(Opposite) Robert Stilin. 84 Photo: Richard Phibbs
Salon Art + Design 2020
(Right) A living room of a duplex on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, designed by Robert Stilin, featuring chairs by Giò Ponti and Giulio Minoletti; a François-Xavier Lalanne sheep; a Mattia Bonetti coffee table; a Max Ingrand mirror; and an Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann mantelpiece. Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson
ROBERT STILIN The renowned New York designer reflects on 30 years of collecting and creating interiors that stand the test of time Where did your interest in design begin, and what led your career in interiors? I got involved in design in the late 1980s. I was raised by an entrepreneur and ended up opening a lifestyle store in Palm Beach that, at the time, I thought would be a prototype for a national store in every major market. People would come in and say they liked the store and then ask if I could help them do their house. The bridging of old and new seem important in your work. Can you talk about that? If you go back historically and look at a lot of furniture from different periods that we collect today, it’s too much all together. I love Scandinavian furniture, but if I go back and look at a 1960s Scandinavian interior, it’s not appealing. I take things out of it; I pick what I like from the past and mix it up with a new perspective to create something that’s fresh for today. How do contemporary art and design work together for you? I’ve been collecting for 30 years and I can’t imagine living in a space without art. I’m not so much an academic acquirer of art, I’m more like a visceral acquirer; I just buy what speaks to me. And so when I’m doing interiors for other
people, I try to get into their heads and figure out who they are and what they like so that I can surround them with things that make them happy and comfortable and all those things that you want to feel in your house. You recently published a book about your work covering 25 years of practice. How does it feel to have that out there? It is very exciting – a career highlight. It was gratifying to go back to projects that have been around for a while which not only photographed great, but they looked better than ever. I’m still of the mindset that I’m creating things that I expect to last and not only last but get better with time, and so doing the book was a testament to that. What draws you to Salon Art + Design every year? I am a fan of fairs, though almost anyone that you speak to agrees there are too many. But Salon happens to be one that, 100%, should stay around. It is the best design fair in New York, and one of the best in the world. To be able to see that amount of design and art under one roof, and also the creativity of all the different dealers: for my business and for myself, it’s an incredible luxury.