The New York Post November 2014: "The Designer Who Dares"
February 5, 2015
"A new book reveals the elegant impact of Richard Mishaan on Gotham and beyond. In a city that the world's One Percent has turned into it's real estate playground, there's a lot of temptation for top decorators to operate on autopilot. For many clients, a random assortment of the most expensive design operations would be perfectly fine.
That's why the approach of interiors guru Richard Mishaan, on display in his just-released second book, 'Artfully Modern' (Monacelli Press, $65), looks a feels a little different. To be sure, the book is thoroughly high-end-- no one wants to look at a coffee-table book of average-looking spaces, after all-- but Mishaan has a more populist take than you might expect.
'I don't like it when someone walks away from something because it's not expensive enough,' says the talkative and frank Mishaan, 55, who is based in New York and does much of his work here for both private residences and hotels, including a revamp of the suites at the St. Regis in 2010. 'I think it's really more about having an eye than having a certain amount of money.'
'Artfully Modern' features lavish spreads, like the lower Manhattan duplex penthouse for a well-to-to business man, for which Mishaan created a limestone stair hall whose walls sport a custom basket-weave pattern, but the designed also sells items for under $100 in his Greenwich Village design shop, Homer.
'I have had the same sofas for the past 20 years,' he adds, 'referring to his Upper East Side apartment, which is also featured in the book. 'They've been reupholstered once, but I feel like if you buy good things one time, they'll just last.'
The experience of his first book, 'Modern Luxury,' published in 2009, has also had an effect on how Mishaan talks about his work. 'The economy had crashed, and it seemed like we had to apologize for how opulent it was,' he says of the tome. 'What I wanted to show this time was more of a range. I wanted to show the ideas behind designing and how they affect you.' Mixing eras and styles is common these days, but for Mishaan it's been something very religious for the past 30 years. 'If you look in the living room, it's the most disparate objects,' he says of his art-stuffed apartment, where he lives with his wife, Marcia, and two children, Nick, 20, and Ali, 18.
There are works by modern masters who riff on comics and graffiti like Kenny Scharf and KAWS, but also a 16th-century gilded Italian mirror and furniture from the 1930s and '40s. One thing that comes through loud and clear in the book is Mishaan's love of color, particularly in his Hamptons house, also featured in the book--a bright, blue-and-white kitchen, and a riot of flame stitches, stripes, and plaids everywhere.
Born in Cartagena, Colombia, and raised partly in Italy, Mishaan was surrounded by color from a young age. 'My Colombian heritage completely impacts me,' he says. 'The cities are more colorful.'
Mishaan, who moved to New York in 1978, still keeps roots in his native country; his getaway house in Cartagena, a 16th-century gem with a courtyard pool and roof deck, reflects not only his commitment to color (mustard-hued accents on the exterior) but another decorating trend. 'What's kind of cool about it is I designed it like a boutique hotel,' says Mishaan, a hotel interiors specialist who created the design scheme for the rooms and most public spaces at the recently opened Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach. His AC by Marriott in Miami debuts next year.
'So many people are asking for their homes to be just like that fabulous hotel they stayed at,' Mishaan says. 'So the crossover became more and more seamless.'
His spacious Cartagena home is streamlined, but not antiseptic. 'Every room has the same bed, there are only three main materials through the entire project-- red doors, ebonized wood, and one marble style,' says Mishaan. 'Every bathroom has the same sinks, the same fittings, the same everything. And them we added one or two pieces of furniture that make each room different.'
The concept of houses acting as cozy repositories fir art and other collections is key for Mishaan, as evidenced by the SoHo loft he designed for a couple that accommodates everything from grand antique furniture to taxidermy and contemporary paintings. In his own Cartagena bedroom, there are 11 paintings of tall ships tightly hung together on one wall-- not particularly fine artworks, but strong evidence of personality. 'The thing I think that is most consistent in my design life has been to find a way for disparate objects to coexist beautifully,' Mishaan says. 'It's been about finding a way to show it and make it come alive.'"
Richard Mishaan's Five Tips for Decorating in Small Spaces:
Give it a lift: Paint the walls a warm white and the ceilings a brighter white-- the room will seem to have higher ceilings.
Just float: In a small bedroom, 'float' the bed (instead of putting it against the wall) and place a desk behind the headboard. That maximizes spaces, creating two usable areas.
Get low: Low club chairs are a good way to open up a room. And they are usually comfortable and cozy.
Think big: Pain the wall behind the couch a strong color-- it will be perceived as a large gesture, and large gestures infer large rooms.
Split it up: In a small living room, trying two floating incidental tables instead of one big coffee table. That opens up the floor plan.