A Conversation with Designer Beth Webb

On Virtual Designing, the Importance of Comfort, and Cooking Everyday

Beth Webb

Texture, tension and light are the three tenets that distinguish Beth Webb’s design sensibility. The Atlanta based interior designer is known for her sophisticated interiors that marry elegance with ease and simplicity–the result is a breadth of work that conveys a sense of well being–a combination of beauty and comfort. Her ability to layer and contrast textures and light creates an inviting warmth in the rooms she designs. Webb is recognised internationally for her interiors, and has been featured in magazines including Veranda, Elle Décor, House Beautiful, Milieu, and Luxe. She serves as a board member of the prestigious interior design and architecture organization, the Design Leadership Network (DLN).

In 2017, her book An Eye for Beauty (Rizzoli 2017) was published and that year she spoke on the ‘Mix Masters’ panel at the Fall Show Lecture Series, which focused on combining different styles, finishes and periods to create a room with multiple personalities. She has found the Fall Show to be invaluable in her search for pieces for clients, both while she is there and afterwards. When she buys online, she says, she buys from dealers she has met in person. “I’ve developed relationships with dealers at shows,” she explained. “when you are buying online, it’s good to know the dealer; dealers I have met usually follow up with me. If you are buying from a dealer you know and have a history with, have a conversation with the dealer first.”

Beth Webb (second from left) on the Mix Masters Panel at the 2017 Fall Show,
along with designers Ellie Cullman, David Phoenix and Suzanne Tucker.

I spoke by phone with Webb about work and life in an increasingly virtual world. Although her business is based in Atlanta, she has spent most of 2020 (and lockdown) in the weekend home on Brays Island in South Carolina that she shares with her husband. “It’s a sporting collective,” she shared “my husband built the house in 2006 in the Lowcountry, inland on the river. We were set up to go remote 3 weeks before the lockdown. My staff has been stellar, I have a principal who is in Atlanta and everyone is staggered coming in and out of the office,” she said. “At first it felt like slogging through quicksand, but we’ve really pivoted in a miraculous way. I’m finding our clients are doing well with Zoom. We’ve done installations remotely—hired local stylists, and I was on Facetime the whole time—we’ve had 2 or 3 installations during lockdown. As we’ve gotten further into it, we’ve learned safer ways to do things. We have stringent PPE rules and always call ahead to make sure everyone is safe and well”.

View from kitchen door on Brays Island, Photograph by Beth Webb

With so much of design being textures and colors, at some point people need to see and touch things first-hand. Webb has that covered, “when we have a virtual presentation, we send a box of “goodies”; physical assets to the clients in advance so they can feel everything. They are very much a part of it. We send renderings of the rooms, physical boards, a tactile presentation. It’s more thoughtful design,” she explained. “(Pre-pandemic) we were on planes 3-4 days a week. We had industry events constantly. We loved doing all those things but it takes time, and all of a sudden I have that time back, and I’m able to do more design work than I have in years. I have become much more circumspect and I’m more engaged with my clients and staff.”

Living Room in Brays Island Home, Photograph courtesy of Beth Webb

Silver Linings

Once the events of 2020 are a thing of the past, there has been much speculation about the lasting effects—what habits will remain? Webb hopes this new concept of time is one, “I hope it lasts,” she confesses. “I’ve been reminded of my early days in the business where I had one job and I had time to work on it. I’d stay up all hours of the night scheming and dreaming. I think we have found that we don’t need to travel so much; there was a lot of thinking that you couldn’t do without it, but you can! I am excited to be able to be on a job site again and do the work. On the other hand, I’ve learned that I don’t need to be there for five days–I can hire a stylist–we’re learning new tricks; that’s the silver lining. We’ve always had a lot of remote work–we’re all used to working all over the place, remote has always been in the equation–but we’ve gotten even more adept.”

A Tale of Two Homes

Webb’s two homes couldn’t be more different. “Atlanta is the more intimate, formal space,” she says, while Brays Island is ‘not decorated’. “My husband built the house-it’s a super modern glass house; when I met him, he had two sofas and a lamp!” she joked. “For the past five years we’ve been focusing on the yard.”

