I can think of very few modernist interior designers who have as an encyclopedic knowledge of the 20th century’s decorative arts as Andy Goldsborough. We met last year at an industry event, and as I investigated his work I became fascinated by his incredibly restrained and sophisticated rooms.
He’s well known for shepherding his client’s toward purchasing furnishings that will stand the test of time and appreciate in value – a concept ever more foreign in our increasingly disposable culture. I asked him to meet me for lunch to talk with me about his career trajectory, his unique design aesthetic, and the projects he’s currently working on. What follows is an excerpt of my conversation with this transplanted Southern gentleman.
Can you tell me about your career in interior design?
I began my career in New York with Clodagh. I saw her store in the East Village published in an Architectural Records / Interiors issue when I was a junior in college and hoped it would be my first design job. I ended up working with her twice, the summer I moved to New York, and after a stint in the commercial architecture world working with Kohn Pedersen Fox Conway. I went back to design the interiors and all of the furniture and product design for the Felissimo store on 56th Street. It was such a fantastic opportunity to work with master craftsmen renovating a historic townhouse but updating it’s interiors.
But my mentor, and most memorable design experience was working with Annabelle Selldorf prior to staring my business. I feel very fortunate to have worked with an architect of such incredible talent. She refined my sensibility in every aspect of how I design and think about materials, finishes and furnishings. We also shared one very important belief in that interior design is a service business.
My role is to educate my clients as much as possible, and work with them to create an individual environment that is unique to their vision. I collaborate with them on a very personal level to achieve that end. When I started my business I decided to focus on residential design, but never replicate projects or give them a recognizable stamp that I was there – except to recognize the proportions, light quality and clarity in spaces I’ve designed. I think the most successful interiors feel organic because they are the combination of a sophisticated and elegant palette of materials and finishes, furnishings and lighting that I introduce into what my clients bring to the table. That begins to build a relationship and trust factor that is essential in design today.
Looking at your work, 2 words come to my mind. Minimal and Modern. Would you say they are accurate adjective to describe your work?
Modern yes. Minimal depends on the client, and how much they bring to the collaboration. I live with much more than most of my clients being a collector and constantly seeing things that I want to add to my environment. There is always a desire to edit and make a clear visual palette of materials and in that sense I am a minimalist paring down to what is essential and functional, but at the same beautifully crafted and composed. I strive to create interiors that feel new and modern but that have a strong sense of history, combining old world sensibilities with cutting edge 21st century design. It’s that dynamic contrast that makes every project unique and sensitive to the individual clients.
Who are some of the designers and architects that inspire you?
Gio Ponti is probably my all time favorite architect of the past. The scope of what he accomplished in interior design, architecture, textiles, and down to the flatware and porcelain for individual clients was so personal and thoughtful. Not to mention he was one of the creative directors of Fontana Arte, and founded Domus – what a creative genius in addition to the amount of work he produced in his lifetime. Other favorite architects would be Carlo Mollino, Adolf Loos, and Pierre Chareau. There are so many designers I admire but Dagobert Peche and his contributions to the Weiner Werkstatte, and Guglielmo Ulrich always inspires me.
Your work is incredibly luminous, just how important is light in the spaces you create?
Light is of critical importance to me in every project. It’s what makes interiors come alive, so I try to maximize natural light as much as possible. If the conditions of the space don’t have that potential, I like to integrate architectural elements that give a sense of natural light such as steel and glass ceilings or spaces between walls and floor planes to give lightness. And then decorative lighting, or contrasting matte and glossy wall finishes can also provide a lot of depth to surfaces.
What are some of your favorite finishes?
Glass, mirror, venetian plaster, terrazzo – things that reflect light and give depth to surfaces. There’s always a contrast of matte, natural materials and shiny textures and embellishment to my work.
You’re clearly drawn to sculptural form, can you tell me your absolutely favorite sculptural chair, table, and light fixture?
The pair of Gio Ponti Chiavari chairs from the 50’s that I own would be my favorite chair design of the past. They are delicate visually but so well made and intricately carved that they combine old world craftsmanship and still manage to look completely modern today. My Favorite table is a wall mounted console with a drawer that Carlo Mollino designed. It is a sensual black lacquer piece with a curved black glass top surface and only one leg for support. As for the light fixture, I’d say Pietro Chiesa’s etched glass chandelier with brass fittings and white metal canopy and crown that hangs above my dining table.
I’ve heard you maintain a very small staff, how important is it for you to be ‘hands-on’ in your projects?
When I renovated the APC store in Soho and designed their new showroom I had 2 design assistants, an intern and my office manager. Because I do most of the shopping work, meeting with clients and supervising all of the construction, I prefer to keep my staff small. There is less room for error and to be honest, it’s difficult to find people that you trust, that share your design sensibility and can communicate that through concept, drawing, and fabrication. When you do it’s magic and I’ve been fortunate to have several wonderful designers work with me since I started my business 11 1/2 years ago.
Can you tell me about some of the projects you’re currently working on?
Currently we’re working on an incredible French Chateau, built in the 700’s, in Saint Pierre en Faucigny, and a new oceanfront house in Bellport, NY. The Bellport house will be our first green project using Passive House standards for energy efficiency and exploring materials native to this area to reduce the carbon footprint. It’s always exciting to me when we are hired to explore materials and finishes to their best potential in relation to the project. We also have new residential projects on the upper east side and brooklyn heights, as well as ongoing work in the Hamptons. I try not to take on more than 3 or 4 large scale projects at a time to give each one my full attention.
Andy Goldsborough Interior Design
41 Union Square West New York City 10003