YOUNG TRADITIONAL AT MCMILLEN PLUS

by Marisa Marcantonio

"Taste is relative, but to be positive and vital it must respect the past, accept the present and look forward with enthusiasm to the future."
-Eleanor McMillen Brown, from Sixty Years of Interior Design

Christine Grace and Elizabeth Pyne head up McMillen Plus. Together, they take a younger clientele through the design experience, guiding them to stylish and fresh fabrics and furniture replete with the service and attention to detail McMillen is so known for. Established in 1924, McMillen is one of the oldest American design firms still operating today. By combining great style with business acumen, Eleanor was one of the first ladies of her generation to study interior design, and became a force in the industry. After three years at Parsons in New York and Paris she put out her shingle in a townhouse on 55th Street. One of her great strengths was the way she arranged furniture in a welcoming way. Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton, and Kevin McNamara worked there, and she allowed them to get credit for the work they did. With this history and service, McMillen has a way to attract the sort of client they always have. But now they are speaking to a new generation, the client that wants great design and ideas while leading a less formal lifestyle. You may have seen the House Beautiful article about the firm, explaining their important historical influence.
When I heard about the new division, I instantly wanted to learn more about it. Elizabeth is the third generation of “Sherrill” women – her grandmother, mother, and now she works at McMillen, which is a corporation, and owned by the partners of the firm. Elizabeth and I had both majored in art history and attended Trinity College, and her mother Ann went to my high school, so I reached out to her to get the story.

You recently joined McMillen, where your mother and grandmother are designers.

I joined McMillen seven months ago in November.

What did your grandmother teach you about design growing up? What is the best advice she ever gave you about design?

My grandmother has never sat me down to “teach” me. (That has been my mother’s role. And she is a fantastic teacher!) However I have learned by observing my grandmother in action:
My grandmother is always dreaming up new schemes. Ever since I was little, I remember her making additions to her houses and coming up with new projects. And she is always acquiring new objects for her houses (and all of ours), and building onto existing rooms. She changes her mind quickly and even at her age, she embraces new ideas that I never thought she would.

My grandmother (and mother) instilled in me the importance of longevity in design: One of my earliest memories is of choosing my bed (lace canopy) for my room at 580 Park Avenue. I was dying to have a bed where the canopy was gathered into a huge gold crown. And I remember my mother saying to me, “You can have it if you really want, but I think that you will tire of that gold crown in a few years, and then you will be stuck with something that you don’t like.” It seems very simple, and obvious, but I never forgot it. Whenever I buy something for myself, or I am looking for a client, I really try and think of the long term: is this a fabric that will get tiring after a while, is this a rug that can be reused in another space? And this type of thinking is most important, I think, for my clients, some of who are in rentals or are in smaller apartments. I encourage them to invest in things now that they can see themselves with for a long time and that could be transferred to other spaces.

How did growing up in and around beautiful, well designed interiors affect your sense of style and eye?

It spoiled my eye! I can’t help liking things that are well crafted. I used to lie in my bed in the mornings and run my fingers up and down my wallpaper, feeling the raised pigments. Today, I am so disappointed with wallpapers that are flat-feeling. Now that I’ve learned something about textiles and wallpaper, I realize that my old wallpaper was made with something like 28 screens. I think that I am more able to think of things in terms of schemes. Whenever I see an object that I love I immediately think: but how could I fit this into the scheme that I am working on? I am fascinated by the way things are made. When I was a little girl, I used to unravel the bullion fringe of our living room ottoman because I was so curious to see how the threads were twisted and woven together.

Your tastes run classic with a penchant for French 30's and 40's accents. Where do you think that came from?

I like those pieces because they are modern in feel, but they are also whimsical, with little hand-made details.

You studied abroad and traveled a great deal in Europe. What inspired and influenced you most?