Atlanta House Dining Room, Photo courtesy of Beth Webb

Choosing a favorite piece in her homes was easy. “I do love art,” she admitted. “I was on the board of the Florence Academy of Art. If I have to pick one piece, it would be a drawing by Charles Weed, a head study-a portrait in the dining room in Atlanta. I love to collect. We buy antiques when we travel,” she shared. I shop a lot in London. I love Pimlico Road. We are always shopping the globe.”

Charles Weed drawing in the Atlanta dining room, Photo courtesy of Beth Webb


The one thing the two homes have in common is comfort. “I’m such a comfort person,” Webb admits. “Your house can be beautiful but if it’s not comfortable, no one wants to be there. You need to infuse your home with soul, create intimacy; the ergonomics of design are important to me,” she shares. Webb also focuses on the usability of rooms, “I like every room in a house to be used,” she said, “I don’t want a useless living room. If you engineer those rooms correctly, they will have all the parts and pieces that make it work–tuck a TV into a bookshelf in the dining room, for example, get custom cabinetry and comfortable upholstery,-relax the room, humanize it and make it less intimidating,” she advises. “I’m in the study all day long, then at night we’re in the main living area. The table is set for dinner every night and we have club chairs in the bedroom and go in there in the evening to have a cocktail.”

Living Room in Brays Island

Design Perspectives in a Time of Isolation

Webb has noticed an increase in the discussion around how the months of isolation have changed people’s perspectives on their homes and design. She typically gets two types of calls as a prospective designer for a client: “first, Zen,” she says, meaning a peaceful, relaxed design. The second is “traditional—comfort and familiarity. People are gravitating toward warmth,” she explains. “Hard edged metal surfaces, super modern, cold—that’s a hard sell. I’m always going to make it warm in some way whether it’s contemporary or not. I’m not a trendy designer; I listen to my clients and do what they want. You can make anything interesting–it’s tactile–you want to feel cocooned. Now more than ever, our home is our haven.”

Webb does miss travel though, “I love to travel,” she admits. “We were so lucky. Just before all this happened, we went to London, Paris, St. Barts. Back in the day, you used to get dressed up to get on a plane, one of the civilities that use to be a part of travel. I do hope that comes back—the thoughtfulness of travel.”

Japanese bronze Lobster from Cliff Leonard in Atlanta Living Room

Cooking is Like Design

With no travel, and no social engagements, Webb has never been busier. “we had a collection launched with Arteriors in March-accessories, furniture, and lighting. I am the guest designer for spring of 2020 and I’ll have a presence at Highpoint in October. And I’ve been busy thinking about my next book…” she shared.

The Beth Webb Collection for Arteriors

But there is time for relaxing and fun. “My husband has lost 15 pounds and I’ve lost 10! We walk more-we’re in a place where we can, and we ride bikes. We have a 5-acre community garden, and we had a glorious spring; we go to the garden every day and get fresh vegetables: squash, okra, melons. I love to cook, I cook everyday and my husband has learned to cook.” she shared.

Produce from the Brays Island Garden

“Cooking is like design: you have to plan for it. We also order food online—we’ve found all these great places that ship-pizzas from Italy, homemade chicken pot pie…” Sounds delightful.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

A Chat with Designer Timothy Corrigan

On French Châteaus, The Comforts of Home
and Being Grounded in 2020

For someone who travels around the world on a monthly basis, is renovating (not his first) 18th century French château, Château de la Chevallerie, and has been named to most of the design world’s ‘Best Designer’ lists, Timothy Corrigan is refreshingly down to earth. We chatted by FaceTime and our conversation went in several directions as we talked about our mutual passion for travel and tabletop settings among other things.

Timothy Corrigan | Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

I first met Corrigan in 2013 in my first year as Show Director of the San Francisco Fall Show, when he gave a fabulous lecture about his renovation of the 45,000 square foot Château du Grand-Lucé in France’s Loire Valley (he has since sold it and it is now a luxury hotel) and again in my final year as Director in 2019 when he spoke about living with stylish and comfortable rooms. He names the Lecture Series one of his favorite elements of the show. “I love the lectures and the programs.” he admits. I still remember several lectures I saw over the years, a wonderful talk with Lady Henrietta Spencer-Churchill, and the one with Nina Campbell, Charlotte Moss and Suzanne Tucker,” “The Divas of Design!” I reminded him. “To me,” he said, “the quality of your lecture speakers is second to none in terms of shows. And the support of the design community is amazing. It’s palpable.”

