18 Architects and Interior Designers on Their Favorite Rooms of All Time

The New York residential spaces that have inspired them most over the years.

Photo: John M. Hall
Photo: John M. Hall

Seeing a really spectacular room — whether in a photograph or in person — can be a transformative, full-body experience. That is especially true when what you do for a living is design rooms; which became apparent when we asked 20 of the city’s architects and designers to sift through their mental Rolodexes and — out of all the New York kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms they’d observed throughout their long careers — land on one favorite. “It was like a dream, somehow familiar and otherworldly” is how Miles Redd describes his encounter with Oscar de la Renta’s living room. Doug Meyer recalls walking into Holly Solomon’s excessively tiled kitchen and realizing for the first time that a room could be a living work of art. Many of these spaces now exist, sadly, only in memory. But others continue to inspire. When Robert Couturier is feeling glum, all he has to do is go to the Met and imagine the Duchesse de Crillon laying her head on the simple alcove bed in the museum’s 18th-century period room, and he’ll immediately snap out of it.

Additional reporting by Alice Zhang.

*This article appears in the April 20, 2015 issue of New York Magazine.

Juan Montoya Picks Ward Bennett’s Living Room Designed by: Ward Bennett Location: The Dakota Year: Around 1965 “I first saw his apartment in the Dakota when I was a student at Parsons — I was there for a cocktail party and was taken by the clean, beautiful scale, the fact that it wasn’t overly decorated, the muted colors, and perhaps, at the end, the absence of color.” Photo: John Naar
Robert Couturier Picks a Boudoir From the Hôtel de Crillon Designed by: Pierre-Adrien Paris Location: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Year: Circa 1777–80 “When I feel blue, I come here and just stare. The room is very small, with one window and an alcove bed, all divinely upholstered, the woodwork perfectly decorated. But it’s the delicate atmosphere that I love. You can almost smell a faint whiff of roses and see in the pillows the forms of the woman who was resting there, simply passing the time.” Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Musem of Art
Ghislaine Viñas Picks Betsey Johnson’s Dining Room Designed by: Betsey Johnson Location: Fifth Avenue, Greenwich Village Year: 1995 “Here are two colors — a sweet pink, and a yellow with just the right amount of mustard — that are an unusual combination but work perfectly together. This room has so much spunk; it’s so feminine but with some solid masculinity. I’ve always appreciated it for balancing those qualities so well.” Photo: Ngoc Minh Ngo
Miles Redd Picks Oscar de la Renta’s Living Room Designed by: Robert Denning & Vincent Fourcade Location: Upper East Side Year: Circa 1980s “I remember my first visit: It was right when I started working for Oscar. Seeing it for the first time felt a little like a dream, somehow familiar yet otherworldly. There is a real sense of refusal that makes you feel as if only very special and particular things were allowed in.” Photo: Oberto Gili/Conde Nast
Kelly Behun Picks Lisa Perry’s Living Room Designed by: Tony Ingrao, with architect David Piscuskas Location: Sutton Place Year: 2002 “The grand living room, bathed in light from both sides, plus a skylight above, with a world-class view of the East River and the 59th Street bridge, plus the brilliant curved sofa and the massive Roy Lichtenstein would make even the most jaded person swoon. I asked if I could move in, and Lisa didn’t understand that I wasn’t kidding.” Photo: Peter Aaron/Otto
David Cafiero Picks Bill Blass’s Drawing Room Designed by: Chessy Rayner & Mica Ertegun Location: Sutton Place Year: 1990 “The first thing that really hit me and has stayed with me all these years is of course that round table. The way it anchored the room and yet allowed you to walk around it and discover all the amazing treasures that were piled up on it. Piles of books, bulbs, the staircase models. I remember lighting a Winston with a wooden match that was in a tortoiseshell box. I can still see the smoke drifting through the light of that beautiful afternoon.” Photo: Pieter Estersohn/Bill Blass Archives
Elaine Griffin Picks Mark & Duane Hampton’s Living Room Designed by: Mark Hampton & David Hicks Location: East 63rd Street Year: Around 1964 “It’s so darned groovy and just dripping with that authentic ’70s flair — the Lucite cubes! The ficus! — but it’s also a masterpiece in the art of combining black and white, which can be hard to do. And you can just imagine the tidy cocktail parties that happened here regularly, with Duane wearing a chic Schiaparelli shift that complemented the carpet.” Photo: John T. Hill
Jay Johnson Picks Andy Warhol’s Living Room Designed by: Jed Johnson Location: East 66th Street Year: 1977 “[My late brother] Jed and Andy moved here in 1974, and Jed finished the house in 1977. He spent hundreds of hours researching the Federalist period and tried to make the room as authentic as possible. He bought the best collection of American Federalist furniture that he could find and had the curtain-maker from the Metropolitan Museum craft the draperies. It was a room that was never used by anyone. It was like a period room at the Met. The few people that came over always stood in the doorway as if it were roped off and just looked. His house was so contrary to the image that people had of him.” Photo: Norman McGrath
