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Publication Date: 2011-10-11

Behind the Design

Q&A with Amanda Nisbet

“Part of my rules are, ‘there are no rules.’” Welcome to the tenet-free world of Amanda Nisbet, the New York City designer who thinks nothing of covering a plump armchair in wild lime-green velvet, or lighting up a room—literally—with fixtures of her own design, each slicked with bits of color, such as poppy red, hot pink, or royal blue. Anything goes at Amanda Nisbet Design, as long as her three decorating musts are in place: comfort, good lighting, and whimsy. Dering Hall caught the spirited, globetrotting decorator between phone calls and flights.

Q: How would you describe your own design style?

A: Elegant, timeless—yet always fresh and inspiring. I just did a big, traditional English Chesterfield sofa, but in blue lizard skin. Divine-ness! I love applying new materials to classic forms.

Q: Has your look evolved over time?

A: I hope my style is always evolving. I do not have a formulaic approach to design so I’m open to constant inspiration from myriad sources. I’m working on two projects now where the palettes come directly from the cover of September’s Vogue. Kate Moss is wearing an Alexander McQueen dress in boysenberry. Now I have boysenberry toenails! And my two projects will be boysenberry with corals and cognacs, and boysenberry with peacock blue. I’m a colorist at heart.

Q: How does an ever-changing style work its way into the pieces you design?

A: Regardless of the style, my products are always practical as well as beautiful. For a recent project, I designed two chests of drawers made of nickel and gray shagreen. Shagreen is the skin of sharks and rays, so it’s impervious to stains and water. Inside the chests are custom-made silver drawers, so not only do the chests hold a lot of silver and are very chic, you can put a cocktail glass down on them without worry.

Q: What is some design advice you always give?

A: Buy what you love! It will always find a home and reveal your unique personality.

Q: You mix classical with modern so well. What is your secret?

A: Juxtapose modern with traditional. Don’t group styles together. Instead, have them play off each other.

Q: Who are two people whose design style you greatly admire?

A: My mother and father have impeccable taste. They mix flea-market finds with 18th-century satinwood tables.

Q: As for professional decorators, who do you look to, and why?

A: Alberto Pinto, Jacques Grange, and Axel Vervoordt: Pinto and Grange for their uncanny ability to mix unexpected pieces together, and Vervoordt for his elegant simplicity. So inspiring!

Q: Name one design principle that has served you well.

A: Pay attention to every design decision, as each decision plays on the next.

Q: How is that reflected in your products at Dering Hall?

A: Every detail is considered, from scale and function to texture, color, and style.

Q: Is there one look that you’re taken with right now?

A: I don’t fall prey to trends. Beauty is critical. Function is paramount.

—Rob Brinkley

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