Interior Design And The Lust For Licensing

This Reason.TV video pokes some serious fun at state laws requiring interior designers to be licensed in order to work or, more often, in order to call themselves "interior designers" rather than decorators. The attempt to justify such laws as consumer protections is lame. The video sums up the obvious motive behind them in a pithy quote: "You make more money if you have less competition." Ah...the glamour of restraint of trade.

Over the past decade or so of observing designers of all sorts, however, I've come to believe that there's more to the lust for licensing than pure economics. Designers crave respect--note the video's derisive references to throw pillows, even as it makes the case that good interior design requires talent and experience--and many imagine that a license will buy it for them: Hey, I'm a professional! Even if it doesn't, more money makes a nice consolation prize.

Glamour & Function In The Kitchen


With this post, we're delighted to add Kit Pollard to the regular DG team.--VP

A couple of years ago, my husband and I began a gigantic home addition/renovation project that included a new, expanded kitchen. I love to cook, but when we sat down with our architect to talk about what was important in the kitchen design, I was all about good party space. Counter space? Whatever. I just wanted shiny appliances and a really long island where everybody could set their drinks when the dancing started.

Apparently I’m not the only one. Super-glam New York decorator Miles Redd admits that his old kitchen (he’s since redecorated), and its 1930s Hollywood glamour-puss vibe, is all about the party and, of course, the cocktails (more pictures here and photos of the new space here). It’s a gorgeous room – all black and white and stainless steel – and the appliances are top-of-the-line. I'm not sure how much action his oven sees, though. The room's careful, fancy clutter and super-shiny surfaces are really more conducive to popping champagne corks than to peeling potatoes.

Unfortunately, at my house, I had to be at least a little bit practical. No lamps or liquor on the countertops for me, and a lot more focus on storage and functional work area. Vintage Venetian crystal lamps are pretty, and I’m sure the quality of the lighting is fabulous for parties, but when your counters are covered with light fixtures and vases and bar trays, where do you chop the vegetables?

Domino Mag Asks: Jackie Or Nancy?

Yellowroomjackie       Yellowroomnancy

On the left, we have the White House's Yellow Room as envisioned by Jackie Kennedy. On the right, the Yellow Room under the direction of Nancy Regan. (Photos by Architectural Digest)

Domino Magazine wants your vote on who decorated better. Oh, it is so on!

Too close to call?? Maybe this will help-- the two ladies' takes on the public Red Room. Jackie on left, Nancy on right (photos by John F. Kennedy Library and by White House Historical Assoc.)

Kennedy_red_room_3 Reagan_red_room_3

Perhaps your winner is starting to emerge, but the next picture will surely help you seal the deal. I give you, via Domino of course, the First Ladies' dressing rooms.

Jackie's is the powder blue and Nancy's is the peach:

Jfk_dressing_room_ad    Regan_dressing_room_ad

I know my winner. Do you have yours?

Who did I pick? Well, there are certain color combos I can do without, and one of them happens to be red and yellow, plus there's my intense loathing of peach, so you can take a big, wild guess and you'll probably be right.

But don't be silent, fellow Americans! Tell us or Domino how you really feel.

Is There Anything More Glamorous Than A Cook's Kitchen?

03_cooks_kitchens This Architectural Digest slideshow raises a question: Do any of these homeowners actually cook? Lance Armstrong (that's his to the left--as always, click for a larger view)? Ted Turner? H. Ross Perot Jr. (or his wife Sarah)? The kitchens do include one for a professional chef, but I suspect most of these homeowners rely more on takeout and caterers than those gorgeous appliances and cutting boards.

Why build a big, fancy kitchen if you rarely cook? Why not be like 19th-century rich folks and make the kitchen as utilitarian and humble as possible, since it's for the servants after all?

The obvious reason is to show off when you entertain, and I'm sure status does play a role. There's a ratchet effect, too. If you don't have granite countertops and professional-grade appliances, you must be hopelessly out of it--or pathetically utilitarian--and you won't get top dollar if you sell your place.

