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Publication Date: 2012-01-23

Behind the Design

Q&A with Jay Jeffers

Jay Jeffers, founder of his eponymous San Francisco firm, Jeffers Design Group, gave up a career in marketing for interior design in his 20s and has never looked back.


Originally from Texas, the decorator included in ELLE DECOR’s 2011 A-List is known for his fresh, elegant style that unites antique and modern elements. A daring use of color and pattern also are a signature of his spaces. And yet, he always seems to know when to pull back—the mark of a brilliant designer.

Q: Do you think there is such a thing as a Jay Jeffers aesthetic?

A: When I was in design school (I won’t tell you how long ago that was), I found a vintage book by Billy Baldwin and something he said stuck with me. Paraphrasing, “If someone walks into a home and says, ‘Billy Baldwin did this home,’ then I haven’t done my job.” Interior design should really reflect the inhabitants, embody who they are, their personal style. Having said that, I enjoy using color and pattern in a smart, tailored way and try to edit my interiors to be thoughtful and luxe.

Q: In your opinion, what are the hallmarks of a well-designed room?

A: Proper scale is most important. If you don’t have the right scale it doesn’t matter what you’ve done to the room or how much money you’ve spent, it is a failure. In addition, every room should be well edited and thoughtful in every detail, from architecture to decoration. And don’t forget the ceilings—they are very important!

Q: What are your three ‘musts’ in any room?

A: A little element of surprise, dimmers on every switch, and a lightly scented candle (except the kitchen, which should only have the aroma of a slow-cooking beef bourguignon.)

Pair of Shagreen Leather Upholstered Armchairs

Q: Do you have any favorites from your Dering Hall collection?

A: I love the shagreen leather upholstered dining chairs. They are based on a Tommy Parzinger design and are so comfortable. I could dine for hours, but I know I shouldn’t.

Q: What inspired your Platform Settee?

A: The platform settees were made for my studio reception area and are inspired by a mid-century sofa that I loved. The leg detail is a favorite.

Custom Linen Upholstered Platform Settee

Q: What design advice has served you well in your career?

A: I’ve had great advice over the years. Proper scale is the key to a successful room (Suzanne Tucker); never negotiate your own contract (Benjamin Noriega Ortiz); design what you love (Steven Volpe).

Q: Is there a story behind your Fire Tools?

A: Designed by Kelly Hohla in my studio, these tools were made for a client who loves fires and builds them all the time. With several fireplaces, we wanted him to have tools that felt strong and functional in his hands and look beautiful at the same time.

Q: Who or what has most influenced you as a designer?

A: So many people, places, and things—Albert Hadley, David Hicks, Paul Wiseman, Gary Hutton, Herve van der Straeten, New York City, Paris, Santorini, Antwerp, the Napa Valley. Hotel Costes, the first Viceroy in Santa Monica, Little Nell, my mother, Fantastic Man magazine, Vanity Fair, Michael Bastian, Simon Spurr. I could keep going, but I can tell you’re getting bored.

Q: What’s next for you?
My brick and mortar retail concept opens spring 2012! My first book is in the works. I’m getting ready to gut my house in the Napa Valley. I’m thinking about a second dog.

—Ronda Carman, All the Best


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