Timothy Corrigan, at his post-lecture book signing for “The New Elegance”
at the 2019 Fall Show | Photograph by Hernan Santander

Corrigan opened his design firm, Timothy Corrigan, Inc. in 1997 after a career in advertising, heading up Saatchi & Saatchi Bates Worldwide’s international operations. Today it is one of the leading design firms in the world, with offices in Paris and Los Angeles. He is a master at combining “European elegance with California comfort”. Corrigan has won numerous awards and is the author of two bestselling books, An Invitation to Château Grand- Lucé (Rizzoli, 2013), which chronicles his acquisition, restoration and decoration of a great French country house, and The New Elegance: Stylish, Comfortable Rooms for Today (Rizzoli, 2019).

With clients on four continents Corrigan is not used to sitting still, so the pandemic has been especially jarring. “I have not travelled this little in 30 years,” he admits. “I currently have projects in China, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and in six different states in America.” Despite this, he has spent most of 2020, during lockdown at his home in L.A., however, he was able to go to his office. “I’m very lucky, because our office has many windows and everyone has a private office. It helped me maintain structure and routine,” he shared.

Chateau de la Chevallerie in the Loire Valley

An Interesting Time for a Move

While most of us were getting used to the new normal as lockdown went into effect, Corrigan was moving. “The day L.A. was shut down was the first day of a 3-day move,” he shared. I was between two houses and spent the first three months unpacking. I had sold my last house unexpectedly and took a rental which I realised I hated; I did not like being home, he said. “I always tell clients their home should be a sanctuary, but this was not, so I moved and it was the most wonderful thing. I really do love this new house—the scale of the rooms—bigger rooms and fewer of them; I’m 6’4” and I need bigger spaces! And, it is much lighter and brighter—I need light.”

As moving usually does, unpacking gave Corrigan the opportunity to take stock of his art and furniture in a new way and he gained a new appreciation for one work in particular, “my Carolus-Duran painting—he was a portrait artist—a master of shadow and light,” he explained. “In the other house the walls were white, white, white. The color of walls really impact light; with paintings the background color really affects how you see the painting. I painted the walls in the new house a warm, golden, honey color—not a color that was in the painting—I just really knew that the painting needed the warm tones.”

Carolus-Duran painting | Photograph by Massimo Listri

Home Comforts

For Corrigan, home is about comfort. “We’ve all walked into a room and you can tell that no one uses it—the formal room—those are deadly rooms,” he says. “It’s partially that the furniture is not really comfortable. It’s also a mindset where you are decorating with fabric that is too fine, too delicate.” Corrigan favors comfortable furniture where you can put your feet up. “We often put marine varnish on furniture and antiques so that you can put a hot coffee mug or a wet glass down. We use performance fabrics so you don’t have to worry about spilling wine and you can comfortably use the room, all these elements are practical.”

Jardin Tibetan Knot rug designed by Timothy Corrigan for Perrenials
Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

Corrigan feels rooms should be used. “Every room has a purpose,” he explains, “a reason for going there. In my own living room, I wasn’t using it, so I put a desk in there. You don’t have to use a room for its intended purpose; the dining room can also be a library. Rooms can have dual or multiple uses, just make sure every room is working hard for you.” For Corrigan, his favorite room in his house is anywhere he can curl up and read in a comfortable chair. “I have really enjoyed doing a lot of reading these last months. I purposely don’t read the paper in the morning, instead, I save it and come home and read The New York Times at night. It creates these special occasions for me within my home. The world is so heavy and dark right now, I don’t want to start my day with the news.”

