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Publication Date: 2014-04-15

Inspiration

A Conversation with Thomas Jayne

A while back I paid a visit to the office of decorator, antiquarian, design historian and author Thomas Jayne.

Thomas is best known for his scholarly knowledge of design history, his expertise in historic preservation and his classical interior design work. (And at 6’7” he’s also known for being the tallest decorator in the biz!) With a background in architecture, art history and decorative arts, Thomas began his interior design career working with Albert Hadley and Sister Parish at the celebrated design firm Parish-Hadley. In 1990 he opened his own design studio and is now considered one of America’s most prominent decorators. Below are highlights from my conversation with Thomas Jayne as well as a peek inside his NYC office.

What sparked your interest in design?

I was always interested in decoration and when I was 12 I got paid to put up people’s Christmas decorations and help them with their houses and gardens. One day I was at my friends house sitting on these chairs and I told my friends mother that I was going to be a lawyer and she said “oh no you’re going to be a decorator!” Being a decorator in those days had a huge stigma and so I avoided it until I was 30 when I finally accepted the fact that it’s something I’m really good at. There were other things I knew I could do but I knew that I could be a really good decorator and that’s when Parish-Hadley offered me a job.

How would you define your aesthetic?

People consider us as being traditional but I think the reason we’ve had success is because our work is always contemporary but not modern. We try to recolor and reshape tradition so it appears to be of our generation and fresh. Our catchphrase is that we’re both ancient and modern. I also think that when you push the boundary of traditional in a house it makes it very enduring. I decorated a house in Southampton – the Westerly estate – and Tory Burch bought it and she kept most of the decoration. Anytime a tastemaker like that can decide a lot of its livable 15 or 20 years after I did it is pretty good.

Tell me about your office space…

This Eastern light and being able to see the trees is a pretty great asset. One things about our office is that its very collegial and we share everything which I like. And being in this space kind of feels like being in rental apartment and all the objects in here have a story and a connection.

What are some of the elements of your creative workspace that keep you inspired?

Sitting on that bench and looking out at Madison Square and the Flatiron building is pretty great. And sometimes I look at books and brainstorm but mostly we pick up our ideas away from the office. Here it’s more about production than inspiration and we get more inspiration when we leave. I travel quite a bit and take advantage of all of the opportunities in New York. I go to London on a pretty regular basis and my colleagues there are really inspirational. I’ve also been spending a loot of time visiting my friends in LA from school and they all really creative and interesting.

See more here.

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