At Home with Tastemaker Steven Stolman

Photography credit: Nick Mele

Steven Stolman knows a thing or two about style. The designer, tastemaker, and man-about-town is an expert on the subject. And he has the resume to prove it. From his own sought-after line of resort wear to his tenure as President of the textile house, Scalamandre, he is an observer of good taste, which is why we love having him to speak in the Fall Show Lecture Series. Stolman has been a longtime supporter and speaker at the show. 

Scalamandre Haute Decor by Steven Stolman (Gibbs Smith 2013)

I chatted with Stolman about how he manages to stay stylish with nowhere to go these days, and how the concept of home has changed, starting with where he has been sheltering in place. “My husband Rich and I were at our home in Palm Beach from the start of Florida’s Safer at Home directive in March until our annual migration to our summer home on the east end of Long Island, New York in June.” He said. For a moment of quiet, Stolman looks to the ocean “We’re very fortunate to have a balcony overlooking the Atlantic. There’s a certain calm from simply staring out into that huge expanse of water and sky. Until it got too hot, we would end every workday out there.” Style has taken a back seat to comfort these days, with a few standard rituals put on hold “shaving daily for one,” he shared “and dressing without an awful lot of thought. Even though our condo pool was closed for much of the lockdown, I wore a bathing suit pretty much every day. I also stopped wearing a wristwatch.”

Stolman admits that he and his husband are the opposite of homebodies, so staying home has not been easy. “I suppose there’s a peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re in a safe place.” He says. “There was and still is the constant worry about others-especially those most vulnerable to CoVid19. It’s ever present.” 

As the author of two books on entertaining, Confessions of a Serial Entertainer (Gibbs Smith, 2015) and The Serial Entertainer’s Passion for Parties (Gibbs Smith, 2016), the most difficult part of lockdown for Stolman has been the inability to entertain. “Generosity of spirit and gracious hospitality make a home.” He shared. “The toughest part of lockdown has been not being able to welcome friends into our home the way we usually do. It has been agonizing!” Although parties are on hold for now, work still has to be done, from home.  “Rich has worked remotely or traveled for work for almost 20 years. I’m a bit newer to the game. While Rich can work from anywhere- I like a proper desk. I found a wonderful desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders at a local vintage dealer. It’s in our guest room and serves as my command center.” 

Desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders

Desk by Jack Cartwright for Founders

The things we live with, the treasures we collect make our homes unique and for Stolman, his favorite pieces are the bookcases “oddly, in the dining area of our home,” he says. “They hold a lifetime of memories. If I had to pick one thing, it would be a little ceramic ink pot in the shape of a bear. It belonged to Babe Paley, who kept postage stamps in it on her desk.

With all the extra time saved from not traveling, commuting, or social engagements, Stolman has found that he has more time on his hands, but his free time gives him more time to worry “This pandemic has weighed heavily on us. The way it’s disproportionately affecting communities of color and poverty is a disgrace to our society. How could this possibly happen in the world’s supposedly most advanced nation?” 

With the annual San Francisco Fall Show at Fort Mason Center on hiatus during the 2020 pandemic, I asked Stolman to share a favorite memory of the show. “Seeing so many friends from across the country. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to the opening night every year- and it’s not just because of the caviar. There’s a joie de vivre that I have never experienced at any other similar event.”

Opening Night Gala at the San Francisco Fall Show

Of course, there was always one small painting- usually impressionist- that would bring tears to my eyes. But it was really the joy of seeing so many wonderful friends all in one place at one time for such a great cause. I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that Rich’s favorite part of the evening was the eye-popping candy bar at the exit. He’s such a big kid at heart.” 

The ever popular End-of-Evening Candy Bar at the Fall Show Gala

The one thing Stolman misses most these days? “Cocktail parties. And peace of mind. There won’t be any of that until there’s an effective treatment or a vaccine.” Let’s hope that comes soon.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat