There’s a certain taboo attached to pop stars who attempt to forge acting careers, and vice versa. Painters aren’t normally supposed to take up fashion design, and just because you’re a great photographer doesn’t mean you’ll make a great chef. But here at Sight Unseen, we delight in any and all cross-disciplinary meanderings, which is why our ears perked up when we heard about American Fashion Designers at Home, by Rima Suqi. Even if some of the more than 100 CFDA members featured in the book hired professionals to craft their spaces, the translation of their aesthetics from one genre to another is an endless source of curiosity. “Each of the living quarters featured in this book offers insight into a designer’s style on a very personal level,” writes Suqi in her introduction. “It’s a visually fascinating and ultra-voyeuristic peek into the way they live, the furnishings they choose, the artwork they collect, and the palettes they play with.”
But while Ralph Lauren’s Colorado ranch is an almost comically literal, maximalist interpretation of his brand’s raison d’etre, with antlers, flags, and Native American crafts piled atop every inch of the house, other designers seem to have put up a barrier between the look they peddle at the office and the one they choose to come home to. Lela Rose, Suqi points out, lives in a loft designed by a former OMA employee that lacks any of the frills that drip from her dresses. “Many of the designers interviewed admitted that while their offices and ateliers might reflect that energy, they prefer their homes to be more sedate and calming — a place of refuge,” she writes. The selections we chose to highlight in this slideshow — with captions excerpted from the book’s text — fall somewhere in the middle, but either way, it makes for great reading when “every turn of the page brings another revelation or unexpected tableau.”
Two hundred years ago, when American pioneers were streaming across the country making homes for themselves in the uncharted wilderness, anyone who needed a corn grater or a mouse trap had to knuckle down and make one. “Everyone was a designer,” says Paul Loebach, who’s long been fascinated by such primitive, purpose-built objects, typically hand-carved in wood or crudely forged in metal. “Whereas Europe had a network of goods trading, for the settlers it was like, we’re limited to these five square acres. They had to be really clever to make the most out of what they had, and that kind of ingenuity is inspiring to me.” Already knowing this about the Brooklyn designer after interviewing him last November, Sight Unseen invited him to choose his favorite objects from the 1972 book American Primitives, which we found at an Ohio flea market for $2 and which contains several dozen annotated selections from Norris, Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia.
It takes the Zürich-based fashion duo Ikou Tschüss a full week to hand-knit the blankets from their winter collection — each ringed with dangling sleeves to appear as though it’s hugging the bed — and maybe a day to knit one of their bulky sweater dresses. Even silk shifts are hand-printed and edged with rows of crochet, the pair's signature trope. Add to all that labor the fact that Carmen D'Apollonio spends the majority of her time in New York, where she’s been the right-hand-woman to Swiss artist Urs Fischer for the past eight years, and it’s a good thing she and partner Guya Marini have help. “Most of our knitting is done by Swiss grandmothers now,” says Marini.
Most people, if given the luxury of a third bedroom in a house they share only with a spouse, might choose to turn it into a guestroom, or a studio, or maybe a study. Kristen Lee, a stylist and co-owner of L.A.’s fashion and design emporium TenOverSix, turned hers into a walk-in closet. Step inside and you’ll discover rolling racks of designer and vintage, scarves tossed carelessly around a dress form, shoes lined up in neat little rows, a steamer in the corner, and accessories spilling out over the dresser. And yet for someone so clearly attuned to and obsessed with fashion, it’s not the clothes you first sense when you enter the Ed Fickett–designed, mid-century, Nichols Canyon home she bought last year with her husband and then “renovated the shit out of,” as she says. It’s the incredible proliferation of art. Stephen Shore, Banksy, Leopold Seyffert, Nan Goldin — and that’s just in the living room.