What fascinates me about Europe – Italy especially – is the way that masterpieces are a part of the fabric of everyday life. And in Europe I get a sense that there are layers: civilizations and generations building upon one another. In Venice for example, the church of Madonna dell’ Orto is a 14th and 15th century structure; inside of it there are these huge canvasses painted by Tintoretto in the 16th century; the organ over the entrance of the church was built in the late 19th century; and now, in the 21st century, they continue to hold services there. And I love interiors that incorporate works of art and that have that sense of layering.

Studying art, especially old masters, was your passion. What made you switch tracks?

Art was, and still is, my passion. I love beautiful things. But I don’t think that my passion was just for old masters, or even paintings. Art for me is anything that is beautiful and moving: whether it’s the brilliant hues in a masterpiece by Bellini or the deep purple of a Manuel Canovas linen. I was drawn to interior design because now I have a chance to create beauty in interiors, instead of just studying it, or selling it.

With the starting of a younger division McMillen Plus, what are the goals of the new team and what is your focus?

The goal of McMillen Plus is to capture a younger client. One of our problems is that people, especially my age (29), think that McMillen is a little too “venerable” for them, and we are trying to counter that reputation.

However, we also think that we can offer young clients a lot of expertise that a lot of young decorators cannot offer their clients, i.e., I am working with, and having my ideas vetted by, designers and architects who have been doing this for thirty years.

McMillen offers a white glove experience. How do you think people's lifestyles have changed from when your grandmother began?

We still aim to offer a white glove experience, as I think all decorators should. Our job is to make decorating as smooth and as painless as possible for our clients. I think that is a major reason for someone to hire an interior designer: to have someone else chase vendors, supervise an installation, etc. And I don’t think that that will ever change.

One thing that I think has probably changed is that people are more comfortable with casual and simple looks, as opposed to overly formal and elaborate. This is even apparent when you look at what I wear to work: when my grandmother first started the older ladies of the firm would actually wear white gloves to work, whereas now I wear blue jeans all the time. But that’s not to say people want sloppy. I think people will always want an elegant and coherent look, and that is something that McMillen has always excelled at.

What does home mean to you?

Home is a place where I am surrounded by things that I love.

I went to visit her at home, in the apartment she designed. I love all the femme elements, cream and rose colors, and beautiful art placed thoughtfully in the space. I caught her on a night she was going out, hence the dressy dress!

An entryway leads into the sitting room, where glam upholstered Hinson chairs flank the fireplace and plush sheepskin rugs add a dash of old Hollywood. Black and white elements tie the rooms together and colorful vases with family mementos fill the bookshelves.

In her sitting room, she used coordinating fabric at the windows to match the Osborne and Little wallpaper. Floral and feminine with butterflies, the feeling is light and fun. A great set of antique metal furniture form a sitting area and an trefoil ottoman floats next to it.

Her living room has ottomans and places to perch during a cocktail party. Amassed over years, art collection extends to every wall in her home, even her bathroom has a wonderful Wyoming landscape.


The Osborne and Little window treatment fabric ties the room together. To find accessories and other special things, she spends time hunting for great vintage pieces, including her new Parzinger benches, upholstered in the original yellow leather.


She wallpapered her kitchen and powder room off the back of the kitchen in a small black and white pattern.

Her girly pink and white bedroom where she has combined mid-century modern pieces with traditional elements is cozy.

A classic Rose Cummings coral wallpaper creates a fresh palette for her white accented bedroom. As an avid collector of paintings and drawings, botanical prints hang above Elizabeth's modern desk. After working in the Old Masters Department at Sotheby's, she made the change to design.

By adding built in cabinets she has storage galore. A fold-up vanity from Conran's takes up a small amount of space. A piece like this makes getting ready for a night out a treat.


THE WEEK THAT WAS: TOASTING MARK HAMPTON'S BOOK AND ROOMS WITH A VIEW SHOWHOUSE AT BUNNY WILLIAMS

by Marisa Marcantonio

DUANE HAMPTON SIGNED HER BOOK ON MARK HAMPTON

The other night, Duane Hampton signed her new book, Mark Hampton An American Decorator at the product- filled design emporium, John Rosselli.

