Diane Carnevale’s Interior Dialogue

Graphic designer and oil painter Diane Carnevale discovered a new artistic niche when circumstances reconnected her to a passion for interior design.

Diane Carnevale stands in a teal button up shirt.At the end of 2019, Diane Carnevale found herself at a crossroads. After 35 years working as a graphic designer for several top publishers, she was laid-off. The year before, Diane had gone through a kidney transplant to treat a hereditary disease and had also lost her mother. While processing all of these major experiences in her life, Diane took a pause and asked herself, “What do I really want to do?” She knew whatever her next step was would be creative and visual, she considered doing something with her love for en plein air oil painting. However, she quickly discovered that post-transplant, this type of art was too taxing on her. Then she found a box filled with images of interiors that she had always wanted to paint, and in no time she whipped out her watercolors and started playing.

An illustrated bedroom with chinoiserie wallpaper.
Diane created an illustrated room rendering of Lisa Mende's Bedroom for the FLOWER Atlanta Showhouse.

These days, Diane has established herself as an interior watercolor artist, known for her bright and cheerful rooms. When asked about how she found herself here, she’ll say it was just pure luck, but her husband insists it was a lot of hard work and persistence. Diane networked frequently on Instagram and kept honing her newfound craft. While her foray into illustrating interiors is relatively new, it wasn’t farfetched as she studied interior design in college. Though she ultimately switched her major to graphic design, she always loved interiors. Diane says she is “drawn to traditional interiors, maybe with a mod twist here or there—an austere Parisian apartment with a splash of modern art is simply divine!”

Diane's illustrated portrait of a room with pink tropical wallpaper.
Diane captured a room with pink tropical chinoiserie pattern from de Gournay.
An illustration of a yellow room with blue chairs.
When Diane is feeling extra creative, she likes to play with her own ideas of what a room could look like.
An illustrated watercolor painting of a room with red pattern curtains, a statue, and a red lounge chair.
Diane created this illustration for Parker Kennedy Living. The room is designed by Lance Jackson and David Ecton.
Illustrated rendering of a lime green entryway with flowers.
This feisty lime green entryway is from Emily Eerdmans's New York City home.
An illustrated rendering of a room with bright teal walls and a tropical bird mural.
Diane's skills really shine in highly detailed rooms such as this one, the Bar Palladio in Jaipur India, owned by Barbara Miolini and designed by Marie-Anne Oudejans.

When asked to explain her signature style, Diane says “Colorful, exuberant, and full of joy!” Her Instagram and website indeed boast many vibrant spaces, making them rather cheerful corners of the internet. She cites Vincent Van Gogh as an obvious inspiration for her joyful work, but she also admires and studies Jeremiah Goodman and Walter Gay. Each day, Diane is grateful to get to work with what she calls “designerlebrities.” As she says, “The designers themselves influence me! I have more than 500 gorgeous interiors bookmarked that I would like to paint. I’m obsessed! There are not enough hours in the day or days of the week to paint them all.” One of her favorite projects was getting to paint a yellow Mario Buatta living room that had a considerable amount of dog portraits hanging on the walls. “It was quite a challenge!” she says.

Illustration of a yellow Mario Buatta room with dog portraits.
Diane says that one of her favorite rooms she ever got to paint is this yellow Mario Buatta living space. The myriad of dog portraits on the wall made it an interesting and exciting challenge.
Diane Carnevale paints next to a window overlooking Paris.
Inspiration is everywhere—especially when you get to paint next to a window overlooking Paris.
Painter adding watercolor to the painting.
Diane adds the first watercolor detail in the pillows to the rendering of Ashley Gilbreath's Living Room for the FLOWER Baton Rouge Showhouse.

Diane illustrated the initial designer renderings for the FLOWER Baton Rouge Showhouse and several for the FLOWER Atlanta Showhouse. Her work was incredibly close to the final product, especially for never having laid eyes on the actual rooms. According to Diane, it can definitely be a tricky process, and it can be difficult to manage the changes that may come along the way. She hand-paints each one and says the “looseness and irregularity” of each piece are what make it special. Those characteristics add a nostalgic feel and make it more of an interior portrait than a rendering. 

White flowers surround a statue in a garden.
Diane believes that nature inspires her to be creative, even if she's not painting her garden.
Purple flowers burst out from the ground in a garden.
Diane is an avid gardener and goes all out. She fills it with many different plant varieties and colors— just like her paintings.

With her experience as a landscape artist, Diane can’t help but cite nature—particularly flowers—as inspiration for her work. As an avid gardener, she loves to bring nature indoors. She explains, “Some say a room isn’t a room without a book, but I think it’s actually a flower that makes a room.” Diane believes the blooms add life to the rooms and to her paintings. She is especially fond of the sunflower because it was her mother’s favorite. 

By Carrie Clay