From the Archives: An Insightful Interview with Cindy Rinfret

Some interviews stand the test of time. While moving offices to our gorgeous new design studio at 39 Lewis Street (where this stunning Gracie paper just went up) we re-discovered this interview from 2012, published by WAG on the cusp of the publication of Cindy Rinfret's second Rizzoli book, "Greenwich Style Inspired Family Homes."

This interview still rings true to Rinfret's iconic style and perspective -- travel informs design, every project is unique, homes should reflect the lives of the people who live there, and mixing styles is the secret to avoiding "embassy decorating." (And Rinfret also proves here that she can forecast trends, having declared that brass is back five years ago.)

Below is an excerpt of the interview:

How would you describe your personal style?

Ever since I was young I spent all my money on traveling and seeing the world. In a lot of ways, my personal style is a collection of all my travels. It is sort of Loro Piana and Hermès: It’s timeless, it’s classic and it’s comfortable. Hopefully, the rooms that I design are like that.”

Do you design rooms for your clients the way you would design them for yourself?

“My design style is not Cindy Rinfret. It is a collaboration of the house, the gardens, the family and their lifestyles.  And I just interpret it for them in the best way that I can.

“Someone once asked me to do an aqua and black room. It wasn’t what I would have thought of doing, but we did it and it was absolutely gorgeous. Is it for me? No, but they love it.

Who are your clients?

“Most of my clients are repeat clients.  I’ve done 14 houses for Tommy Hilfiger, homes for Regis Philbin, and I work with a lot of Wall Street people. We have fashion people and many more I can’t name because of non-disclosure agreements. But we also work on smaller projects as well.”

What types of projects do you do?

“Some people look at us as traditional, but if you look at the first book and the second, you’ll notice that each project is different. We’ll do a ranch in Wyoming, a contemporary stone and glass house in Vail, Colo., an iconic presidential suite at The Ocean House in Rhode Island, a duplex at The Plaza (in Manhattan) and a traditional house in Connecticut.”

If a client comes to you with an art collection, does it affect how you approach their design project?

“The art can sometimes inspire a room and the color palette.

Like the client who owned a series of 14 Alexander Calder drawings and we used it as a backdrop in the library.

“Regis had this whole collection of photographs from Dean Martin to Frank Sinatra. He also had a great chandelier he’d gotten from Tavern on The Green when it closed, because he loved going there. Regis said to me, ‘I have this great chandelier and I have these great photographs. Can you design around that?’ We built a whole bar around that. You get inspiration from every direction.”

What are some of the biggest design mistakes people make in their home?

“Poor planning. They buy one piece of furniture and try to build a room around it. Novices often make the mistake of worrying about details when they should be worrying about the big picture.

“What’s important is to get the ‘shell’ of the house right. By that I mean the bones – the walls, lighting, hardware, paint and flooring.  If you have a great backdrop, the rest of the decorating stands the test of time.

“Another mistake people make is they’re afraid to mix styles and different periods. That’s what makes a house interesting.  It avoids what I call embassy decorating, where everything is so perfect you don’t want to go in the room and touch anything. It’s a stage set.

Which design trends are hot?

“One of the things I find exciting is the evolution of outdoor spaces and outdoor living. There’s something about gardens that makes everyone happy.  I like using outdoor elements indoors and inside elements outside.

“We had this very formal limestone mansion and when you walked in, we had these two stone garden benches in the front entry instead of what you would expect, and it just felt natural. Then we put these velvet cushions on the stone benches, which looked really cool.”

What do you clients seem to want lately? 

“My clients seem to favor large, beautiful upholstered headboards instead of traditional wood-framed beds. People are focusing on their bathrooms. I’m always getting requests for spa-like bathrooms. I’m also getting requests for yoga rooms.”

What trends are out?

“Everything used to be polished nickel, and it’s going back to oil-rubbed bronze and more to the gold finishes. Gold is back.”

“Mirrored furniture is everywhere, and it’s run its course.

Home theaters and armoires have become less popular, because of the evolution of flat-screen TVs.”

How do you feel about social media and has it had an effect on your business?

“Social media is a fabulous tool. It gives you the ability to reach out to so many people and show people what you do.

I’ve been amazed how much I’ve showed up on other people’s blogs, because they see what I do and write wonderful comments about my work, which is very gratifying.”

Read the full article here.