Approach to Design
Text and Interview by Bob Colacello
BC: Do you have a particular approach to design? Or styles you like? You’re doing several projects now – do they have something in common?
RH: No, not really. The one thing I must look for throughout all of the projects is that my clients selected the house for a reason. They loved something about the house. I was speaking to a client last night and she said the house that she and her husband bought has a masculine feel to it, and she is right, it does. It just feels like a masculine home. So that is the kind of direction I would take with it. It is handsome but not a pretty home. It is not curvy or frou-frou. It has a masculine staircase and a very attractive design, and so that is the way I will go with the design. It has a historic date to it and I will honor that but will not go with a strict period design.
BC: I don’t like strict period rooms. Then you feel like you’re in museum.
RH: Yes, you expect a docent to come up to you and say, “This way please.” And it is not comfortable. Federal furniture was not designed to sit and watch TV on, and that is the way people live now. People want a TV in every room or they want a place where they can work on some kind of electronic device, an iPhone or iPad or laptop. Comfort is very important to people. Everything that you do, your clothes, your car, your travel, your seating – it’s all about comfort. But at the same time people want it to look elegant. So I strive to combine the two. Every room should be used in your house, and it should be comfortable and inviting. And when you entertain guests they should feel relaxed and comfortable being themselves.
BC: But yet the house has a certain style and flair.
RH: It can still be elegant and comfortable. It can be beautiful and it can be affordable and it can be beautiful and expensive. It looks nice and you’re pleased with it, and it is an extension of you and that is good. I want people to be able to attain a way of living that they want, that they see, and realize that it is attainable. You don’t have to have the most expensive silk to have silk pillows in your house. I find if you show clients something, and they like it, and they can see it in their house, and love it in their house, they will not want to go back to where they were before. They want to move in a new direction, and many times they’re willing to go in a direction that they wouldn’t have gone before. It is exciting for them.
BC: How important is art to a house? Or antiques and objets d’art?
RH: To me it is very important, because I like to sit in a room of my own and reflect on paintings or decorative pieces that bring back memories of a trip to somewhere special or a gift from a dear friend or just a piece of art that I love and can reflect on. Not everybody has the desire to collect art. So you have to find something else that is pleasing to them. It may be the view.
BC: Lots of mirrors.
RH: Yes, it may be looking at themselves in a mirror… which is fine…or portraits of themselves. I have found that when people come to my home that most of my guests have an opinion about my art.
Art is very important, but it may not be to the client. I have a client who just said to me “we don’t have any pictures” and that means that they don’t have any paintings/artwork and that is exciting to me…I can now introduce them to a whole new world. And their life will change if they embrace this new opportunity, and they will look at art in completely different way. I know for myself, I did not grow up in a house with a lot of art. I grew up in a very tropical climate, on the water, that was your surrounding.
BC: And the climate isn’t good for art?
RH: Yes, well it wasn’t that. There were plenty of beach paintings and stuff like that. But it wasn’t a part of our life. In my humanities class I was fascinated by all the beautiful art that we studied and wanted to see it for myself. But I never dreamed that I would have the beautiful collection of art that hangs in my apartment today…I just did not think that was achievable. It is really exciting for me when I get clients who are beginning to realize their success in their career and they are ready to start putting together a home and establishing themselves. It is about a lifestyle and people understand that they are making an investment.
BC: Well, actually that’s a good point too. Art and antiques are also investments that you can live with and enjoy.
RH: You can live with and enjoy, but also it’s about choosing a way to live. So many people go through life and they’re successful in however success is deemed-happiness, money, whatever. But do you ever take the time to 1) enjoy your children, 2) enjoy your family, 3) enjoy your pets, and 4) enjoy your home? Do you enjoy living where you live? Do you love the things you have surrounding you and do they make you happy? And if you don’t change them now, then when are you going to. I feel responsible, so when I am asked to design a space by my client, I want that space to be the most comfortable and pleasing. I love it when clients say “I can’t believe we just did this, my house is wonderful” and they look at everything differently. That’s exciting. That’s fun for the client and for me. You know, your home can take you to some really wonderful places that you never thought you could or would go. And you never have to leave your front door!