Photograph by Amy Barnard

The New Normal

The pandemic has not changed Corrigan’s design sense, but it has changed how he works. “With so many international clients, we always did Zoom meetings, even pre-pandemic,” he said, “but we didn’t do it as much with domestic clients. I’ve learned we can be just as productive and even once the pandemic is in the past, we’ll probably do more meetings this way. I believe that just as WWI changed so many people’s habits and patterns, so will this. Nothing is like connecting in person, that will always be important, but we can be very efficient these days with technology.” Corrigan has also noticed that his clients are looking at their houses in a new way, “we’ve received phone calls from clients who say they never really appreciated their home until now,” he shares. “For a lot of my clients, their homes are showplaces, as they have several and they haven’t really experienced them until now; they are gaining a new appreciation.”

Photograph by Lee Manning

The thing Corrigan is missing most at the moment is France. “I have a new apartment in Paris, and the château I am renovating. I have been trying to do it from L.A. but there is nothing like being there.” He is now working on a new book about Château de la Chevallerie called Town & Country which is scheduled to be published in 2022.

Room at Château de la Chevallerie | Photograph by Eric Piasecki

The lockdown has not slowed Corrigan down. “We’ve gotten four new projects during this process—new construction. That part has been busy. I’ve also used the time to develop a collection of new tiles for New Ravenna, the ‘Rolls Royce’ of tiles. I do the drawings myself. And I have a new collection of fabrics and rugs which I launched a year ago with Perrenials. I am also doing a third collection of china patterns for Royal Limoges. I have 14 sets of china at the chateau,” he admitted, which got us once again talking about tabletop.

Jardin Français Collection by Timothy Corrigan for Royal Limoges

With no social engagements or travel, he has found a bit of time for relaxing, “I have never been a television person, but I’ve started watching a new Australian series called ‘A Place to Call Home’, and time for reflection, he shared his perspective on this time we are living in: “I think it is so important for people to try to find the positive thing in all this; more time with family, not traveling so much. I am trying to consider what the gift is in this. To me that is the biggest lesson.”
Wise words.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for seven years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director-at-Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

At Home in Connecticut with Designer Bunny Williams

Anyone who knows interior design knows the name Bunny Williams. She has made an indelible mark and is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Her half-century career started with an apprenticeship at the legendary design firm Parish-Hadley Associates. Then, in 1988 she started her own firm and the rest is history. Bunny and her team work their magic for commissions across the globe, many for repeat, longtime clients.

Bunny has authored seven books on design and gardening, her latest Love Affairs with Houses (Abrams, 2019), presents new work from 15 houses she has decorated and fallen in love with. She has won numerous awards, has devoted her time to several philanthropic organisations and is a coveted speaker on the topics of design, gardening, and entertaining. The San Francisco Fall Show has featured her in its Lecture Series several times over the years.

Bunny and her husband, the antiques dealer John Rosselli, have their primary residence and offices in Manhattan, but for the last six months of 2020, they have been hunkering down in their home in Connecticut, which is where she was when we chatted by phone. “Do I ever want to go back to New York City?” she mused, “many people in the city have moved out.” But her Connecticut home sounds dreamy. “I have a studio that is my office–it’s a house up on a hill in the clouds—a separate building next to our house, and I have built up an incredible library of samples and textiles there. I can’t tell you how much this studio means to me,” she shared. “If you can do your work in another place, you can reduce the time you spend in the city.”

Bunny created this spacious, bright studio space as a place to work, paint, study and be absorbed in her many projects. She wanted the space to feel modern in contrast to her more traditional house and barn.
Photograph by Carter Berg

Bunny’s homes have provided inspiration for many of her books, and with a collection of so many beautiful pieces, she had trouble picking a favourite. “It’s usually the newest thing I bought,” she confessed. But if I have to choose, I have a Danish Neo-Classical secretary desk in Connecticut; my house is Federal and it fits with the house, it has personality and I never get tired of it. I like things that are unique, that have a soul.”

Bunny purchased this Swedish secretary desk from Danish antiques dealer ​Arne Schlesch​ at auction when he was closing his New York shop to return to Denmark. The height of the piece helps balance the elevation of the door on the other side of the fireplace. Photograph courtesy of Bunny Williams

The secretary desktop: Bunny likes to surround herself with small objects that bring back special memories when she sits down at her desk.
Photograph by Timothy Street-Porter

Not wanting to leave out her New York residence, she shared: “John found a four-poster canopy bed at a Sotheby’s auction 30 years ago. It was designed by the Parisian designer, Serge Roche. It is covered with antique mirrors and I just love it.”

