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In Good Company: Iris Dankner, founder of Holiday House

In 2008, interior designer and breast cancer survivor Iris Dankner founded Holiday House. Nine years later, it debuts its first London showhouse (above), showcasing top interior designers and lifestyle brands to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation®. Tickets for the show house, which finishes on the 10th December 2017, can be purchased here.

December 2017

When did you first start to work in interior design? I started working in interior design 25 years ago. After high school I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and then started working as the art director for Lord and Taylor for 13 years. At that point, I decided I wanted to go back to school to study interior design so I enrolled for classes at NYSID. One day my friend was at my home and loved how I designed it. She asked me to design her home and referred me to a few other friends. The rest is history…

When, and why, was Holiday House founded and what was the first project? Holiday House was founded in 2008 and the first project was a show house at the Academy Mansion in New York City. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago at my first routine mammogram, my life became not only about interior design but also about fundraising. Holiday House was a way to combine my two passions of interior design and eradicating breast cancer.

Where are you based and how big is your team? I am based in NYC and have four people on my team in NYC. I also put together a small team in London. Although my teams are small, our reach spans the globe. That is something I am very proud of.

What is your latest significant achievement? Producing two show houses at the same time across the pond. One in NYC, celebrating our 10th year, and the other in London, launching Holiday House in the UK for the first time ever. It was challenging at times, but it was so exciting as I got to see two completely different projects grow from a small idea.

I’ve just discovered… At the launch party in London, I went up to thank two scientists for coming and I wanted to say how important the trial drugs they work on are. Sixteen years ago, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and we decided to call the hospice. The doctor asked us try one more trial drug before going that route and 16 months later my mother is still alive, pain free and her tumor has completely disappeared. The scientists asked what drug she took and I said anastrozole. They looked at each other and said that’s the drug they worked on. I discovered that the money we’ve raised for BCRF helped fund the drug that is keeping my mother alive and pain-free and I can’t believe I was able to thank the men who invented it.

Who inspires me… My father inspires me each day by teaching me that you don’t just survive, you thrive and ‘the best is yet to come’.

I’ve always been a fan of… Evelyn Lauder for starting an incredible charity that is so close to my heart. Unfortunately, I never got to meet Evelyn. She died months before I was asked to join the advisory board of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation® (BCRF). After I survived breast cancer, I dedicated my life to fundraising and finding a cure because I have two daughters who I don’t want to have to go through what I went through. BCRF has been a huge help in paving the way for me.

My highlight of the last 12 months… publishing my first book Holiday House: Ten Years of Decorating for a Cure which highlights the last decade of Holiday House. It was very exciting and really made me reflect on all the hard work that has gone into growing Holiday House. From raising money to meeting and working with some fantastic people it really has been an incredible ride.

My next design trip is to… I hope my next design trip is to Morocco. It’s been on my bucket list and I’m going to make it happen!

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