Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Photos courtesy of Tom Scheerer by Francesco Lagnese
Every room Scheerer creates takes the historical and personal into account

Scheerer, sitting on the steps of his family home in Long Island. He refreshed the staircase with contrasting coral paint that plays with the cheerful 1960's wallpaper in the vein of a joyful Porthault print

He has (deservedly) been called today's Billy Baldwin. Few designers create such well thought-out restrained, understated rooms with the elan and elegance that Tom Scheerer does. It seems to be in his blood, the ability to mix humble woven wicker, crisp linens and haute antiques, to magical effect. He has a "Modernist attitude in a traditional way" he says, and  not only are his city/country/tropics projects in Tom Scheerer Decorates captivating and beautiful, they are also highly livable. The book explores his work in varying locales, but they all capture a particular sense of place.
 I have admired his work for YEARS, so when I heard he was working on a book with Vendome Press, I could hardly contain my excitement. They published Katie Ridder's pitch-perfect book.  Just think, I would get inspired all over again, by new Scheerer interiors that had not been published before, and I could linger over a zillion well thought-out details, shown in additional photos! My expectations were met, and then some. His ability to hone, refine and edit is, to use his words, "instinctual and premeditated." Even the cover, hidden underneath the book jacket is perfection: it is caning, just like the seat of (his favorite) Thonet chairs. There are design lessons in every single photo, so I encourage you to pick up a copy, and attend Tom Scheerer's Design School of Chic through its pages.  I had the chance to catch up with him a few weeks back, before his book tour was in full swing. I wanted to wait to share his Q and A until I could hear him speak about his work, to truly understand his  brand of modernist sophistication.

Mixing his re-worked version of Quadrille's signature Lyford Trellis wallpaper in chocolate brown and white, a blue and white flora and a check, this country dining room is a pretty, dynamic space to linger. Since 1985, his work has been a study in contrasts and the art of the edit.

Muted natural wood-grain wallpaper from Nobilis provides a neutral backdrop for a sophisticated Long Island farmhouse living room that, "Evokes clients personal history and their heritage."

A Florida living room gets the wanderlust treatment, with cool aqua and white mixed with Indian and Moorish design elements. The epitome of modern luxury.

The power of color is conveyed on a New York library's walls from the same apartment that graces the book's cover. A sweet Charles Burger floral print references the wall color into the upholstery. Mixing modern and classic forms, the space exudes cozy sophistication.

Scheerer does some of his most nuanced work in tropical climes. The relaxed setting and easy lifestyle of Harbor Island, Bahamas is well-channeled by him, as he uses a light color palette, and plays rattan, wicker and woven textures off of clean-lined forms.

In a Florida sitting room, a modern high rise gets softened with the addition of a soothing color scheme of eggplant, robin's egg blue and pops of earthy neutrals and white.

The pattern play of a circular hooked rug and rough-hewn ceiling beams takes the linear and punches it up a notch. Talk about updating history.

I have to say, this custom mahogany and brass canopy bed in the campaign style still has me riveted. 
It's spare design and crisp clean lines are stunning in this light-filled city bedroom.

The curvacious, sinewy lines of Thonet's bent wood furniture are a favorite of Scheerer's. As a collector and Thonet enthusiast, the modern classic gets reinterpreted every time he incorporates it into a space.


What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Ooh. Can't think of anything I'd want to admit!

What are your favorite colors?
Every color and shade has its uses in decorating as it would in painting. It's about the use and the combination of them.  I generally like clear crisp colors over muddy ones but even khaki and olive can have their moments. Actually I'm not at all fond of day-glo and other colors not found in nature! Oh and then there is burgundy..... blecch!

What do you collect? When someone is starting to think about collecting, what should they keep in mind?
 I'm trying to be less travel light......"fewer better things" would be my motto. I intone this motto when clients start talking about closet space......such a yawn. I do love a brown thing.......rattan and caning, Thonet anything, brutalist pottery, my coco de mer.......For a while I've been on a green kick too: antique bottles, Chinese glazed temple pottery, exotic succulents, paintings of trees. I tend to like accidental design, the objet trouvĂ© over  the objet  de virtu. Humble utilitarian and natural forms often resonate more forcefully with me than things that are designed to give pleasure or provoke.

What inspired you when you got your start?
I was inspired by the idea of houses and making them so I sent myself to architecture school. When I got there I found out it wasn't going to be much about designing houses......gracious and comfortable ones in any case! 
Never the less I got through it and am grateful for the education.

Which designer had the greatest influence on your style?
Billy Baldwin I suppose. I hope it shows. I strive for his clarity and his common sense.

What is your favorite place to do a project?
The tropics for me have a special allure.......I love and fantasize about a barefoot, sarong swaddled existence! I'm currently working on a new house for myself on the beach at Schooner Bay in Abaco, Bahamas. It's going to be very pared down, informal, and open to the elements. 

Talk a bit about Paris, what inspires you there?
Paris is such a great antidote to life in New York for me. In Paris I do not work, I live. This is what tourist and most Parisians do too. I sleep late , walk the neighborhoods, shop for food and cook for friends.....linger in restaurants and have wine at lunch. My  trips the the flea market and to the brocantes I hardly consider's sport!

Where do you visit to get ideas?
Ideas derived from my wide travels are subliminal. I certainly don't do exotic or ethnic or specifically national styles. I don't  travel with the idea that I'm looking for an idea.

What are your favorite historical rooms?
In Paris I make sure every single house guest visits the Musee de la Chasse in the Marais around the corner from where we live. There's a restored 18th century room in it with period rock crystal chandeliers in the four corners and purple gauffrage velvet walls's good.

What country house in England and America do you most love?
Too many great ones in England of all styles and vintages to take sides. In America I continue to love the Roland Terry House in the Pacific Northwest. Grass on the roof, rustic board interiors but as elegant as any house I know.

How do you approach an old house to respect its past but make it look current?
Houses have stories to tell. You have to listen to find ways of adding an appropriate chapter.

You do a lot of work in tropical climes. What should one keep in mind about palette and materials in warm weather areas?
The predominating blue of the water and the green of the foliage sometimes rule out a strong third color. Red and orange are tricky in the tropics for instance.  My new house will have a lot of white and brown. I'll pull in aqua's and bits of green as accents. 

What is your favorite antique you own and reproduction collection you constantly use as a resource?
I have a pair of bergere a la reine which are the most comfortable chairs in the world when they proportioned and made as well as mine. ( see my Instagram pic)

What store or trade resource inspires you most?
I love all the mass market catalogs...... Not everything in them mind you but it's always gratifying when you find something great and cheap you can have Fed Exed overnight. West Elm, Ballard Designs, Serena and Lily, Wisteria, are all great resources.

If you were not designing, what would you do?
I'd be more of a cook and write cook books........I am obsessed by a certain kind of food and way of entertaining that is like my decorating. Traditional but fresh, logical and to the point!

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