Handcrafted, organic, and rooted in nature: Australian architect and designer Craig Bassam and Scott Fellows, a former creative director in fashion, describe their style as “Craftsman modern.” A gorgeous wood grain is often all the ornament they need, whether they are designing spare interiors for the James hotel in Los Angeles or renovating their own Philip Johnson house.
Left: A suite in the James hotel in Los Angeles.
Call her a passionate neoclassicist. Born in Italy, Branca developed an aesthetic steeped in antiquity. Nonetheless, she’s a woman of our times. She likes comfortable rooms and the color red—also stripes that recall vintage mattress ticking. Expect h upholstery and fabrics, as well as shapes you’d find in a museum’s Greco-Roman hall, accented with anything from Moroccan mirrors to Chinese foo dogs.
Left: Branca’s Manhattan bedroom.
This New York decorator is known for her savvy updates on traditional Americana—from her handsome design for Bill Clinton’s Harlem offices to the spirited interiors of her own Colonial weekend home in New York’s Hudson Valley. She has a fashionista’s sense of pattern and color (yellow is a favorite) and an eye for the standout element—a rug, a Frank Gehry cardboard chair—that makes a room click.
Left: A guest room in Bridges’s Harlem apartment.
As you might expect from a Polo Ralph Lauren alumnus, this New York designer’s rooms tend to be masculine, well tailored, and timeless. He likes his palette neutral, but the Florida-born designer isn’t afraid of shades like light blue and royal purple either. He mixes crisply upholstered custom-made pieces, American antiques, and accessories ranging from Coromandel screens to rough-hewn doors set into pristine white walls, all resulting in a quietly invigorating look.
Left: Cunningham’s living room in upstate New York.
De la Torre worked at , studied at in London, teamed with , and created furniture and lighting for . Now based in Manhattan, he specializes in projects created around art collections. Among his triumphs is the historic , New York, a 1900 Jacobean Revival house. De la Torre’s rooms are luxurious, comfortable, and adventurous.
Left: A sitting room at Cooper Mansion in Tuxedo Park.
If Michael Bloomberg is a modern Medici, then Jamie Drake is his Michelangelo. Of course, this New York decorator with the famously fearless sense of color has also created a home for Madonna, but it’s his 20-year working relationship with New York City’s mayor that has helped define his design career. Mint and turquoise, purple and red, fuchsia and black: Drake never met a color combination he didn’t take for a whirl.
Left: Drake’s Manhattan living room.
Even before this affable decorator appeared on TV’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in 2003, he was a rising star in the design world. He cut his teeth working for Parish-Hadley, Robert Metzger, and . Filicia—a self-described “democratic design snob”—believes passionately in personal style. He loves the big mix, unconventional pairings, lots of red, and witty surprises—and clients from Jennifer Lopez to the love him right back.
Left: The living area in Filicia’s SoHo apartment.
She was just in her 20s when her father—the great American decorator Mark Hampton—passed away. Since then, this down-to-earth designer has proven her talent with elegant interiors that build on her father’s legacy while demonstrating her own viewpoint. Sparkling chandeliers, silk draperies, tufted sofas—her work eschews trends and consistently wows us. She’s prolific too, designing fabrics for , furniture for , and carpets for .
Left: A Manhattan living room
He starts with a neutral envelope, all the better to frame the perfect object—whether it’s a Donald Judd desk, a Louis XVI chair, or a piece of rusted farm equipment that, in this powerhouse designer’s hands, takes on the sublime form of sculpture. This is decorating at its most muscular and glamorous, whether Huniford is furnishing his own Hamptons beach house or a posh Park Avenue apartment.
Left: Huniford’s den in Bridgehampton.
This vivacious Brit—one of —is known for a relaxed, congenial approach that mixes classic English style with a taste for the exotic. Though based in Santa Monica, California, where her high-powered clients include actors such as Steve Martin, she also maintains a home in Provence where she loves to entertain. Her sunny fabric collection includes colorful Indian cottons and Javanese-influenced batik prints.
Left: A guest room in Ireland’s home in France.
Known for his playful, pattern laden rooms, this decorator channels for a West Coast clientele. He loves to create drama—a living room has coral walls, a mustard ceiling, and built-in bookcases with Mughal-inspired arches. Still, he knows when to pull back: At the 2010 ELLE DECOR Showhouse in San Francisco, his master bedroom was a neutral study in luxe, from the cashmere upholstery to a platform bed of his own design in gray tweed.
Left: Jeffers’s bedroom at the ELLE DECOR 2010 Showhouse.
David Kleinberg, who spent 16 years with Parish-Hadley before starting his own firm in 1997, makes a point of not repeating himself. Still there are some recurring themes in his work: He’s committed to uncluttered rooms, furnished with a Francophile’s mélange of antiques. His colors tend toward the softly natural; millwork is often light and fabrics are usually soft to the hand and plain. His rooms could be filled with anything, but, thanks to his curatorial eye, every piece seems both ideal and inevitable.
Left: A family room in a Manhattan loft.
A native Alabaman now based in New York, Langham calls himself old fashioned: His world is full of English-inspired rooms, sky-high curtains, and pedigreed antiques. Langham brings a breath of charming Southern air to classic decorating, tempering grandeur with an infusion of whimsy. Look for an inventive palette— shades like nectarine, tobacco, and mint sorbet. An old-school Anglophile with a 21st-century sense of proportion, Langham has worked his magic for clients like Jacqueline Onassis and Hilary Swank.