Signing away looking so chic in green.

Bunny and John enjoying the huge crowd that came to fete the book.


Gorgeous flowers arranged by Howard Christian, the manager of Treillage, John and Bunny’s store on 75th Street, sits next to a great shot of Mark.


ROOMS WITH A VIEW SHOWHOUSE PARTY




Rooms with A View, the showhouse at The Congregational Church in my hometown of Southport CT is held every November, and has long been supported by Albert Hadley. This November, in its 16th year, he is honorary Chairman, and the vignettes are to be designed by Parish Hadley alums, listed above. This showhouse is not to be missed!

A cut out of Mr. Hadley in all his glory. Honorary degrees were given to the PH alums for attending The University of Albert Hadley.


The diploma (!)

The Parish Hadley alumni include Bunny Williams, David Kleinberg and David Easton.


Beautifully arranged Dahlia's on Bunny's desk.

Peonies, Roses and votives arranged around the table by Johnathan Preece, the uber talented Creative Director at Bunny's is behind the party's flowers and decorations.


Everyone raised a glass to Mr. Hadley and his commitment and dedication to the charity. This shot was taken by THE Dennis Reggie!

Even the star pendants were adorned with candles and flowers by Jonathan.


Even Sampson, Harry Heismann's Frenchie made it to have a drink.

DESIGNER ALUMS REMEMBER MARK HAMPTON

by Marisa Marcantonio


Mark Hampton An American Decorator, the long-awaited book by Duane Hampton for Rizzoli.

With the coming of the new Mark Hampton book, I wanted to reach out to those that worked with him and have been touched by his talent. Long overdue, this collection of his projects shows readers why his legacy is so great and his contribution so valuable. As an homage, I was able to get recollections from former Hamptonites, who share how he influenced their design training, sense of style, approach to design, antique selection, room layouts, fabric schemes, business approach, working with clients and more.



The Hampton's NY apartment circa 1971. You can see the David Hicks influence in the vibrant red walls and blocks of solid color around the room.


Sue and Hayden Cutler's Fort Worth Texas library exudes calm in neutrals. A sisal carpet and pale curtains stand the test of time, it looks as though it was decorated today.

The entrance hall at Mary and James Wade's Louisiana house had black and white marble floors and a dramatic lacquered chest on a gold scroll work base.

The press room of Blair House, where the President would meet with visiting heads of state, has reproduction furnishings and rugs mixed with original accessories from the house.

Photos Courtesy of Rizzoli
Susan and Carter Burden's Watermill library with an overstuffed sofa in a soft floral chintz and soothing rust colored lacquer walls.

Many designers that worked in the office have gone on to have thriving design businesses. Their experiences with Mark Hampton have informed how they design. Everyone I spoke to mentioned his fantastic sense of humor .


Paula Perlini worked for Mark Hampton in the hey day of fabulousless and grandeur. She was the lead designer and project manager from 1979 to 1988. In addition, she is Duane Hampton's sister, and Duane was Mrs. Hampton, the reason this fantastic book came together in the first place. In 1993, Paula she started her own firm, where she works in a beautiful traditional style, mixing fine antiques and colorful fabrics.

