Sisters artist Eliza Geddes and interior designer Lauren Geddes Duff in a country house designed by Duff
The creative spark, where does it comes from? Often it is always there, waiting to be ignited, as was the case with this creative duo, interior designer Lauren Geddes Duff and her sister, artist Eliza Geddes. The early influence of their interior designer mother helped steer their occupational outcomes. When siblings possess the creative gene, and pursue interior design and art, as Lauren and her sister Eliza have, it is fascinating to learn what their earliest influences were and how it guided their direction. I grew up with these talented sisters on Long Island, and it is exciting to share Duff's refined, classic aesthetic and Geddes's modern sensibility and how they collaborate. Lauren shared her country house with Stylebeat, and it showcases her refined eye, traditional style and how to work in a pretty, soft color palette. Eliza's abstract art is incorporated throughout the converted barn from the 1880's, and provides a fresh counterpoint to the classically designed setting. The sophisticated interiors feel as though they could be in the English countryside, but they are in a town just forty minutes outside New York City. These are definitely two creative talents to watch.
Your grew up with a mother that is an interior designer. How did that influence you?
L: It was a huge influence. Our house was constantly evolving, and I grew up visiting her job sites and making trips to the D & D. I remember sitting in the old Clarence House showroom as a child and loving those shopping bags! My mother worked for Sister Parish when she was first starting out, and while this experience was invaluable, she came from a family of designers, so a lot of what we both are today is a product of our environment. Her mother, Patricia Delehanty Hildt, was an artist, and her grandfather, Bradley Delehanty, an architect who designed many of the estates on the North Shore of Long Island during the Pre-War era. Legend has it he designed the private dining rooms at the 21 Club, and since it was during the Depression, he never sent them a bill. It was a gesture that was repaid every time he went there for dinner, for he too, was never sent a bill. He really cared about the people he designed for and I think that is such a great legacy. Although I was never able to meet him, I have been inspired by his life and influenced by what he passed along to my mother, Anne Geddes, and all that she has taught me.
E: We grew up in a red farm house, decorated by my mother, with old beams and wide planked floors. Although it was mostly filled with antiques, on the walls hung several of my grandmother’s paintings, which were more modern in style. I think that juxtaposition was a great inspiration, and I seek to create pieces that are at home in both traditional spaces and more contemporary settings.
When did you know your path was also a creative one?
L: Deep down I think I always knew. But I did not set out to follow in my mother’s footsteps. I worked at two non-profits and two Conde Nast publications before joining my mother’s firm in 2001. I went out on my own after she retired and have never looked back.
E: I think I always knew my path was a creative one. Over the years I have enjoyed exploring many mediums, from welding to mixed media sculpture. For the past decade I have been exclusively painting.
What most influences your work?
L: I love looking at the work of other designers, both past and present, and seeing how they chose to live. Carolina Irving’s Paris apartment, Oscar de la Renta’s Kent, Connecticut home and Furlow Gatewood’s magnificent Folly will continue to inspire me for years to come.
E: Cy Twombly, Lee Krasner and Robert Rauschenberg have all influenced my work.
What are some hallmarks of your work?
L: I think I am known for my color sense and being able to work with what my clients already have. I also love layering and mixing patterns and prints.
E: I am best known for my sense of balance and use of surface and texture. I paint with three somewhat unconventional materials: house paint, a foam brush and a putty knife. My paintings involve a long process of laying and texturing the canvas with intricate markings and various X forms.
Do you collaborate on projects?
L: I am working on a project right now where we are using one of Eliza’s paintings in a leather paneled library. The client knew of Eliza’s work before she hired me, and we were finalizing the design of the room when we both came the conclusion that Eliza’s work would complete the space. It’s exciting when it all comes together like that.
E: It’s great when the relationship between art and space is a seamless one. That said, neither my sister nor I force this interplay. If my art does not advance the space or if the space somehow compromises the integrity of the painting, we both take a pass.
How should someone approach using art in interiors, what advice do you have about placement, color, and scale?
L: There are those that say “never match a room to a painting”. And while I believe that to be true, I would not enjoy being in a room where the art overpowered the living space and conversely I would never want to design a room where the art is an afterthought. The room should be conceived as a whole when designing it. And it is crucial to get the scale right. It can be really helpful to invest in professional art installers like ILevel, because they can skillful arrange a gallery wall or advise on placement.
E: Buy art that you genuinely love and that you want to look at every day. That is how I approach my painting. It’s very simple, but I paint what I like to look at.
What are your favorite color combinations to work in?
L: I can’t live without some beiges, browns or grays in a house. I feel like those colors anchor a room. Gray/blue and chocolate brown is my favorite combination. However, I am currently doing an apartment in shades of red right now, including high gloss red doors, and I cannot get enough of it.
E: I love mixing it up. For example, combining a pleasing color like gray/blue with a more shocking color such as acid green.
How do your clients find you?
L: Most of my clients are word of mouth or friends who have been to my home. I have a lot of repeat clients which I feel is the greatest compliment.
E: Instagram and my website. I also work with a lot of decorators and welcome studio visits.
What advice do you have for others that want to go out on their own and pursue their creative side and make it a business?
L: I think you have to realize from the beginning that it is a business. Scheming the room is the best part, however there is a lot more that goes into it. I think you are only as good as the people you have working along side with you, so finding a great contractor, painter, upholsterer is key. You don’t have to begin with a huge project. Some clients just want a room done. That is a great way to start.
E: Be patient. It is hard to predict what will sell, but creating with only sales in mind may leave you nowhere. In the end, authenticity is more appealing and more rewarding. It’s a fine line and I feel lucky that I am able to sell what I love creating.
What is the most gratifying part of doing what you do?
L: I am partial to the first few days of scheming a project because it feels so free. The fine tuning process is rewarding too, but nothing feels as good to me as the first few days of hunting. I also really enjoy all the relationships that I have formed along the way. Whether that be with my workroom or the client. It is one long conversation and I love how that unfolds.
E: I love the process. Seeing it in my head, going into my studio and translating my vision into a tangible piece.
Has Instagram helped spread the word? And what Instagram accounts or apps are you loving right now?
L: Instagram has been such a great thing for designers and I love being able to share what I am working on. My favorite accounts are Bennison, Christopher Spitzmiller, Irving and Morrison, and I always learn something new from Serena Crawford. Kate Rheinstein Brodsky’s well curated store KRB is also great fun to follow because her inventory is always changing and always chic. And of course I follow the work of my sister Eliza at @elizageddes.
E: Before social media, my work was seen mainly in galleries. Instagram was such a game changer because it gave me a way to showcases my work to a broader audience. I love being able to post a detail shot of a painting or show an installed work in it’s new space. And sometimes I am seeing one of my paintings for the first time in a new space, via someone else’s account!