David Phoenix at Home, and on the Move
A master at combining modern and traditional design elements and creating interiors that are thoughtful, well designed and, most importantly, liveable, David Phoenix is one of America’s most influential interior designers. His firm, David Phoenix Interior Design has won numerous awards, and his interiors have appeared in, and on the cover of, the major national design magazines and industry publications. In addition to his full-service design firm, he has created a line of furniture, lighting and decorative accessories for Hickory Chair and a collection of fabrics and trims for Kravet.
I chatted by phone with Phoenix, who has attended the San Francisco Fall Show almost every year since 1994 and has been featured in the Lecture Series. He is a devotee of the show, “it’s the best of it’s kind” he shared. “The quality of the dealers–the Show has trusted dealers–which is nice; everyone puts their best foot forward. It is incredibly well run and has the best speakers. If you want great antiques, it’s where you go.”
Photograph by Jean Rendazzo
A Cross Country Move
2020 has been anything but boring for Phoenix who moved in the midst of the pandemic. “I wanted a new chapter,” he said. “I was in Los Angeles for the beginning of the lock down but I moved to Palm Beach in June. It’s a different vibe here, the light is different. It was something I had been wanting to do, and the pandemic brought the opportunity for looking at things differently. I’ve never been happier; it was time. I had been in L.A. since I was a teenager, for 35 years. The reasons I moved there were different than the reality of today, but this whole thing forced me into it. I felt like once I made the decision to do it, everything fell right into place. I was able to use the quarantine time to go through storage and lighten my load,” he shared. “There is something very freeing about letting go of things; being a designer I always want to redo rooms. When you start becoming controlled by your things, it becomes cumbersome. It’s cathartic to get rid of stuff, you learn what’s important to you. When you have things in storage-it’s impossible to remember what you have. I encourage people to purge,” he advises.
Turning a House into a Home
Phoenix believes the definition of home is different for everyone. “It’s about making it comfortable for you,” he says. “Some people are big into bedrooms, the right linens, pillows, etc. For me, I have a big collection of books: I read real paper books, and I like paper magazines and newspapers. I just like holding them, it’s easier. Once you look at a story online it’s hard to find again.” Phoenix finds his bedroom to be a place of quiet and calm. “I like to read in bed,” he admits. “I like to linger in the morning and ease into the day.” Home is also about food and Phoenix is an avid cook. “I spend a lot of time baking, I find it relaxing,” he says. “Then I bring it to someone.”
Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix
Running a Design Firm During Lockdown
Having just moved in the midst of a pandemic, Phoenix gave up his brick and mortar office in L.A. and has yet to open a new one in Palm Beach. “I like going someplace,” he admits. “I feel like as a designer, it’s nice to go to an office. I like the discipline of it and having a library of samples. Designers accumulate a lot of stuff,” he admitted. But business has not slowed. If anything, given how life has changed this year, for most people spending a great deal of time at home, says Phoenix, “I think everyone is in the redoing mood. When people are on the treadmill of life and have kids and work and life at high speed, they aren’t noticing things that were looking tired. Now that everyone is at home all day for school and work, people are looking at their homes differently, and they say, let’s redo this room now because its tired looking, or now that I’m cooking at home more I don’t have enough space. People are revisiting those rooms.”
Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix
An Active Dining Room
Phoenix is a great believer in dining rooms. “When I grew up you had dinner at home every night; going out was a special treat,” he says. “There is something to be said for eating at home: people gathering, coming together, whether you are single or in a family. (Pre-pandemic) many people were eating out seven days a week. Dining rooms are coming back in; people need a place to eat. We’re going to see a resurgence of dining rooms,” he predicts. “I have a library table/dining table in Palm Beach. It’s nice to get out of the kitchen, to set the table, making dinner special with flowers and music.”
Photograph courtesy of David Phoenix
On Shopping for Art and Antiques Online
The 2020 Fall Show, like many others is online this year, due to the pandemic. We chatted about buying art and antiques online versus at a show or gallery. Phoenix loves meeting dealers, developing relationships which then gives him peace of mind when buying from them online. “People need to touch and feel,” he admits. When buying online he offers some sage advice: “Ask a lot of questions” A few smart questions and requests he advises people to make before purchasing online:
• Ask for a photo of someone standing next to the piece, to get a sense of its true size
• Ask them to tip it over to see the bottom
• Ask them to hold a tape measure to it
• Double check how it is being shipped—who is paying for shipping?
Is it being white gloved delivered? Is it going to a receiver? Will the delivery person bring it in to the house or leave it on the curb?
• Is it insured on the trip?
• Is it blanket wrapped? Crated?
These questions are very important because you don’t want to get into a situation where you are finger pointing” he says. Sage advice.
A passion for Baking: Cake by David Phoenix
Life in the Era of a Pandemic
Now deep into 2020, we’ve all been through the ringer this year. “the first three weeks I did not leave the house,” Phoenix admits, “I would watch a movie in the middle of the day—if not now, when?” he laughed. “My diet went out the window with all the baking, I was definitely off my food game, it was hard. It got a little depressing from an isolation standpoint. I bought a bike and started bike riding, which I love and do everyday. It’s great to get outside and explore.”
“I’ve been very diligent about washing hands and wearing a mask–it’s not about taking a stance, it’s about being thoughtful—you wouldn’t sneeze on someone’s face or cough on them, it’s the same thing. I feel, especially now with everything going on, I have a new sense of gratitude: to be grateful that you are healthy. When you’re grateful, it’s hard to be angry or sad—when you switch your mindset from focusing on what you don’t have to the little things—I am grateful for my desk, good coffee, my Zoom meetings—it’s easy to add to that list.”
Such a simple and profound point of view.
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, design and travel.