Left: A New Orleans library.
If you’re as big an icon as this matinee idol of design, your client list must really rock the charts—say, for example, Cher and Sir Elton John. Typically, a Lawrence-Bullard room is bold, colorful, and eclectic—a sleek take on the romantic and exotic. There’s nothing shy about his choice of rarefied antiques, handcrafted global treasures, and palettes that range from spice bazaar to the pastels of Bavarian porcelain. He combines the graphic and overscale with an attention to detail that creates a fantastical banquet for the eye.
Left: A Hollywood Hills bedroom
When you live in Santa Monica, it’s hard not to be influenced by the Pacific, and there is a surfside vibe to many of Marks’s interiors—he even suspended a rowboat from his whitewashed bedroom ceiling. His work conjures a reinvented country cottage style crossed with the sophisticated traditions of London, Paris, and Milan. Informed by the past, he embraces everything from Jacobean antiques and four-posters to a chesterfield paired with a midcentury lamp. His visual melody is clean, bright, and whimsical over a bass line of cozy.
Left: Marks’s bedroom in Santa Monica.
Alabama-born Bobby McAlpine has fashioned a Southern-inflected design universe with his two stellar firms—McAlpine Booth & Ferrier Interiors and McAlpine Tankersley Architecture. The McAlpine look combines elegance, restraint, and hospitality. Colors run to light hues and heathery pastels, and although you’re more likely to find swagged curtains than midcentury tables, McAlpine finds grace in any piece that wears its age with dignity.
Left: A salon in San Miguel de Allende.
A trained architect who apprenticed with Philip Johnson, Mishaan favors crisp lines. As a former fashion designer, he knows fabrics—although you’ll find more solids and stripes than botanicals: Mishaan has no patience for “fussy ornamentation.” He does, however, respect the past. He has a laser-like eye for refinement, and his rooms are glamorous as well as au courant.
Left: An Upper East Side dining area.
Montoya has presided over his acclaimed New York–based firm for more than three decades, crafting grand, refined interiors that play with neutral colors, scale, and texture. Don’t be surprised to see a polished Louis XVI architect’s desk in a room with rough plank floors or a Lalique vase on a bronze cocktail table. Art has pride of place in his rooms, as do sculptural accents and contemporary pieces by marquee design names.
Left: Montoya’s Hudson Valley studio.
You can tell a lot about a designer’s true colors by her own home, and Rheinstein’s Georgian Revival brick manse in L.A. bespeaks a user-friendly, understated elegance. She’s romantic, but practical too. A Rheinstein room pairs pure neoclassical lines with an informal disposition of furnishings and a closely controlled tone-on-tone palette of soft and muted colors taken from the garden.
Left: The living room of Rheinstein’s Manhattan pied-à-terre.
For the , they created a penny tile floor made of real pennies. For Gwyneth Paltrow’s living room, they hung a swing made from an antique Indian door. Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch—the married couple and former movie set designers behind this red hot firm—recycle the ephem-era of yesterday into nostalgia-laden spaces that feel right for today.
Left: A dining area in Montauk.
Something old, something new, something borrowed from every design vernacular on earth: That’s Todd Romano. The native Texan apprenticed with Mario Buatta before striking out on his own with chic, well-turned-out rooms. In his updated traditional style, Romano plays with contrasts: velvet sofas and minimalist lithographs, Louis XVI bergères on geometric sisal. He favors clean lines and a grocery list of colors: olive, blueberry, and persimmon.
Left: A Manhattan library.
This architect-designer knows glamour, and his clientele (young socialites and fashionistas like Tory Burch, Aerin Lauder, and Daphne Guinness) have made him a top-tier Manhattan favorite. He loves mirrors, glossy floors, lacquered walls. He’s also committed to deep, saturated colors and a liberal application of gold and silver. He’s equally expert at contemporary design and transforming the halls of a dowager prewar apartment into a trendsetting salon alive with art and antiques.
Left: An Upper East Side living room.
Since Peter L. Shelton and Lee F. Mindel founded their firm in 1978, they’ve won international acclaim, prestigious clients (Sting, Ralph Lauren), and countless awards. Their clean-lined spaces blend stunning architectural craft with casual livability. Members of the Interior Design Hall of Fame, they think of themselves as taking an analytical approach to their work, but a real sensuality shines through too. They like lots of white and pale-blond woods, generous windows, and bursts of sassy color calculated to delight.
Left: A sitting area in a Manhattan mansion.
After a stint on Wall Street, Whealon worked at , specializing in the decorative arts, and this background served him well when he set up his interior design firm in 1994. A sense of connoisseurship underlies everything this New York designer does, but he has fun with it, mi 18th-century antiques with ’60s finds or tweaking a traditional interior with contemporary art. Fresh colors—from aqua to pale pink—tie it all together.
Left: Whealon’s Manhattan living room.
Modernist but not minimalist, Canadians George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg create spaces that combine high style luxury with eye catching theatrics. They are as adept at subtly transforming flagship as they are at creating a surfer-chic getaway for Ian Schrager’s in Honolulu. Their residential work is equally dazzling.
Left: Yabu and Pushelberg’s living room in Toronto.