But these photos do more than display rich people's showy luxuries. They're glamorous, evocative, emotionally resonant. They invite us into a different life. A kitchen isn't just a room. It's a symbol. Someone with the wherewithal to plan a dream kitchen can use the room to make an ideal tangible (at least until the photos are taken and entropy sets in).

Take Lance Armstrong's kitchen here. Look at all that seating. This is a kitchen for someone who dreams not of cooking but hanging out with friends and family. The cooking tools are incidental; slap some takeout down on the island, and you're good to go. Of course, like all styled-for-photography kitchens, the scene missing anything truly personal. (AD's caption says the photos displayed above the windows are personal, but they look generic to an outsider.) That impersonal quality makes the room a bit cold when you start thinking about the kitchen's owner but all the more glamorous for projecting yourself into the scene. If it fits your own ideals, there are no distractions to remind you that it's someone else's place.

Tale Of Craig Raywood Told In Los Angeles

CR08 Steve Oney writes a compelling piece in Los Angeles magazine about decorator/conman/serial debtor Craig Raywood.  Raywood came to LA from New York, where in the 80s, he'd done well as an interior designer:

For someone with Raywood’s gifts, Los Angeles was the land of opportunity. He could take advantage of the city’s insecurity about fashion and decor. Despite all the wealth in L.A., much of it is temporal—a hit TV series, an executive position at a studio—and at least in matters of interior design, there’s more concern with comfort and first impressions than with provenance. ...

Because Raywood billed himself as an arbiter of style favored by Manhattan’s old money, because he carried himself with such authority, he was accorded an added respect here. The setup was perfect—he might never run out of new prospects to seduce.

Unfortuantely, bad checks were one of his tools of seduction, and that never ends well.

Part two of the story appears in the December issue.

Songs For A Sofa


According to the New York Times, people want music that "goes with" their decor.  Consultants assemble playlists for those who want customized music:

“When someone walks in and hears great music, it’s like looking at a wonderful painting on the wall that gives you certain emotions,” said Mr. Wagner, who gets his playlists updated quarterly. “I love that I don’t have to think about what to put on. It’s already done for me.”

Emphasis on "think". Likewise:

Most of the tracks on the 10-hour compilation that she continues to play are by acts she had previously never heard of, like the contemporary pop singer Joshua Radin and the folk artist Brett Dennen. The playlist has an overall warm sound, Ms. Goldberg said, which harmonizes with her apartment’s open floor plan and casual, contemporary feel. “It was like they could read my mind.”

It's not just the floorplan that's empty. As someone who owns roughly 1200 albums, CDs, tapes and so on, I can't fathom having someone pick music for me based on my taste in furnishings.

Having a bad day? Tough. The playlist insists that only perky music is suitable, not Mahler.

A professor quoted in the piece plays Luther Vandross in the living room but Alison Krauss in the kitchen. Gee, I wonder what room gets the Bonzo Dog Band or Dave Edmunds and Rockpile? I'd guess the home gym, but that might be too matchy-matchy.

Sarah Palin's Animal House And Banksy's Pet Store


Sarah Palin decorated her Alaska office with a massive bearskin, shot by her father. Shawn Henderson at the Huffington Post is appalled.  (Who he? The eBay design director. Who knew they had one?)

Taxidermy is a tricky subject--animal lovers hate it, no matter how long ago the animal died, decorators love it, especially the out sized and/or rare.  The September Vanity Fair ran a story by Olga of Greece, (royals don't use last names, except for the Windsors, who aren't really named Windsor, but that's a different story) about the rebirth of the famed French animal stuffing atelier,  Deyrolle, after a devastating fire.

Apartment Therapy frequently riles up the faithful readership with posts featuring animal skins, heads, etc.

Mrs. Blandings has a nice retrospective going on,  as does The  House of Beauty and Culture.

Banksy takes the whole meme there and back again, by mounting McNuggets in a less-than-natural pose.


