Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Photos Courtesy of Steven Gambrel
New York designer Steven Gambrel has long done the sort of work I admire. His sense of color, capturing the spirit of place, and mix of old and new amaze me. He started S.R Gambrel Incorporated in 1995. Creating timeless, comfortable interiors using genius color combinations, Steven makes a beach house or duplex interior a seamless mix of historical elements and fresh ideas. Handsome ebony woods and patinated hardware alongside a deep seated tufted sofa have become his signatures.

Steven looks at plans. His Labradoodle is the unofficial office mascot.

Photo Courtesy of Ballustrade and Bitters
Large windows and work spaces to spread out.

Photo courtesy of Ballustrade and Bitters
Assessing plans, constantly.

The interactive, open space allows for shared ideas and materials.

I chatted with Steven about his work and he shared insights about his influences and design preferences. He worked for an interior design firm and architect after obtaining his architecture degree at University of Virginia. Many stellar architects have studied there, like Richard Fairfax of Fairfax and Sammons. Just being around the amazing architecture rubs off on them and influences their design sensibilities. Steven found after working for other people that he liked doing interior and architecture, integrating the two. The idea of interior design is exciting to him, since it brings in the lifestyle element. Combining the two takes the overall big picture and meshes the client's vision from the start. Initially drawn to art color and form as a child, Stephen would imagine how things appeared in a composed setting. Spaces are lived in, and he never forgets this.

This notion of the exterior and interior flowing seamlessly together helped form the firm. On collaborating, he sees Chicago architect David Adler and his sister, Frances Elkins, as a great influence. They worked together to create architecture and a lifestyle over three decades. By asking their clients the right questions upfront, they were able to get a handle on the vision early. The integration is key to the complete concept, and this idea is a core aspect of Steven's work.

Fabrics make a room come alive. For fabric preferences,Steven does not like to repeat certain fabrics that are too specific. Constantly shopping for new things in the market to avoid redundancy, he has an extensive fabric library. Old World Weavers, Loro Piano and Holland and Sherry are go - to sources for favorite heavy woven linens, sheer wools and nubby textures.

Every designer has a piece of furniture they love for its scale, proportion or pitch. For Steven, it is a Klismos dining chair. Since he makes so many custom furnishing for projects, he took the antique and sized it up to work in a new setting. The firm makes their upholstery and buys antiques, so the office is always out scouring the market.

For constant inspiration, he likes to shop in stores that are well edited where displays are a creative mix. Aero, Thomas O'Brien's shop, is a store he knows will entice him, as well as CJ Peters and Eric Appel. When he shops, he always sees something that will work in one project or another, and envisions the room as he goes. Travels to Paris, galleries Blackman Cruz and Obsolete (also in San Francisco) in LA, or Antwerp stoke his imagination .

Books are a key inspiration point for decorators. The Yves St Laurent Catalog, John F. Staub, Leleu, Sir Edwin Lutyens, and Frances Elkins books are what he is loving now.

With this love of architecture, there are historic homes that serve as a wellspring of inspiration. Beauport is a favorite. Known as the Sleeper- Mcann House Museum, it was the summer home of Henry Sleeper in Gloucester, Ma. With this 40 room house, Sleeper created a new style, Colonial Revival. A montage of gables and ornamental chimneys, seaside English cottage and Gothic details converge. Construction lasted 27 years! For the history of American architecture and early American homes, this house set the standard. The interiors are filled with color-- from vibrant wallpapers and aubergine walls to hooked rugs, amber glass and red tole ware. This love of old homes meant, he says, he would have found himself restoring them if he did not have his own firm.


Anonymous said...

Great Post. I enjoy seeing into Designer's offices and workspaces, where the creative process is fostered. Steven Gambrel's work just keeps getting better and better.
Paulette P.

Lauren said...

LOVED this post!! SO much great information to digest. His work is amazing.