In the virtual world of Instagram and, more importantly, Instagrammers, one account has emerged as the subject of extreme fascination: @terra_naut.
The account is the place to go for evocative images from the worlds of art, architecture, design, and décor. With its exquisitely edited point of view, Terranut has built a following of over 54,000 people in just under a year. Followers include Bunny Williams, Richard Mishaan, and Ken Fulk, along with assorted glitterati such as Sofia Vergara.
The condition of our in-person meeting was preserving his partial anonymity. Indeed, not knowing who Terranaut actually is may very well be part of the allure (his profile picture, above, is that of Roger Moore as James Bond.) What can be revealed is that he is a married Generation X-er and father of four living in South Florida.
Tall, dark, and softly handsome in a sleepy, Robert Mitchum way, he has only posted one selfie and precious few words, preferring to let his pictures do the talking. "The emphasis is on the naut," he says, "traveling to a more genteel time."
By day, he works as a tech entrepreneur, primarily in the healthcare space. But for approximately 10 hours a week, he morphs into a combination of Ralph Lauren, Diana Vreeland, and Fleur Cowles, all legendary tastemakers and curators of style. With laser-like accuracy, his carefully considered postings strike targets deeply imbedded in the smart set.
When asked why he does it, when most young suburban dads would be watching their kids’ soccer games or find themselves on the golf course, he turns wistful. "I feel like I have to do it," he says. "Like an artist."
Does Terranaut take his own pictures? Not really, preferring to post images that he culls from exhaustive online searches. "I started by posting pictures of my own watches, a favorite pair of shoes," he says. "But as this whole thing grew, I wanted to show less of me and more of the world beyond."
Indeed, what started as a little hobby, fueled by a love of "finer things," has grown into an alter ego bordering on cult celebrity status. And, as tech savvy as he is, Terranaut understands the algorithms that drive building a sizeable following on Instagram.
Highly liked posts generate more followers, which in turn inspires him to create more popular postings. And as addicted as he may be to the process, his fans are equally smitten. Even his verbiage is admired, "What he says in so few words speaks volumes," says one design pro who, like Terranaut, preferred to remain anonymous. Another well-known interior designer has asked him to consult on overall brand strategy and development (yes, really).
Clearly Terranaut enjoys the process, showcasing an appreciation for beauty and a deep knowledge of traditional design. He freely admits that he would have loved to study fashion at school instead of business and finance.
But it’s the "likes"—those little heart shaped endorsements—that fuel his fire. Hundreds, even thousands of individuals, tap-tap-tapping their approval and, maybe, their affection. "It’s better than any design magazine," says Harry Bader, a visual merchandising designer who has worked for Bergdorf Goodman, Estée Lauder, and Banana Republic. “I truly enjoy his sensibility,” says Tom Shaffer, a stylish New York and Palm Beach ad exec. "His posts capture timeless classics and simple good taste."
At the end of the day, what’s the upside for Terranaut besides his own personal feel good takeaway? Are there any real benefits to the searching and posting, the relentless pursuit of inspiring images that will make design-savvy spirits soar out there in the dark of the internet?
Perhaps. Slowly, he has responded to a few requests for in-person meets and has built a small network of friendships; mostly design professionals who invariably want to throw lunches and cocktail parties in his honor. "I prefer small groups or just one-on-ones," he says.
The emphasis is on the naut—traveling to a more genteel time.
This irony is part and parcel of Terranaut’s identity. On the one hand, there's his shy demeanor and an admitted discomfort with large groups; on the other, a willingness to connect digitally with 54,000 people. One the one hand, his passion for exquisitely detailed interiors and elegant edifices; on the other hand, the reality of living fairly simply in the South Florida suburbs.
Fantasy or reality? It's hard to know what's the real Terranaut. But his Instagram account's description says it all: "Lost somewhere between a dream, and the sea..."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.