In Bunny’s New York City apartment, a mirrored bed by Serge Roche takes center stage in her bedroom. It is from the 1940s and previously belonged to socialite Dorothy Hart Hirshon. Bunny’s husband, John Rosselli, spotted it dismantled at a Sotheby’s auction years ago. Photograph by Reid Rolls

It was also not easy to nail Bunny down on a favourite room. “I move around a lot,” she admitted. “I use the whole house; I think people should use their whole house. We use every room. Sometimes people need to force themselves to use a room. For instance, if you have a formal living room that you find you rarely use, put a square game table in there for puzzles and chess and checkers, or put a TV in there, somewhere that you can hide it away,” she suggested.

“In the summer, we’re out on the screened-in porch a lot, but I suppose my favourite space is my huge studio. It’s a dream. I have a drafting table and I work here, the dogs are outside playing, then I go down to the house and have dinner with John,” she shared. “You have to live in your house. You have to decorate it, of course, but it’s the newspapers on the bench, the books on the shelf, the flowers and plants that make it a home,” she explained. “I love ‘playing house’.” I do flower arrangements every weekend and the house comes alive. Flowers keep a home from becoming stale.”

Screened-in Porch, Photograph by Tony Vu

Wicker chaises with botanical pillows make for the perfect reading spot.

A metal mesh table with four chairs is a common summer lunch spot.
Photograph by Tony Vu

An antique plant stand is covered with ivies, ferns, and other plants. A wicker dog carrier and a few birdhouses (which Bunny collects) are tucked underneath.

These pieces were collected over time with little emphasis on matching – though there is a pair of matching tole tables and rush-bottomed Irish chairs.

The lockdown–and being at home for such an extended period of time–has not changed Bunny’s design sense, “but it has slowed me down” she admitted. “For the first time I have had no speaking engagements, and no travel for six months! It has given me more time to focus on design and to think about things. I work on so many projects, it has given me time to do research.”

But even with no events or travel on the calendar, Bunny keeps busy. “I have a huge garden and I have been trying to learn the plant names and do a herbarium on all my plants. Pre-pandemic, I took a course at the New York Botanical Gardens, but the irony is that once the pandemic struck, I had to devote most of my extra time to the computer—there was such a learning curve for me–to work remotely, and so I haven’t had much time for the herbarium!”

But the downtime has allowed Bunny to focus on herself, “one thing I decided was to take the time to exercise more. I have a little gym, and I have a trainer who comes three days a week. I’ve allowed myself to take better care of myself.”

The 11-foot-long library table in the middle of Bunny’s studio is from RT Facts in Kent, Connecticut. Floors are polished concrete and the walls have a natural, hand-troweled finish. Photograph by Carter Berg

Bunny built bookcases along the North wall to house her collection of design, architecture, art and gardening books. Photograph by Carter Berg

As the Fall Show will be online, (on InCollect) this year, I asked Bunny what she will miss and what she loves about attending the annual San Francisco fair. To her, it is all about the dealers: “I love the variety of the dealers the show brings: French, English, Asian, Modern Art and Fine Art, decorative objects and furniture…” she said. “And the price points vary wonderfully. I have always bought something. You have to really walk around the show, you have to look at every booth, there is such great variety, and it is all so beautiful.”

Bunny speaking to a packed house at the 2019 San Francisco Fall Show Lecture Series

And what does she look forward to when the world goes ‘back to normal’? “I’m very happy right now,” she confessed. “I’ll be missing the city when the Fall comes; the openings, the theatre, opera and the culture, but being in my house in Connecticut, I have been able to enjoy something I haven’t really had the time to enjoy for the last 30 years. The plus is that I’m married to someone I want to be married to.”

I’d call that a big plus.

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

At Home with Interior Designer Nina Campbell

When Nina Campbell opened her eponymous firm in 1972, one of her first commissions was a castle in Scotland; she has not looked back since. Her unmistakably rich and elegant colour palette has made her one of the most influential designers in the world and her design firm is internationally known and respected.