The glory days were the 1980’s he did Gracie Mansion for Koch, Governors Mansion for Cuomo, Blair House, The Naval Observatory for Bush, Senator John Heinz and Theresa, Steve and Courtney Ross, Ann and Sid Bass, Joel Gray, Mike Wallace, and Mort Zuckerman. Gstaad, San Francisco, Martha’s Vineyard installations were constant, and they always traveled 1st class.
Days started early. Designers would get a call at 6am in the morning or 11pm at night. Hampton got up at 4am to call England, and check on orders. The office was run with great efficiency, and he sent everyone in many different directions. They had a meeting every day and you would be assigned a job to go to the workroom, see a job, find antiques. You have to see it, look at the joinery and patina to know if it was what he wanted. He could draw everything and anything to visualize what was going to be, and he would render spaces to get ideas across. He wrote everything down on yellow legal pads. Schemes would start with fabrics first then go to the rug. He used simple fabrics and signature window treatments involved using a polished chintz on a curtain’s leading edge and the same fabric across the bottom. Fabrics were in perfect scale, and he loved rich colors. Coca cola walls and furniture slip covered in white muslin with great accessories made a signature room in 1982. The staff was encouraged to go out and reproduce the Mark Hampton look, not their own. They laid out the schemes on a big round table in the office, and Hampton would work with the designers to put it all together. Designers shopped so they could see everything in their office, bringing in accessories and chairs on loan from all the great dealers. Placement of furniture was key. It involved lots of conversation groups in a room, with many pieces, so that clients could move pieces around for larger groups.

Hampton had a great sense of humor and viewed design as being enjoyable. The hunt and the search was really the fun part, and his enthusiasm was contagious. According to Paula, he was, "a great talker, and amusing." Painting watercolors started his day and he would paint 3 or 4 cards every day. When he traveled, he sent them to the office to check in, reveal a great story and show a beautiful Italian city or remote town in France.

Ned Davies, an art consultant and dealer began working for Hampton in 1978 and stayed until 1982, then went back to work for him around 1986 and stayed for five years. He shares his memories of working at the firm:

Mark disliked chaos, and decorating for him was a way to push away chaos – "A place for everything and everything in its place" was a phrase he loved annoying me with, since I am pathetically sloppy and unhousebroken, but he believed in it, and it showed in his work.

Decoration was intended to give pleasure – to the inhabitant of the place decorated as well as to the people who came into the rooms done, and Mark was a great believer in pleasing the senses – for instance, he liked trompe-l'œil for its look, its concept, and its intellectual wit. I am reminded of the faux stone walls he had painted in his office at 654 Madison. He loved using painter Robert Jackson for floors and walls (Blair House, in DC, for instance, as well as many other places.)

Of course, being a successful decorator involves a great understanding of human behavior and Mark was a master at guessing what his clients really wanted, and why, and then giving it to them in ways they hadn't perhaps expected but deeply appreciated. That is talent in action. He was also loads of fun to be with – and when you spend a lot of time with someone in something as personal as decorating a house, it is a great advantage for that person to be someone you like spending time with. Mark's clients fought for his time – yes, he was frequently overstretched, as were we in the office – and that led to frenzy and craziness but also made us all work harder and sharper, too. We learned to juggle.

The only area Mark seemed, to our general amusement, to have some problem with was measuring custom lampshades. He would give us these odd dimensions which we would look sceptically at to his great annoyance, only to have the weirdest-shaped lampshades, in beautiful écru box-pleated silk, complete with lining and trim, come back (at $400 each net, and this is in the 1980s!) and have him shrug, sheepishly, and say "Well, store 'em on top of the cabinets with the other ones".

Glenn Lawson was with the office from 1990-1995, and today has his own design firm, Glenn Lawson Inc., in New York City, where he specializes in transitional and updated traditional residential design. He was there in the early years. Glenn reflects on the experience here:

When Mark left McMillen Al & Marilyn of Belfair (Curtains) gave him a spot in their workroom to set up his desk and business. His first office was in the parlor floor of a town house on East 65th Street between Park and Madison, a few doors closer to Madison, near where Daniel is now. He was astoundingly bright by nature; he was extremely literate, attending his ongoing book club several times a year; I never witnessed it myself but I am told he could sit behind a piano and play amazing classical passages. He also loved Peggy Lee and Stevie Wonder!

Design Training - Better to have more lights than you think you need. Then dim them, control them or use lower wattage.

Sense of Style - I equate this with taste which I equate with appropriateness. So much of what makes a room is about who will really be using it and for what.

