Timothy Corrigan is one of the most accomplished and acclaimed interior designers in the world. His style is a timeless blend of European and Californian elements that works in any era. It’s seen in the homes of corporate leaders, celebrities and even royalty. Corrigan is also the author of “An Invitation to Château du Grand-Lucé” and the first American designer honored by the French Heritage Society for his restoration of several national landmarks in France. He shares his thoughts on the industry with Filthy Lucre.
What first got you interested in interior design?
After spending five years working in advertising in New York City, my company transferred me to Paris to run their European network. It was a total life changing experience. I was so overcome by the sheer beauty of everything in Paris and I was particularly struck by the way that culture and the arts play an important part of everyday life there. Before too long, I become addicted to the wonderful museums in Paris, the Drouot auction house and the incredible Paris flea markets. My apartment was published in House and Garden magazine and that was the beginning of my new career in design.
Can you describe your first design project?
One of my early design projects was working for Madonna on a wonderful 1920’s Mediterranean style house in Beverly Hills. The whole experience turned out to be somewhat of a challenge, but I proved to myself that I could make it as a professional in my newfound career.
What is the fist thing that catches your eye when you enter a room?
I hate walking into a house that immediately tells you that it was “decorated” and that design is so specific that an educated eye can even tell in what year it was decorated. Designers who just follow trends and don’t rely on their own sense of style easily fall into that trap.
How do you decide which projects are a good fit for you and your firm?
Starting a design project is very much like starting a new relationship. The most important thing is that we share mutual values, respect and goals. The next step is assessing the actual structure, design aesthetic and budget. All of these elements must be addressed and make sense before we take on a new project. You are doing both the potential client as well as yourself to turn down a project that is not a good fit.
What elements define your style?
A magazine once described my aesthetic as “European elegance infused with California casual” and I really think that it is a good summation of what I try to achieve. I’ve spent much of my life in Europe and really appreciate so much of what it has to offer in terms of style and history. And while I love a lot of the European design esthetic, there is something very special about the ease of life in America… so, if you can have a blend of the two, you have the best of both worlds.
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel, museums, books and auction catalogs.
What is your favorite book on design?
“Interior Design Master Class:100 Lessons from America’s Finest Designers on the Art of Decoration” by Rizzoli is probably the best overview of interior design. There are wonderful essays on just about every topic in design.
Favorite website on design?
quintessenceblog.com because it covers such a broad range of design issues with thorough and knowledgeable background information.
What do you find most challenging about designing a home?
The most challenging, and also the most enjoyable part is figuring out how a space can be designed for maximum livability and use. I hate walking into a room that screams: “Don’t come in here… you can look, but don’t touch!” We have all seen those rooms and they are like museums. Homes are meant to be fully lived-in and enjoyed. There are a lot of things that you have to consider in making a room work: the flow of how you move around the space, the silhouette, scale and shapes of the furniture, good lighting, colors that evoke the mood you want to create in the room… all of those elements combine to create a space in which people WANT to spend time!
What is the biggest mistake you see from novices trying to do their own design?
The biggest mistake is the size of the furniture. Furniture should be scaled to the size and height of a room, something that seems obvious, but is often overlooked, or misunderstood.
What is the most exciting trend you are seeing right now?
A return to more classical design: elegant materials, soft, pretty colors and increased importance of details. And layering is back, big time.
What trend do you wish would die?
Modernism. Modernist rooms are designed to look good without the paraphernalia of daily life. A more classically designed room is a much more accommodating room in which to live.
What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?
Design is all about trust between you and your clients and you and your suppliers. You must establish that sense of mutual trust and continue to reinforce it all along the way. Designers must listen to the client. It’s not about you or your ego.
How have you seen the interior design industry evolve over the years?
We are in an age in which people expect high-end products to be more complexly created, with greater design detail and, frankly, just more special. With the internet providing accessibility to good design, in order for designers to stay relevant, we need to bring a level of customization that cannot simply be purchased off of an online website.
Visit timothy-corrigan.com to learn more about Timothy Corrigan, his firm and to see a gallery of his work.