Blue Arles Tray, Blue Monkey Napkin, Blue Gien Nets Plate from Nina Campbell shop

The business has grown to include a successful line of fabrics, wallpaper and trimmings distributed by Osborne and Little, as well as her retail shop, (a favorite of mine) for home accessories and gifts in London’s Knightsbridge neighbourhood and a showroom at the Design Center Chelsea Harbour. She has also authored several books on design.

Interior of Nina Campbell shop at 9 Walton Street, London

Campbell most recently spoke in the Fall Show’s Lecture Series in 2018. The panel discussion, “Divas of Design” featured Nina Campbell and Charlotte Moss, moderated by Show Chair, Suzanne Tucker. The design divas spoke to a packed house (who knew those words would become so taboo!?) “The Fall Show is always so glamourous and beautiful” she muses “I have found wonderful things there. I think there is a comradship amongst all the dealers. It is lovely to just connect and meet and talk with them. You might change your view on a style, or a period that you start to understand better. It’s like going to a museum.”

Nina Campbell speaking at the Divas of Design Panel at the 2018 Fall Show Lecture Series
Photography by Hernan Santander

I chatted with Campbell by phone from our respective London homes about design in the era of a pandemic. Luckily, isolation was not so isolating for Campbell, as she spent the beginning of the lockdown with her daughter and granddaughter on a farm in the country. “I did come back to my own home in London in June and promptly started cleaning out my cupboards.” She says being home has made her appreciate it more “everyone is always in a rush, coming in and out of the house, spending more time there, you can be amongst your possessions and appreciate them more. I think your possessions—the things you have bought on travels, that hold memories, that mean something to you, make a home.” She says. “I have lots of people in my home, and two pets. I also have my paintings, most of which are done by friends, and it’s all very cosy with people and memories.” When asked to name a favourite piece, she thought it over and replied “a Kate Malone ceramic pumpkin, inspired by the gardens at Waddeston (the 19th Century Waddeston Manor built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in Buckinghampshire).

Blue Sprig China, Blue Arles Tray from Nina Campbell shop

With more time spent at home, I asked what her favourite room is, where she goes for a moment of quiet and calm. “I love my bedroom because it looks out on the gardens” she shared. “It is peaceful. If I’m home alone I have the whole house, but with others there it’s wonderful to retreat to my bedroom.” But work needs a table “I work on my dining room table which is practically half in the garden.”

Tiffany Dining Table and Jennifer Chairs from Nina Campbell shop

She admits that the thing that has changed her perspective most is people’s attitudes. “Everything has become more casual” she says, “people coming by unannounced – the formality is gone.” But the isolation has not altered her design sense. “I haven’t really isolated as I was with family. Now I go into shops, talk with neighbours. It hasn’t really affected me. I talk endlessly to friends, especially in my neighbourhood. I have enjoyed the more casual social engagements. I haven’t been commuting. I am not travelling so my dogs are thrilled.”

A selection of Miami and Kendall desk accessories from Nina Campbell shop

Campbell says her clients attitudes have not changed much with one exception: “I think everyone has carried on, but in the shop I have seen people wanting new things. Tabletop has become much more in demand – people are growing tired of their place settings as they are now eating at home for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They want some variety, something new.”

Green Gallina Linen, Green Nets Gien Plate, detail, Nina Campbell shop

Blue Gallina Matte Linen, Blue Gien Nets Plate, Bistrot Cutlery, Nina Campbell shop

These days, spontaneity is what Campbell misses most, and the theatre, the opera, the ballet, and travel. Everything is just so much more complicated- “It stops you from being spontaneous.” She shares. “But there are people suffering so much more so I just feel incredibly lucky actually. In a way there have been many silver linings, but I feel uncomfortable enjoying it. I am very aware of it all.”

By Ariane Maclean Trimuschat
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.

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
Ariane served as Show Director for the San Francisco Fall Show for 7 years through 2019. She is now the show’s international liaison as Director at Large, living in London with her family.  Follow Ariane on her blog, Sojournest, where she focuses on all things home and travel.