Robin Osler Picks Tom Klinkowstein & Elizabeth Gillett’s Bathroom Designed by: Robin Osler Location: Hudson Street, Tribeca Year: 2001 “This was the second project I did with Tom. We exchanged photos of planets and stills of the spaceship in The Day the Earth Stood Still. By not hiding the loft’s bathroom behind walls, it was a way to get sunlight in there, allowing the bather to gaze toward the light, as if through a cloud.” Photo: John M. Hall
Zack McKown Picks Paul Rudolph’s Living Room Designed by: Paul Rudolph Location: Beekman Place Year: 1978 “Rudolph is often described as Brutalist, but there’s nothing severe or somber about the space. The thrusting I-beams, canopied walkways, and floating stairs create these beautiful social and living areas. And though the design looks so new, it really fits into the older building.” Photo: Peter Aaron/OTTO
Richard Mishaan Picks Nelson Rockefeller’s Living Room Designed by: Jean-Michel Frank Location: Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side Year: 1934 “I was at Galerie Vallois in Paris in 1982 when I first saw a book of Jean-Michel Frank’s work that featured Nelson Rockefeller’s apartment. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. I loved every single element — the mural painted by Matisse that surrounded the fireplace mantel; the paneling on the walls that had been shaped and ornamented to frame the murals; the leather-and-cane Bergères designed by Frank. I think that ever since seeing those photos, I’ve understood that an art collection infused by other collectible items like limited-edition [furniture] pieces by artists creates the most complete visual impact.” Photo: Ezra Stoller/Esto
Mark Zeff Picks David McDermott & Peter McGough’s Living Room Designed by: McDermott & McGough Location: Broadway, Williamsburg Year: 1992 “I first went to McDermott and McGough’s Brooklyn studio back when I didn’t know anything about Brooklyn. It was a Thursday-night party with lots of artists from Art et Industrie and a mad group of fashion folks including Stephen Sprouse and his entourage. They would host these tea parties, as if you were in the 1920s, all dressed in clothing from that period. This place was so not the norm for the time; it felt like being in an old photograph.” Photo: Pieter Estersohn
Doug Meyer Picks Holly Solomon’s Kitchen Designed by: Doreen Gallo Location: Sutton Place Year: 1984 “The first time I ever walked into Holly’s place, she opened the door and walked me to where I would expect there to be a classic kitchen, and instead I encountered one of the wildest site-specific works I’ve seen. Every freaking inch of every surface was covered in a free-for-all mishmash of tiles. Holly told me that she and her husband had had the artist Doreen Gallo create what she considered a ‘painting’ on the walls of the pantry and kitchen. It changed how I viewed rooms; I was able to see them as livable works of art.” Photo: John M. Hall
Patrick Mele Picks Robert Isabell’s Sitting Room Designed by: Robert Isabell Location: Minetta Lane Year: 1990 “The stone, slate, stucco, metal, they all blend and bounce off one another beautifully. And that Johnny Swing sofa — it’s like a piece of sculptural jewelry. Everything seems in harmony. The green dishes on the mantel, the green ivy creeping down outside the window. The room is transportive — you could be anywhere in the world, but you realize you’re inside an artist’s singular statement.” Photo: Courtesy of Southebys
Steven Sclaroff Picks Amanda & Carter Burden’s Drawing Room Designed by: Carter Burden Location: The Dakota Year: 1965 “In the ’90s, I got a copy of Vogue’s Book of Houses, Gardens, People from 1968 and saw the Burdens’ apartment at the Dakota for the first time. I couldn’t believe that people that young lived this way, and I like that it was referred to as a ‘drawing room.’ I am guessing they meant it and entertained other ridiculously chic young people there. And I love the happiness of the colors — how it’s so bold without being goofy.” Photo: Horst/Conde Nast
Alan Wanzenberg Picks Dorothy Norman’s Living Room Designed by: William Lescaze Location: East 70th Street Year: 1941 “One of its great appeals is comfort, what with all its casual and extensive seating. The room has the capacity for a large group but also provides intimacy and detail for one or two people.” Photo: Scott Frances/Architectural Digest/Conde Nast
Frank de Biasi Picks Bunny Mellon’s Dining Room Designed by: John Fowler & Imogen Taylor Location: East 70th Street Year: 1966 “I love those strié Prussian-blue walls, and her liberal sprinkling of over-the-top obelisks and objets by Jean Schlumberger, each jewel twinkling in the light of this bright corner room. Funnily enough, I ended up moving directly across the street, and was able to see Mrs. Mellon’s home and its plane trees every day — heaven!” Photo: Michael Dunne/Architectural Digest/Conde Nast
David Easton Picks Billy Baldwin’s Studio Designed by: Billy Baldwin Location: East 61st Street Year: Early 1970s “You could tell that Billy had pared down his life, and everything that was in that room had a special meaning to him — and those rich dark-brown walls were so chic. I look at it today, and you could transport the room to 2015, and it would still look fantastic.” Photo: Horst/Conde Nast/Horst-Estate
Architects and Designers on Their Favorite Rooms