August 1, 2010
talks about the impeccable taste of Angelo Donghia, statement-making design, and 19th-century candlesticks.
Interior designer/inspired leader
A Central Park West apartment with sweeping park views. It will have a machinist, Art Moderne style with graphic, bold furnishings. A Geneva residence that involves expanding and updating a 1970s villa without obliterating its vibe. A sprawling, circa-1920 Italianate palazzo on the North Shore of Long Island. It’s a dream set on a knoll overlooking the water, and we are restoring it and updating it from top to bottom.
First step on a project
Get the job!
Last step on a project
Accept the client’s appreciation graciously
How do you break a creative block
When I hit a wall, I take a walk. This might include walking to a restaurant and having lunch. Reading the paper can clear the passages, and in the quiet space a new idea will form.
Why do you do what you do?
I was born to be an interior designer. My first design projects were as a child. My backyard fort, my bedroom. I was my first client, my parents my second in my teens. I was genetically engineered to be a designer, I can’t deny it.
B.F.A. at Parsons the New School, Environmen-tal Design Department, 1978. It was the tail end of a Bauhausian aesthetic. Postmodernism was creeping in, and high tech was all the rage.
Angelo Donghia. He was an elegant yet austere man. Impeccable taste, a severe eye, and a detail-oriented perfectionist. His sense of scale and understatement was superb.
First act as “design czar”
Banish banality. I hate bland bowls of design porridge. I love statement-making design. The statement might be a whisper or a shout. I like design that tells a story on first viewing, then reveals more about itself as it’s inhabited.
Zaha Hadid, Jacques Grange, André Le Nôtre, Jeff Koons
Aeron black in the office, my feet or bed at home
Office sound track
Divas and disco. Nothing downbeat. I like an energetic bounce in the room.
A 19th-century heroically scaled black glass candlestick that looks completely modern. It has a five-inch-diameter center shaft which is entwined with a “serpent” of the same
glass. It takes a big ecclesiastical candle, which lasts forever.
Most useful tool
BlackBerry. Of course, it’s often my most hated. Yet I can barely imagine how I got everything finished and answered and deleted before it came into my paw. The dangerous
part is reading something, deciding to deal with it later, and then forgetting.
Best place to think
The office is my best place to think. It truly is my “workplace.” I focus at my desk and don’t always do that elsewhere. Too many distractions.
Twisted Head, by Carl Capotorto, a delightful, poignant, funny, and revealing book
Legal or illegal???
“Cheese” products. I’m a fool for 1960s-style potatoes au gratin made with Velveeta. Another favorite is WisPride Port Wine Cheese Spread. I like it on good crackers, bad crackers, toasted bagels, and rye bread. I can’t decide whether it’s the taste or the memory of childhood.
All the contest and reality shows on TV. The talent is often atrocious, the stories repulsive. I don’t watch much TV, but when I catch five minutes of one of those shows I am mystified. And the celebrities they spawn are usually so completely uninteresting, though you do get a Jennifer Hudson now and then!
Learned the hard way
Although the client is always right, they often aren’t, and giving in is a road map to project failure. If you don’t stand up for your ideas or come up with viable alternates, and just give in, the project can be a disappointment to all.
I have yet to do a hotel, and as I love to travel and tell stories with my designs, this is my next frontier.