A very voguish friend once said to me: "Style is what you wear when no one is watching." She was no doubt referring to fashion, but I would imagine interior designers share the same sort of private devotion to aesthetics. Free from the preferences of clients, an interior designer's home is the truest example of his or her taste. Unfortunately, it's rare that we get a glimpse of these interiors.
That said, I couldn't help but pep up when a copy of Michele Keith's new book Designers Here and There ($32) arrived on my desk. The coffee table tome takes a look at 38 primary and vacation homes of "today's most renowned decorators" around the country, ranging from chic city apartments to historic mansions to beachside getaways.
The book reads much like a shelter magazine, with a profile revealing the story behind each designer's home, including their sense of style — très traditional or rustic log cabin? — and how they spend their time in their personal spaces. The homes are scattered across the map, too, from East Hampton to Palm Desert.
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This is a beautiful book, and some of the homes featured are fascinating. Poring over the pages, I got the feeling that some designers are collectors, picking up peculiar things that appeal to them wherever they go, never quite "completing" their home design. For instance, Martha Angus, a favorite of mine, has furnished her home with so many surprising and incongruent elements that all come together perfectly — including items that she used at the Modern by Design showhouse like her red plastic rocket! She said, "I buy things I like and worry about where to put them when I get home." She's a true tastemaker, and her homes are proof of it.
Vicente Wolf's homes in Hell's Kitchen and Montauk, NY, are absolutely stunning as well. The foundation of his style is a white base, which he punctuates with a mix of worn, antique items, and more polished things like gilded furniture and clean-lined industrial steel. But the pièce de resistance is his art collection, which includes many of his very own stunning photographs.
Out of 19 different homes, there were about three that struck me the wrong way . . . kitschy, dated, over-the-top. In my opinion, this reflects poorly on the designers, and I certainly wouldn't qualify them as "renowned decorators." But, to each his own. I also found it unnecessary that the book shows two separate homes of each designer; I'd prefer to see homes of additional designers instead of more of the same in a different location.
If you're interested in interior design as much as I am and you like to collect coffee table books, or you're looking for a gift for a friend who fits that profile, I would definitely suggest picking up a copy!