Excerpt: Book
American Fashion Designers At Home

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, where we attempt to travel to the very heart of creativity, 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.”

From American Fashion Designers at Homeby Rima Suqi. Copyright 2010 and reprinted with permission from the publisher, Assouline.

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Isaac Manevitz of Ben-Amun: Design aficionados should be salivating at this photo. In the relatively unassuming entrance to Manevitz’s New Jersey home sit two very important pieces of furniture — an end table designed by Michele de Lucchi in 1984 and a sofa designed by Peter Shire in 1986, both produced by Memphis, the furniture collective founded in the 1980s by Ettore Sottsass and others. Turns out that Manevitz, the designer of Ben-Amun jewelry, is a collector of Memphis furniture. His other pieces include the totem-like Carlton shelf and the Treetops lamp, both designed by Sottsass, and four chairs by de Lucchi.

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Reem Acra: The Lebanese-born designer, who made her name creating ultra-luxurious bridal gowns, put two lofts together to form a 3,200-square-foot apartment in New York City. “I loved the grandeur of the space when I walked in,” she recalls. Acra collects "anything that has great color or texture" and is especially fond of little dolls. Her first ad campaign was shot by Ruven Afanador in 1999. “I couldn’t stop looking at it and decided to blow it up and live with it. I had it made into wallpaper,” she says. The sofa is a 1950s flea market piece she had reupholstered in fuchsia fabric.

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Nanette Lepore: The Ohio native hired Jonathan Adler to give her place a personality while, he recalls, “leaving room for dancing.” The strategy was to render the walls and floors fairly neutral while infusing lots of bold color through furnishings — a mix of Adler’s own pieces, vintage modern furniture, ethnic accents, a touch of Hollywood Regency, and accessories from Lepore’s various collections. Above the mantle hangs a painting of Eva Perón found at a flea market. The glass ship chandelier is antique.

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John Whitledge of Trovata: Having an apartment above a service station isn’t something most people would desire — unless, of course, that station services classic cars and is in a building that's a protected landmark in Laguna Beach, California. Such is the life of Trovata's John Whitledge, who with his wife, Manuela, scored a two-bedroom apartment with ocean views in a building locals call The Boathouse. “I love running down to the beach for a quick surf or for a relaxing read on the sand,” he says. “Afterwards, I feel like I just came back from a nice vacation.”

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Johnson Hartig of Libertine: Delightfully colorful and anything but minimalist, Hartig's home is filled with a curated clutter of collections that range from the unexpected (such as Staffordshire porcelain dogs) to the fashionable (works by Damien Hirst). He studied painting and drawing and later worked as an assistant to an interior designer, which may explain his very studied use of color and seemingly perfect placement of furniture and objects. He says that the houses he admires most are a mixture of new and antique, and admits to loving English Country and Americana styles.

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Jenni Kayne: “I like to call this my modern barn,” says Kayne of the home she shares with her husband, Richard Ehrlich, their son, Tanner, and two French bulldogs. “We bought an Amish barn in Pennsylvania and had all the wood brought over here. So all the wood in the house is reclaimed.” It took more than two years to make the 1980s Beverly Hills structure liveable. “We gutted it, took it down to the studs,” she says. Here, a large soaking tub from Waterworks is the focus of the master bathroom, which looks out onto a bamboo garden.

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Rachel Roy: “Because I am constantly surrounded by colors, prints and fabrics at work, I like my apartment and my bedroom to be as clean and sparse, yet as comfortable, as possible,” explains Roy of her overall design philosophy. Her Poliform modernist sofa is strewn with colorful throw pillows, some made from Hermès scarves and others from fabrics she found in Ghana while on a trip for OrphanAid Africa. The oversize, industrial-style lamp is from the Wyeth showroom in New York City.

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Max Azria of BCBG: Azria's 60-room colonial-style mansion dates to 1924 and was designed by Paul Williams, a celebrity favorite at the time (he created homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball, and designed the Beverly Hills Hotel). The house once belonged to I Dream of Jeannie creator Sidney Sheldon. Pieces such as the light fixtures and poufs are a nod to Azria's North African heritage.