great rooms

‘I Decorate As If I Owned a Child’

When you’re Amy Sedaris, you don’t need a baby to furnish a nursery.

Crafter-actor-author Amy Sedaris in her entrance hall. The painting at left is by her brother David. The bulldog portrait, originally commissioned as a prop for the play Come Back, Little Sheba, is by David’s boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick, who also painted the frame directly onto the wall. Photo: Dean Kauffman
Crafter-actor-author Amy Sedaris in her entrance hall. The painting at left is by her brother David. The bulldog portrait, originally commissioned as a prop for the play Come Back, Little Sheba, is by David’s boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick, who also painted the frame directly onto the wall. Photo: Dean Kauffman

This story was originally published in the May 9, 2011 issue of New York Magazine.

I wouldn’t call myself a shut-in. I have the ability to leave my home; I just choose not to. But because I’m such a homebody, it’s important to be surrounded by things I love. I prefer items that convey a sense of mystery, playfulness, or theatricality. My favorite things often have a story behind them and are usually handmade or discovered at a flea market. My furniture is small and low. It’s not unlike living in a dollhouse.

Sometimes, to keep things exciting, I decorate my house as if I owned a child. I’ll toss a tiny pair of shoes in the hallway or lean small wooden crutches in what I refer to as “the baby’s room,” which is actually a tiny space where I make things. I continue to call it the baby’s room because it confuses people and it’s creepy.

I love theatrical props: a cup filled with solid fake tea, say, or a collection of fake food, including a rubber turkey, which, during the holidays, I wrap in tinfoil so it appears to have just come out of the oven. I also have a fondness for prosthetic skin disorders, artificial nails, and stage weapons. My favorite lamp shade is adorned with hair-sample swatches dangling from the rim. I have 60 wooden flying bats — 60!

So, what is my decorating philosophy? Mostly, I choose things on a whim and worry later about how they fit my décor. For many people, this wouldn’t be a big problem. But without any preplanning, why don’t you try and figure out where the antique wax medical model of syphilis goes — above the table with the taxidermy duck or next to the papier-mâché Cyclops? Hmmm … And now you begin to understand my world. — Amy Sedaris

Photo: Dean Kauffman
What Sedaris calls the “baby’s room” is actually her crafting corner. (“I never have children over, by the way.”) The pile of potholders on the floor are of her own creation. Photo: Dean Kauffman
The hallway leading to the bedroom is papered in Osborne & Little flocked wallpaper. The wood bats were made by artist Brock Shorno, whom Sedaris commissioned after finding two similar-looking bats at a flea market. Photo: Dean Kauffman
Sedaris’s living room contains some of her favorite pieces, including a lamp shade made with hair samples and a teacup filled with fake tea. Photo: Dean Kaufman
‘I Decorate As If I Owned a Child’