Bob and I grew up in homes where comfort wasn't the focus. My mother told the kids: “Here is the living room. Now don’t come in.” When we started our company, we made comfort part of our mission statement.
We do very little market research. We introduced a butter denim some years ago. Everyone told us yellow doesn’t sell. Well, the wrong yellow doesn’t, but this one was so soft and great looking. People’s eyes were ready for it.
We had an English bulldog, Lulu, who came with us to the factory every day and made people smile, so we began collecting bulldog objects. My advice for starting any collection: Do it for the fun of it. Display pieces in groups—like items make a powerful visual statement.
Our eyes are wide open. An Hermès plum dress with a yellow scarf might inspire a sofa and pillow. I took our design team to Brasserie, a restaurant in Manhattan, to see the interior, which is white with cherrywood. We’re thinking of doing a collection with that feel.
Why is midcentury-modern style popular now? It’s a confluence of things: Mad Men is a gigantic influence. Young people are moving to neighborhoods with midcentury houses. They want the whole look.
In a living room, incorporate different kinds of seating—upright chairs that are easy to get in and out of, a comfortable sofa, pull-up chairs or ottomans as extra seats for a big group. For entertaining, I like a large cocktail table and a console for serving food. For a family room, get the most comfortable sofa you can afford.
Try to get your entire home done at once so it feels serene. Having a work in progress for three years can be a drag: You’re always looking at something you’re unhappy with.
1. Chairs come first for me. I have ones I bought 35 years ago. We pay a lot of attention to the backs of chairs: The best ones float in a room like pieces of sculpture.
2. Invest in a well-made sofa with classic lines—either a track or roll-arm style—in a neutral color, perhaps with some texture. You can change the look over time with pillows, a throw, or a new rug.
3. An upholstered headboard makes reading in bed so much easier and more comfortable.
4. A bar cabinet stores your entertaining needs in one place and adds a touch of classic sophistication.
5. One piece of standout art can make a room. I have a photo from NASA’s archives called Saturn’s Rings. It has amazing hues that look great against the gray wall in my apartment.
In the Air
Today, everything moves so fast. At home we want a sense of calm. There’s less fussiness. I think modern design—architectural and clean in feeling but comfortable—is going to continue to be important.
Hard-edged modern leaves me cold. It’s not comfortable to look at or touch or sit on. Dressier traditional is on the horizon.
In 2008, when the economy got really bad, people were buying safe furniture. Lately they want more style. They’re committed to making good choices environmentally. We’re seeing more color: People want things to make them smile in our mixed-up world.
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