book is so special to me. [My family] came here without much, and they had to go through a lot. We don’t see a lot of these stories shared in interior design.

Every space in the book was designed, styled, and photographed by Dabito, but that’s not the only reason the book feels exceptionally personal. It’s also exclusively devoted to people in the AAPI community, including his family, who immigrated to America before he was born. “This book is so special to me,” he says. “They came here without much, and they had to go through a lot. We don’t see a lot of these stories shared in interior design.”

We asked Dabito what inspired his devotion to color, how growing up in a multigenerational household influenced his approach to decorating, and what it was like to design a space for his mother. 

green kitchen by Dabito

David Tsay

Colorful Beginnings

Q: Your book is named after the blog you launched in 2012. You don’t write there regularly anymore, but it feels like by using that as the title of your book, you’ve come full circle. 

I was so proud of coming up with that name and branding because "Old Brand New" was more than just a space; it was decorating a space; it was before and afters. But it was also a lot about everything—your lifestyle, your well-being. It was about fixing things, about giving things new life, growing, blossoming, never too late to decorate, never too late to live a beautiful life, a luxurious life. So I knew that "Old Brand New" was going to be the name of my book. I think this resonates with everybody; you can apply "Old Brand New" to so many things. 

Q: Your book is all about color. But a lot of people think they’re a person who either loves color or a person who doesn’t. How do you encourage people to strike a balance? 

I think people love color; they’re just afraid of how to put color in their homes or even how to wear color. I like to ask people, "What are some of your fondest memories of color?" Or something even simpler: "If you want to work with color in a space, let's dedicate this space to someone you love. What’s your mom’s favorite color?" Sometimes just identifying that can really help people lean into colors more easily. 

Q: In the book, you write about a really memorable experience when you convinced your aunt to take you to IKEA for the first time. You bought a pair of yellow curtains. Have you always loved color? 

I just loved color because my mom also loved color. I remember these red leather shoes she bought for me, and there was this burgundy silk bomber jacket. She loved dressing up, and she loved dressing me up. So I was just a very stylish kid growing up. 

Old Brand New by Dabito

Carson Downing

Designing with Family and the AAPI Community in Mind

Q: How did growing up in a multigenerational household inspire your approach to decorating?

Growing up, what I craved most was really finding my own space. Even though I didn’t have access to a lot, I had to get creative in how to bring in things and make it my own. My first memories were coloring and moving furniture around, finding the best layout, the best flow, and how to make it feel like I had some ownership in the space. 

Q: Speaking of your family, you included the spaces you designed for them in the book. What was that like? 

I wanted the book to highlight the AAPI shared experience, and everyone in this book is AAPI. I think it's really important to show that it’s never too late to have a beautiful space of your own. I wanted to help my family create that, and it was very special. For me, [it's important to create] a space where you feel safe and proud and happy, and a space that celebrates you, helps you grow, and helps your well-being, and it definitely helped mine. And that’s what I wanted to do for my family. 

wallpapered breakfast nook with wrap around couch
David Tsay

Creative Inspiration

Q: You grew up in Southern California but moved to New Orleans to be with your husband. What’s the change of scenery been like? 

New Orleans wasn’t even on my radar. It’s such a cool, weird bohemian city. The color combinations! I've never seen so many colorful homes before. All the shotgun homes, all the Victorian homes are so vibrant—the trims and the detail. That’s where I feel like I really got inspired with interiors as well. 

Q: Did you discover anything about your decorating process as you were writing the book?   

Designing is really about opening your eyes and being curious and flexible. I remember I had painted a room pink, and the headboard was an orangey yellow. I had placed blue [painters] tape on the top of the headboard, and it was a moment where I was like, "Wait a minute, I really like this color combination; let’s revisit this." So I brought other blue elements into the space. It wasn’t part of my mockup or my color story at all. It’s those moments, those little happy accidents, that can really make a room.

Dabito's book "Old Brand New: Colorful Homes for Maximal Living," is available for pre-order now and on sale August 29.

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