Approach to Design - select your key pieces first and build the room around them. Often one item or object will inspire the whole room composition. Most typically this would be an Oriental rug.

Room Layouts - How challenging & how much fun it can be to make several seating areas in a very large room. It is something like a puzzle and it is so gratifying when it works.

Fabric schemes - Keep it very simple - 3 fabrics can be enough per scheme; if your client is very visual and sophisticated you may want to show up to 5 per room.

Business approach - He kept (& I do also) a daily sheet in the inside pocket of his blazer, folded in quarters. Upper left for phone calls, lower left "to do", upper right appointments, lower right "to shop". For me to forget it would be like leaving home without my keys.

Working with clients - when a client meeting would be wrapping up Mark would take out his pocket calendar and set up 3 follow up meetings (to keep the momentum).

Markham Roberts
also resides in New York, and continues as a legacy of the firm creating a fresh take on elegant design at his firm. From 1992 to 1998, he was shaped by great experiences.He fondly recalls days past:

I remember my first day of work at Mark's office. He took me to see a few projects, one of which was the massive apartment he had transformed for Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg - the former Rockefeller apartment at 740 park. I was blown away by the apartment's size at 24 rooms and the sheer opulence not to mention chic taste. There were so many beautiful things to look at and to take in. I knew I was lucky to have gotten the job, and I knew I was going to love it.

I was also touched by how warm and genuinely affectionate Mark and Mrs. Steinberg were together. It was evident to me how fond of one another they were. Mark's charm was great - his clients and friends adored him. He could be very demanding, but he was incredibly smart and funny and fun, and the work was so interesting. One of the things I am proudest of in my life is having earned his respect, and one of the things I am most grateful for is having had him as a mentor.

That first day leaving the Steinberg's apartment, he commented on the way down in the elevator, how lucky he was to have such a lovely client who was interested in making something so beautiful and who got it. That was certainly true and very humble of him to think in those terms. Equally lucky though were his clients.

Years later, when I decided I wanted to open my own firm, I was so nervous to tell him what I wanted to do. he took me to lunch one day at the century club to discuss it, and he instantly put me at ease. He couldn't have been more supportive, and I knew he was happy for me, which meant the world to me and was a great reflection on his generous nature.

There was no place I could have worked which could have better prepared me or have exposed me to so much. There isn't a project i do where I don't find myself wishing I could show it to Mark.

Dennis Rolland worked for Mark Hampton in the 1980’s when Paula Perlini was there. Having worked in New York ever since, the charming and ever dapper Dennis also had great recollections of his time at Mark Hampton in the 1980's.

He learned how to do things the right way. Mark was all about follow up, follow up follow up.
We had to be there at all phases, to see progress and oversee things until installation. In order to stay on top of things, we went to check on local projects on a daily basis. His rooms always felt cozy, and one of the reasons for this is that there always had to be chairs of different scale for different types of people to feel comfortable. One of the reasons his interiors look fresh today is that he stuck to classic elements. In the 80’s when I was there, the work was very clean. Mark did not play to trends. He liked symmetrical arrangements and having that one element that was not. Another reason spaces were cozy is because sofa and chair fill was always 100% down, and cushions would sink down.

He and Paula often found themselves pitching in and helping one another, there was great camaraderie on the office and a familial aspect. Mark included the office, inviting them to birthday parties and other events.
Dennis loved hanging pictures with him. They would lay everything down on the floor and arrange the layout. He would hang bigger things at the top and smaller ones at the bottom, so you could see them. Hanging art is still one of Dennis's favorite things to do.

TALKING TRADE SECRETS WITH MARK HAMPTON ALUM MARKHAM ROBERTS

by Marisa Marcantonio


Classic, young traditional, American design. These are the words that come to mind when describing Markham Roberts work. His eye for color, elegant small printed fabrics and the best suited antiques to his projects make him a designer that bridges old world and modern day aspects. He got his start working for the venerable Mark Hampton,where he learned how to buy with a well trained eye and make a room interesting. His sense of scale and proportion makes the rooms he decorates instant classics-- in ten years they will still look fresh. After having lunch with Markham and his partner, James Sansum, I knew I had to figure out a way to get his genius across and that pictures would not be enough to tell the whole story. Luckily, he opened up in great detail about his design process, and I am so happy to be able to share it here.

