The People, Places, and Social Forces Shaping Design Today
Why are your walls are swathed in silk? Why do you dream of working at Silicon Valley? Why do you opt for room service? Here's who's to blame.

Ken Fulk: Why you dream of working at Silicon Valley

If you work in tech and live in 94115, 94957, or 94022 (San Francisco, Marin, and Palo Alto), chances are your house, plane (like the one he did for an anonymous titan, above), or favorite bar was designed by the wizard of Silicon Valley, Ken Fulk. Sean Parker, whose wedding Fulk planned, sums up the phenomenon:

"Ken is the Frank Lloyd Wright of our generation. The greatest living genius of interior design and architecture. This will be clear to the world in due time, but for now he is willing to entertain our harebrained visions and realize them in a way that we could not have imagined."

Tom Scheerer: Why you renewed your club membership

With tropical design, there's a fine line between timeless fantasy and Disneyesque pastiche. That's why the world's toniest private clubs, including Lyford Cay and Mill Reef in Anguilla, call on the famously picky East Hampton native Tom Scheerer, whose designs, no matter how grand (see the 20-foot palms at Lyford), carry a trace of his own genteel genetics.

"A lot of highly curated rooms feel overdone. But in his work Tom plays with mismatched colors and materials, old and new, high and low, fussy and unfussy, in a way that bridges the gap between preppy Old World and deep exotic. Every time I return to the great room he designed a few years ago at Lyford Cay, it takes my breath away."—Rebecca de Ravenel, second-generation Lyford Cay member

Jim Thompson: Why your walls are swathed in silk

In 1967, Thompson, who single-handedly revived the ancient art of Thai silk-making, disappeared in the forests of Malaysia. His body was never found, but the business he created remains a revelation.

"Tony Duquette was a friend of Jim's and spent the Thanksgiving before he disappeared at his fabulous Bangkok house [now a museum]. Duquette had won a Tony for costume design for Camelot using Jim's iridescent silks. For me Thai silk is a must. Its jewel tones actually glow." —Hutton Wilkinson, interior designer

Bunny Williams: Why there's a topiary at the entrance

Like her mentors at Parish-Hadley, Williams and husband/business partner John Rosselli have left an indelible mark on the interior design business, not just with their exquisite taste but through their ability to nurture the industry's finest talent. Just look at their family tree.

The Establishment: Why everyone still loves a WASP kitchen


Establishment families have eschewed stainless steel and gadgetry in favor of tried-and-true formica countertops and rattan stools. (Case in point: Julia Child's kitchen, pictured above, preserved forever in the Smithsonian.) "Mother rules with an iron fist," Dede Wilsey told T&C of her mother Ruth Buchanan's Newport cottage, Beaulieu. "She lives in fear someone will change the color of the kitchen."

Alexandra Champalimaud: Why you opt for room service

She may not be a household name, but over the past decade Champalimaudand her design team have quietly overseen the refurbishment of some of the world's most iconic hotels, including the Beverly Hills Hotel Bungalows, the Bel-Air, and New York's Plaza, keeping the beloved bones but making them 21st century–friendly. Next up: new rooms at Aspen's Little Nell and Raffles in Singapore.

Nancy Epstein: Why you stare at the wall

What is it about mosaic? From the floors of ancient Roman villas to Chuck Close's much Instagrammed tile portraits adorning New York's new Second Avenue subway, the form has lasted for centuries. As Close told the New York Times of his underground works: "The richness of my art will be to simultaneously let people in on how many ways there are to build an image."

While Nancy Epstein may not be shown at MoMA, her original designs for Artistic Tile, which she founded in 1987, are coveted the world over. If that's not fine art, what is?

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud: Why one heliport is never enough

Saudi Arabia's $97 billion budget deficit didn't deter the king from expanding his vacation villa in Tangier. Here are just a few of the features of the half-mile-long compound: 1,500 yards of surrounding wall, medical facilities on the premises, a fleet of 100 Mercedes sedans and Range Rovers to carry the royal entourage around town, a circus tent, a palace, more than a dozen other buildings, and three helipads. In certain quarters, maximalism has never gone out of style.

Annabelle Selldorf: Why you like downtown New York

You can thank Selldorf for the fact that your NYC weekend itinerary includes a house museum (see: her flawless renovation of the Neue Galerie and the upcoming redo of the beloved Frick). But she is equally adept at downtown cool, as evidenced by the emergence of West Chelsea as a neighborhood with property values that eclipse those on Fifth Avenue and where she designed the first sky garage in Manhattan, at 200 Eleventh Avenue.


"She's so clear about what she wants to do and has a strong set of core beliefs, but she's also a great listener. I've tried working with other architects, and they were authoritative, but they just couldn't listen." —David Zwirner, a longtime friend for whom Selldorf has done 18 projects, in a 2014 profile in the Gentlewoman

The Busnellis: Why leather still means business

The Busnellis, better known by their business name, B Italia, have mastered the art of the leather accessory. Take American Psycho's Patrick Bateman's word for it—if you dare.

Scene: Paul Owen's apartment. Bateman is letting himself into the apartment. It is very similar to Bateman's, but even more minimalist. The walls are white-pigmented concrete with a large minimalist painting on the wall. One wall is covered in a trendy, large-scale scientific drawing above a long black leather couch.

Voiceover:"There is a moment of sheer panic when I realize that Paul's apartment overlooks the park—and is obviously more expensive than mine."

Daniel Romualdez: Why social media doesn't matter

He has no website. No Facebook account. His e-mail is a closely guarded secret. Yet Daniel Romualdez's designs for jewelry titans (the Belperron salon in NYC), rock stars (Mick Jagger), and himself (one of his four homes used to be owned by Bill Blass) have made him famous—among a certain set. But he's no snob. Romualdez's inimitable Mongiardino-esque Fifth Avenue glamour mix is accessible to anyone in the market for a Tory Burch Reva flat. (He also designed Burch's homes in New York, Southampton, and Anguilla.)

"Daniel is a visionary. He has been a great friend and partner on projects from my home to our stores. His taste is simply exquisite." —Tory Burch

The Westons: Why you take the cart instead

In 1989, Canada's unofficial royal family, supermarket magnates W. Galen Weston and his wife Hilary, decided to build Windsor, a gated community for their well-heeled friends, in Vero Beach, Florida. But it's no Stepford: The Westons employed New Urbanist architecture firm DPZ, which has used its holistic approach to community building—as well as a love of the electric golf cart—everywhere from Scotland to Saudi Arabia.

"I have visited Florida ever since I was a child. My grandparents lived there, and we fell in love with it. Windsor is so family-oriented—the children can run around and truly be kids. It's a place for relaxation and connecting with nature." —Nadja Swarovski, Windsor resident


Federico de Vera: Why hoarding became cool again

Despite his youthful appearance, the Philippine native Federico de Vera has been crafting modern-day cabinets of curiosities, as well as his own jewelry creations, since 1991. In the process he has earned the loyalty of such c­reative leaders as stylist Lori Goldstein, photographer Bruce Weber, and rug designer Madeline Weinrib.

"He's really an artist," Weinrib says. "There's always a surprise at his New York store—something I haven't noticed before. He creates drama and a sense of theater simply by the way he arranges and rearranges objects."

This story originally appeared on
* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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