DG Contest: The Domino Effect

9781416575467 Fall's a good time to spruce up the domicile, and DG readers in need of inspiration are in luck. The nice people at Domino magazine (the guide to living with style) kindly offered us a copy of Domino: The Book of Decorating

Win the book by being the first to email [email protected] with a concise statement about why you want this guide that promises to "demystify and democratize decorating."

Written by Domino's EIC Deborah Needleman with co-authors Sara Costello and Dara Caponigro, the book promises  to show you how to create a home that makes you happy, room by room.

Glam Or Spam? One For The Roses

Readers overwhelmingly rejected the princess ring, a design from the Disney Couture collection.


This week we return to the wonderful world of customized interiors. What do we have here?

The daring union of traditional style and large-scale photo realism?

A boldly bad version of floral wallpaper?

Or simply a reminder to keep fresh flowers on hand at all times?

Vote below.

Chicago Jewelbox Apartment--Anointed By Oprah

DG: What are your design influences?

BS: Obviously, everything. History is everything before today, so there’s a lot of precedent for me to work from. And every period and every style has good features. These days, Dorothy Draper is back in style but in the Miami Vice 80s and the Barbara Barry all-beige 90s, a mention of her name made people--OK, designers--roll their eyes in horror. That’s if they even recognized her name in the first place. But I always liked DD’s style.

51wlxw0ohml_ss500_ When I was in interior design school, we were asked what direction we thought design might take in the next few years. This was in 1992. I said “Vogue Regency will come back big time.” That was British version of Hollywood Regency, with Syrie Maugham instead of William Haines, and I about got laughed out of class because of it. But sure enough, Jonathan Adler & Kelly Wearstler brought that glittery, high-contrast look right back into the mainstream. Of course, things never last as long the second time around. I mean, Tony Duquette had a thirty-year career, faded out of the popular consciousness, and then, last winter, his style came roaring back—well, at least, in NYC--with the publication of his mongraph, and the installation of last season’s holiday windows in Midtown, but by February, blogs were already saying “If I see one more reference to Tony Duquette, I’m gonna scream!” All I can say is today, people have really short attention spans. That comes from TV, which I don’t watch. To me, if something is beautiful--and I don’t mean if it’s trendy—it will always be beautiful. To hell with trends.

Schumacher1955 Greatest coup?

In 1981 I went to the last day of a liquidation sale at a bankrupt Peoria hotel & found an entire bolt of a fabric that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed for Schumacher in the 1950s, sitting in a barrel of other fabric. How many hundreds of people had pawed through that bar rel & missed Wright’s little red square on the selvage? I spotted that mark from clear across the lobby. The whole bolt cost me 15 dollars. I gave it to the Art Institute of Chicago,  which put it on display the next year and  somewhere I have a picture of me standing in front of a ten-foot tall panel of it.  But here’s the weird part: a few years later, I found another bolt of the same fabric--in a different colorway--at a Goodwill store right up the street. On one hand, I thought “What re the chances of that? “But then I realized they’re actually pretty good., because most people look without seeing, so stuff like that can sit there for a long time. Sit there waiting for me.

Best design advice someone gave you?

Nancy Lancaster: “Understatement is extremely important and crossing too many 't's' and dotting too many 'i's' make a room look overdone and tiresome. One should create something that fires the imagination without over emphasis.”

Ever tempted to change it all completely?

I already have my apartment’s next incarnation worked out in my head.

Inspirational book or movie or magazine recommendations?

Book: Chicago Interiors by David Garrard Lowe & Depression Modern by Martin Greif.
Magazine: The World of Interiors
Movies: Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, Alain Resnais’ Pas sur la Bouche & Ernest Lubitsch’s <em>Trouble in Paradise

How did you come to develop your own style/taste?

Reading every design book I could get my hands on since I was ten. Familiarity with good design makes it easy to resist buying junk, even if it’s inexpensive junk. Better to have nothing than something ugly.

Object of desire--money is no object--what do you covet?

The most achingly beautiful automobile ever designed, Gordon Buehrig’s 1937 Cord. If I can’t have that, I don’t want a car.