HIS INSPIRATION:

The house I grew up in made me love all those truly American houses built in the 20’s. Ours was a brick Tudor, but it had a sort of French influenced hall with stone floors and a pretty metal banister. I can remember my sister and I being able to stick our heads through it to spy on my parents when they were having parties and we were supposed to be asleep. There was a Georgian style paneled library too, so like all those American houses of the period, it was a complete mixture of different periods and styles, which is something I’ve always loved.

A very little me in my grandmother’s house. There’s a period Georgian wing chair covered in a colorful Samarkand print which she had had quilted for the chair. There’s also an old American rocking chair (ubiquitous in 60’s traditional décor probably due to the DuPonts’ influence) covered in a great little Indian woven texture. It was early exposure to taking something exotic and using it on something traditional. The library had great bleached pine paneling and flag stone floors, which are elements I use all the time.

Me with my father and sister on the porch of our cottage in Michigan. It was a crazy old wood house with old fashioned porches – completely casual with all types of furniture – some made of tree limbs mixed with painted pieces and quirky old fashioned turned pieces and wicker. That house totally influenced that side of my decorating for country houses where you can mix anything for a very easy and comfortable feel.


Here’s a picture of my grandmother on a chic porch she had in Indianapolis. She was my all time favorite person, and I loved spending time at her house. That porch had really chic wrought iron furniture with big blue cushions piped in grey, painted brick walls and a slate floor. It looked over an interesting modern garden she had which had no grass, but rather beds of ivy and pachysandra with pretty tall pines and sycamores. It was an interesting mixture to have a traditional white washed brick house with pretty bay windows surrounded by this simple modern garden – the only ornament for the garden were lead grey urns planted with boxwood or other evergreens.

HIS WORK:

This is the study in my apartment where James and choppy and I spend most of our time. This room has all the things I love - my books, my desk (a big flat surface for Dominos pizza), a comfortable daybed, and most of all the TV.

I love this beautifully paneled library. It's something you rarely see any more and it's such a shame that most new construction today favors hideous new mahogany libraries with bad detailing. The architecture of this paneling is so simple and perfect, and the golden soft finish of the wood is mellow, old, layered and pretty much perfect in its imperfection.

When I went to meet with my client about working on this room, half the walls were pink and the other half were mirrored. my client confessed she had never really liked the room. so we decided to take a totally different approach and to add the tall bookcases, the mantel and the teal silk wall upholstery to return the room to the beautiful prewar feel that had previously been taken away. I loved being able to work with a totally clean slate and to design every last detail. It is now a very cozy room and my client loves it.

I did this NY apartment awhile ago for a good friend who had small kids. She and her husband had both grown up in fancy apartments and wanted a younger more modern look. so I got to design and make a lot of cool furniture for them, got to play with dragging and tinting plaster on to the walls to make this layered subtle wall finish. It ended up being a nice backdrop to all the modern furniture. i always thought it looked very sophisticated and cool.

This is the living room of an old carriage house I redid in Southampton, LI. It is a favorite room of mine. I love that you can see the old stable planks on the walls, which I painted a crisp white to offset all the greens in the scheme.

This is choppy-Benet our treasured poodle. I feel like a real pageant mother pushing her into every photo shoot I do. I like this strangely shaped entry hall of this old house for all its imperfect charm.

I did this hall for young friends of mine as a backdrop to some of the serious antiques the client had from her family. I wanted it to feel young and fun. Since this entry gallery has no windows, I chose the bright rug and the bold stripes.

