While reflecting on the evolution of the past 25 years of home interiors, we noticed a handful of designers, architects, and entrepreneurs whose work we kept citing. These individuals have not only been consistently innovative, but their unique creations have also withstood the test of time. On the following pages, we speak to them about their past endeavors and what we can look forward to next.
co-founder of Studio 54, hotelier, property developer
Q What were you doing in 1981?
A Steve Rubell—my partner in Studio 54—and I were trying to buy our first hotel. (We finally bought the Excelsior, in New York City, in 1983). It was the next logical step. With both nightclubs and hotels there's no actual product to sell, just the magic of the experiences you create through design.
Q You've worked with renowned designers in developing your boutique hotel concept. How do you choose your collaborators?
A I'm always looking for fresh new talent—not necessarily a big name, but someone who is trying to rethink things. It's not an intellectual process; it's instinctual. I need to have a visceral response to their work.
Q Tell us about 40 Bond Street and 50 Gramercy Park North, the full-service residences that you are building in New York City.
A I'm trying to combine the best from hotel and residential living into a new genre: effortless living. The residences, which are designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, are visually provocative, have lots of natural light, and flow easily from social to private spaces.
architect; product and interior designer
Q What were you doing in 1981?
A I was teaching in the School of Architecture at Princeton University and engaged in a busy architecture practice. Around that time my firm received commissions for the Portland Building, a large office building in Oregon, and the San Juan Capistrano Library in California. My previous built work mostly comprised house additions and small office interiors, so this was a huge step for us, and gave us a chance to explore more figurative architecture and color use in buildings.
Q In 1999, the mass-market retailer Target asked you to make a toaster. The company's now selling over 800 products you created. What drew you to partner with it?
A We shared a vision: good design could be affordable and available to everyone, and that objects could have personality.
Q What trends do you predict for the next 25 years?
A We know that people like choices, so there will be more ways to customize houses and apartments. We're also focusing on design solutions for the aging population, working to improve the functional and visual design of mobility and safety products.
interior and product designer
Q What led you to segue from designing interiors to also designing products, such as furniture for Henredon and lamps for Boyd Lighting?
A I am searching for a lifestyle that is casual but includes living with fine objects; I feel others are looking for this, too. So this made me want to create things like china, bath fixtures, carpets, and my own signature sheets. Next I hope to design luggage.
Q What is the squiggle that adorns many of your textiles?
A When my father was teaching me to write, he said I should practice making overlapping circles as a way to achieve a fluid line. That led to the way I work today: I begin any drawing by tracing an oval, going around and around its shape. Over time, I've come to associate myself with that form and continue to explore variations of loops in my work.
Q Which design trends will define the next 25 years?
A I actually see the lack of a predominate style. We will become even freer to take in and synthesize all that we see around us and make it our own.
architect; industrial, interior, and set designer
Q You've designed a wide range of spaces, from the set for the Broadway musical Hairspray to a stadium for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Who inspires you?
A My personal heroes include Antonio Gaudí, Frank Lloyd Wright, Fiddler on the Roof set designer Boris Aronson, Batman production designer Anton Furst, Dr. Seuss, and filmmaker Fritz Lang.
Q Your projects are very complex. How do they come together?
A Each requires collaboration with and a dialogue between my firm and the architects; the artists; and the interior, product, furniture, and lighting designers. I begin a project by giving each player an idea of the story to be told—this narrative approach is the most effective way to create a sense of cohesion.
Q Are there similarities between restaurant design and set design?
A For both you need to consider the scenic elements of lighting, entrances and exits, immersion, movement and flow, sequence, and focal points. Cooking as theater is the central premise of our restaurant Café Gray in New York City, for example. The kitchen and activity within it are out in the open, with the cooks like actors on a stage. Together they are the focus of the dining room.
Sir Terence Conran
retailer; restaurateur; author; product and interior designer
HAILS FROM London
BEST KNOWN FOR
• The London-based design shop Habitat, which opened in 1964; the Conran Shop, which sells furniture and accessories at locations in New York City, Paris, and Japan
• Design books espousing his unique Euro aesthetic, starting with The House Book, published in 1974
• Posh restaurants and bars in such places as London, Paris, Stockholm, Glasgow, and New York City
architect; industrial, interior, and product designer
HAILS FROM Paris
BEST KNOWN FOR
• Ethereal interiors for most of the Ian Schrager hotels, including the Delano in Miami, the Hudson and the Royalton in New York City, and the Clift in San Francisco
• The Louis Ghost chair, a subversive take on the Louis XVI–style seat
• Quirky, inventive versions of nearly every household object imaginable, from lamps and baby monitors to faucets and toothbrushes
NEXT UP Designs for residential buildings in Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles