By Jessica Ammons Rumbley | Photography by Beth Mann
It all started with headboards. Well, sort of. In 2012, Don Ricardo Massenburg was furloughed from his job as an early childhood program researcher at UNC-Greensboro. He leaned into the uncertain break as a chance to focus on his side project: interior design consulting alongside a friend and former colleague from Durham Public Schools, where Don began his career. “I decided to make a headboard a day,” Don says, chuckling.
It was a way to make tangible creative progress during an ambiguous time. It was also Don’s answer to a gap he saw in the market.
Tired of the neutral options in mainstream home stores, he upholstered a bright aqua headboard for a bedroom makeover project. It pulled the room together, and Don was hooked – hence the headboard a day.
He posted pictures of his headboards on Instagram, and things took off quickly from there. Locals wanted custom creations; retailers showcased his penchant for color combos. By the end of 2012, Don was back at his UNC-Greensboro job, and his friend decided to stop pursuing interior design. But he couldn’t ignore the “huge buzz” on social media that continued to provide him with new inquiries; his passion for design exceeded hobby status. So, he launched a side business: Design Inkredible.
Flair for the Dramatic
The Design Inkredible touch – Don’s calling card – remains custom headboards and other one-of-a-kind bold installations. In the eight years since founding his company, Don has made a name for himself with big-name clients, from CeeLo Green to NFL players. He loves the travel and the opportunities, he says, but he remains firmly rooted in Durham. Don grew up in Raleigh and graduated from N.C. Central University. “[Durham] is home for me,” he says, which is why he’s focused on an ever-growing local client base. He’s designed luxe dorm rooms, entire 6,000-square-foot homes and plenty of projects in between. While the client’s preference rules, Don has an unapologetic style that’s big and bold. He puts together surprising combinations: “I love classic pieces with a touch of modern, plus pops of color,” he says. A Design Inkredible room contains layers of textures, colors and patterns across many scales. “A little bit of drama, a little pop of color, can go a long way,” Don says.
Ryan Major, a Durham entrepreneur and president of Triangle Business Systems, was drawn to Don’s statement-making methods. They worked together a few years ago to outfit Ryan’s whole house in Raleigh; when Ryan sold that house and moved to Durham, he immediately turned to Don. Ryan lives in Rosemont with his fiancé, two children — with a third on the way — and two dogs, a Goldendoodle and a boxer.
He wanted Don’s signature bold mix, but most of all, he wanted Don to “do his thing,” Ryan says. “I’m very busy, and I own several businesses. It’s accommodating to be able to give a budget, give a theme and then trust that he’s going to deliver.”
A highlight of what Don created is the family’s high-ceilinged formal living room with towering custom window treatments, dramatic dark walls, modern art and a gleaming black grand piano. “That grand piano was the inspiration to go really over the top with pieces for the room,” Don says. “We knew we wanted black lacquer. And I’m always inspired by art.” He used the colors of the artwork that hangs in the room, as well as ample natural light, to complete the space.
“It’s a level of luxury and awe that my guests get to experience,” Ryan says of the final product. “It makes me feel comfortable and proud to come home every day.”
In Search of Retreat
Drama can have subtler expressions, too. “Home should be the ultimate destination,” Don says. “You go to a spa retreat for vacation, but why would you want to leave that and come back home to something that’s not equally as awesome?” He’s passionate about creating a sense of peace and serendipity for his clients and says that’s one of the constant challenges that keeps him hooked on design.
“Boldly livable” is what Ryan’s Rosemont neighbor was looking for in his home. Don says he helped that family introduce an approachable amount of glamour. “We added pops of color, mixed in metals, and added in textures and layers to give each space a little more depth, dimension and visual interest,” Don says.
For Don, it’s all about finding the right mix — it’s the overlap of design and emotion, décor and security. He’s had clients cry after a room makeover or a home office installation, overcome with disbelief that it’s really their house. “That feels really good,” Don says. “I know I’m not saving lives, but I’m definitely changing people’s lives.”