This is an entry hall of a very grand penthouse apartment here in NY. It was the first project i did when I opened my own firm. The fantastic Kent- style carved and gilt console was the very first thing I found for this client, and when it wouldn't fit into the apartment through the back, it had to be walked up 14 flights of stairs.I 've never been so nervous in my life, nor so relieved as when it made it through and i was able to see how beautiful it was in the room.

For this big fancy house in Locust Valley, the client had the Georgian dining table, and I wanted to make sure the room didn't feel stuffy or "old lady", so we lacquered the walls this bright, electric green and made these comfortable chairs to downplay the traditional formality of the table.

Taken for a Christmas dinner story, this room was styled for it. So normally the pretty wire chandelier does not hold greenery like this - just felt i had to put that out there...

This is the perfectly square dining room of a Colonial style house in Greenwich, CT. I love the pattern of the upholstered walls and the totally romantic feel in this room by candle light.




Who did you work for to learn the trade?
I moved to New York after school and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I took a part time job at Sotheby’s working in client services. It was not a rigorous job, but it was very interesting to get to see how the auction houses work and to be exposed to that volume of furniture and decorative arts. My first real job was working for Mark Hampton, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. He was incredibly talented as we all know, but he was also super generous and fun as a boss and mentor. He could be very tough, but he was never unfair to me, and I learned so much from him and from being able to work on so many great projects.

What is your signature look?
Seriously, if I hear one more decorator describe his or her style as “eclectic” or “traditional with a twist”...I like to think that I don’t have a signature look or easily definable style. I try very hard to approach each job individually – keeping in mind what I want to do and making it work with what each client wants. I hope the result is that people don’t look at a project and automatically know that it had been done by me. My goal is not to imprint too much of myself on my clients’ houses.

Where did you learn to be so fearless with color?
Using different colors together in schemes and seeing how they work in combination is very interesting and can really make a room go one way or another. I studied art history in school, and looking at the colors in paintings has always been inspiring, whether you’re looking at an Ingres or a Rothko.

What is your favorite color to lacquer a room?
A high gloss lacquer is as beautiful in white or bright poison green as it is in a more traditional color like red or brown. I am drawn to lacquered walls like a giant decorating Moth to a flame - lI ove them all, however everyone should keep in mind that a color like mauve should be avoided.

What advice can you give on mixing patterns and geometrics?
My advice is to stick with what looks good – ha, ha. No really, there aren’t any set rules about mixing stuff, so don’t be afraid to try things together. Do trust your instincts though. If you’re unsure about things working together well, then they probably won’t.

You create exceptional, inviting dining rooms. Is it the round table the room so cozy or the patterned walls?
Round tables are great – even in large sizes they create a very intimate experience and seem so much more relaxed. The most important thing to think about for a dining room is to make it comfortable. Chairs are key – avoid creaky old ones, which stick you in the back.

What other designer and or architect living or not do you most admire?
There are a lot of designers working today whose work I admire. To name them for you however would be like voting for another candidate if I were running for student council president. Dead ones I can certainly share. Mark Hampton comes first, and other favorite decorators and architects: David Hicks, Stephane Boudin, Henri Samuel, Nancy Lancaster, Harrie Lindeberg, Van Day Truex, Billy Baldwin, Elsie de Wolfe, John Volk, Samuel Marx, Jean-Michel Frank, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and though Albert Hadley is alive and well and still working, I am going to include him with Sister Parish.

What is your favorite go to fabric house or fabric?
There’s no one favorite, but here are a few shout outs: I love Pierre Frey’s timeless Braquenie prints, Carlton V’s bright cotton tickings, Chelsea Editions faded embroideries, Quadrille’s modern prints, and Holland and Sherry’s handsome suiting materials.

What material do you love?
I probably use cotton velvets more than any other material. They’re luxurious and durable, and they work in all climates.

