Designer Victoria Hagan
This year, Elle Décor named her as one of the top 25 designers on the globe who “define our world.” When it comes to letting the outdoors in, with all the “white stuff,” she’s the princess of upscale residential interior design. And this month, her debut coffee table book-written by her actress-journalist sister Marianne Hagan-hits the better book stands.
The quintessential Upper East Sider, Hamptonite, and Nantucket “red,” Victoria Hagan’s debut tome “Victoria Hagan: Interior Portraits“(Rizzoli, $50) provides vicarious, visual eye candy to anyone who loves inspired, function-meets-form décor. It’s also a terrific read about her childhood inspirations, the way that nature guided her way, and how she rose up in the ranks of great designers, while defining her signature “letting-the- outdoors-in” style-a style which has been put to usage in many dream residences of the media elite and others of refined, but comfort-seeking, taste. Step inside the book, and pour yourself a Sancerre. Here, Hagan tells it like she visualizes it.
ROOM 100: What is the most “perfect” building designed in the world?
VICTORIA HAGAN: The main house of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. That’d be at the top of my list. What’s always struck me about it, and so many others, of course, is that even though it was built more than 200 years ago–and was influenced by neoclassical architectural principals, and has what’s considered a “traditional” look–it’s also quite “modern.” Jefferson was so aware of allowing “the outside in,” a distinctly modern notion we almost take for granted in great design today. He made sure to site the house at the highest level of elevation on the property to take maximum advantage of the views and light. He painted the ceiling of the dome room what he called “Mars yellow, and, based on the suggestion of his friend, the painter Gilbert Stuart, painted the floors of the main entrance hall “true-grass green” to evoke the feeling of the surrounding farmland. He also had an amazingly contemporary sense of space. He disliked clutter and a lot of furniture–a waste of space. So the beds were built into the walls, which also contained storage space, and the dining table was only erected at mealtimes. It’s rather stunning how ahead of his time he really was. Striking that right balance between the traditional and the modern is something I always aim for in my own design.
What’s your favorite commercial packaging?
The turquoise Tiffany’s box. It’s actually a trademarked color called “Tiffany Blue,” Pantone color #1837, named for the year Tiffany’s was founded. I love that detail. It’s an unexpected color for any commercial packaging, but has become iconic, timeless.
How does your own personal look translate to the furniture and interiors you design?
I honestly don’t consider myself to have a “look.” But when it comes to the furniture I design, what’s most important is that it’s comfortable. And the dimensions of a piece are key to making it that. I generally don’t believe in “perfection,” but there is a seat height and depth for a chair or sofa and their relationship to the dimensions of a coffee table or side table that is most comfortable…let’s say “approaching perfection.” It’s paramount that the interiors I design facilitate a sense of ease in my clients’ lives. The book focuses solely on my residential projects, and I discuss how, like any creative process, it involves an intimate, ongoing dialogue with my clients about their needs and tastes. Ultimately, when it gets down to brass tacks-sometimes literally–I just want to make happy homes.
What is your favorite restaurant design, and why?
If pressed to name only one, I’d have to say the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building here in New York City. It’s interior was designed by the architects of the building itself: Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Interior design should be fluid and mutable. Taking that notion further, I love that the waiter’s uniforms and the interior’s trees change with each season. If we adjust our wardrobe to the seasons, why shouldn’t we adjust our interiors? Life isn’t stagnant-it’s constantly evolving–and the interiors in which we live our lives should reflect that. In the book, I talk about how the “unexpected detail” thrills me, and the wading pool in the middle of the restaurant does just that. Of course, without divine food, a restaurant’s design means nothing. Fortunately, the Four Seasons has both.
What word in “design” terms do you think is over-used?
“Whimsical. It implies randomness. There’s nothing random about good design.
If there is just one object you could buy for your home (be it furniture, art, a sculpture), what would it be?
It would have to be a Henry Moore sculpture for my garden. Now THAT would be perfect.