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Publication Date: 2011-10-17

Behind the Design

Steven Gambrel Q&A

Known for distilling and defining the spirit of a home, New York City-based Steven Gambrel is celebrated for his timeless style that draws inspiration from the classics while adding fresh and unexpected touches for modern clients. Here, Gambrel discusses his love of color, tufting, and the one piece of furniture that’s always worth splurging on.

Q: After being in the business for 15 years, what’s a bit of decorating advice you’ve discovered everyone can use?

A: Don’t be afraid of color. I love pale blue, especially Benjamin Moore’s Iceberg (#212240) and a platinum-gray called Sterling (#1591). Just be sure the saturation level is consistent throughout, otherwise it can become tiring.

Q: How do you decide on a palette for a given room?

A: You’ve got to work with what you’ve got, and don’t try to fight it. If there’s a lot of light I go for a softer palette. If it’s a very dark room then I create an environment that might be a little deeper in tone.

Q: What are the important things to consider when setting up lighting in a living room?

A: You want overall, even light, particularly at seating height, so table lamps are good. I like dimmers, and set very low, so you get a feeling that’s very atmospheric. Candles and hurricane lamps are a great way to get light into the middle of the room and even out the overall light.

Q: What are your two favorite pieces in your Dering Hall storefront?

A: I love the Stanton Club Chair and the Redcraft Sofa. We can use both of these again and again to create environments that are traditional or modern.

Q: Your Tilden Coffee Table has a rugged, industrial feel. How would you use this in a more traditional setting?

A: It would be exciting to see it next to a refined textile, like a rug that has silk in it. That would really play up the contrast and make the table feel even chunkier.

Q: The Sennowe Club Chair has a very 1940s feel. How would you incorporate it into a more modern home?

A: I hope all of the pieces feel timeless, and their clarity means they’ll fit into a lot of environments. But contrast is key. I wouldn’t put them into a room full of ’40s furniture. Also, finish and material are important. I wouldn’t contrast rugged and refined to the extent that it feels hodgepodge, so I say stick to your story.

Q: You have a lot of tufted upholstery in your storefront. What about that is appealing to you?

A: Tufting to me has timelessness—it refers to a Chesterfield sofa, which is a traditional design—but it also feels updated to me, it feels special.

Q: What are the design trends surfacing now that intrigue you?

A: The use of materials that feel very organic and have a lot of age but are used in a slightly more cleaned-up way, like a table made from reclaimed wood that has modern lines.

Q: What’s the inspiration behind the dramatic silhouette of your Harbor Bed?

A: Building facades in Brussels. I like the play between something that’s influenced by a traditional form but feels more modern because of its execution.

Q: What’s the one item you should never skimp on?

A: A sofa. It’s the foundation of a room and grounds the space. Like a great sports coat it’s something you’ll use over and over. I prefer a boxy shape, like my Jackson Square Sofa. It’s classic and won’t go out of style.

-Deb Schwartz

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