What is your favorite antique you own and reproduction collection you constantly use as a resource?
It’s an early 19th Century French mahogany and brass Cartonniere with beautiful red leather compartments. It is so handsome and it totally appeals to my sense of order. I keep it full of photographs, letters, papers, adoring fan mail etc. And I often use pieces from John Rosselli, Bungalow 5, Oscar de la Renta’s line at Century, and Robert Leighton’s British Khaki. They’re all great sources.

What is your favorite project?
This is an impossible question to answer diplomatically, so I’m going to choose my own house in the country, which is truthfully my favorite house. It’s an old Second Empire style house built in the Centennial, which I have been restoring for a few years now. The outside looks a bit like an abandoned crack den at this point, but I have finished a lot of the work on the inside.
I find it so exhausting always rushing everything for clients who are always in such a hurry to get everything done. One of the best things about my house is that I can move at whatever pace I want. I have no one else’s expectations to meet (other than my boyfriend James and our dog Choppy, whom I probably should have mentioned first…). Actually James is very patient and easy going, and having had his expertise in helping us find beautiful things for the house has been great. Choppy is quite impatient and demanding, so I’m grateful she can’t talk. It’s going to take me many more years to finish the house as I have far reaching plans for what I want to do to it and to the garden, but I absolutely love it and am so happy to go every weekend.

What trade or retail store inspires you most?
My boyfriend James’ gallery is one of the best resources I know. He carries all sorts of interesting furniture, art and decorative accessories, and it has been totally helpful for me as a decorator to be able to offer things from him to my clients. I love this type of shop where I know I am seeing pieces, which have been selected and edited by someone who has a chic eye. So many shops just cram stuff in and apparently have no focus or evidence of taste. It can be completely uninspiring and often a bit depressing. Where alternatively it’s a great pleasure being able to go into a shop like James’, knowing you’ll get to see beautiful and interesting things. Some of my other favorite shops, which I think share that interesting feel of someone’s particular eye, are Cove Landing on the upper East side, Gallery BAC and Da Vera in SOHO, and Alan Moss in the East Village.

What old and new books are in your library?
New is Jacques Grange’s book. Old is the great Jansen/Decoration book or the Horst Interiors book.

What country house in England and America do you most love?
I’m going to start with a very grand French House – the Chateau d’Anet. It is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance with it’s beautiful Chapel by Philibert de l’Orme, complete with a marble inlaid floor in a totally cool Spiro Graph pattern. It was built for Diane de Poitiers who was the mistress and confidant/advisor to Henri II. She was a great beauty and avid hunter and saw herself as an incarnation of the goddess of the hunt of the same name. So all over the gardens and especially on the frontispiece of the Chateau there are allegorical references to the moon and the hunt. The coolest ones being life size recumbent stags flanking the portal to the Chateau. Jean Cocteau used the Chateau and gardens for his great film rendition of Beauty and the Beast – a perfect visual fantasy of 1940’s glamour in black and white. My favorite English house was Nancy Lancaster’s Ditchley Park. It shows perfectly that very grand furniture and architecture can be inviting and comfortable, which is something a lot of people miss. Everything about the house in the pictures of it when the Trees lived there is just perfect and totally inspiring to me. The other thing that house shows, because of Nancy Lancaster, is the perfect arrangement of furniture down to every last urn or potted tree in the garden or on one of the terraces. For an American house, I am always excited to see any house of Oscar and Annette de la Renta’s published. They really have great taste and beautiful things. Their houses show one how completely thought out a house or property can be – taking decorating to far more than just curtains and paint colors etc. Every table and every piece on those tables is something beautiful and interesting to look at, and this is something that really makes a room or a house come to life. Clients very often hit the spending wall, so I always explain at the outset when discussing budget, just how far their money will go and just what they will get for it.

If you were not designing, what would you do?
I’d be a telemarketer.

What city besides NYC do you visit to inspire you?
I really love London. I love to walk everywhere, and just looking around at all the buildings and greenery puts me in a good mood – even on a grey day. And there is so much to see in and around London.