Popular Hispanics, April 2010
Source: Popular Hispanics
Timothy Corrigan: Design Impresario Reveals His Secrets
If you’re European royalty, a Hollywood movie maven, or a world famous soccer star, who do you call for a home makeover? Timothy Corrigan, of course. Hailed as “today’s tastemaker,” this icon in the global design world is hard to catch without a sketchbook in his hand. We got lucky and stole a secret moment with him between his musings to find out just what makes this wizard of a design marvel tick. Read on to find out more, including how to do a Corrigan home yourself.
You have a black book of celebrity clientele? Can you whisper a few names?
Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Schwimmer, and European and Middle Eastern Royalty. Of course there are others, but I am sworn to secrecy!
What color do you love this year?
Turquoise: Though turquoise is ancient, yet again it finds itself back in fashion. Its shining sky blue is one of the most popular color trends for next season. Sofas, lamps, vases, accent tables, and even chandeliers are designed in the color turquoise, which adds a punch of color to any space. By the way, turquoise is a color and material that is found in a lot of Latin art and design.
“Verte de Terre” by Farrow & Ball: Green is my favorite paint color because it reminds me of life and renewal. This green is particularly good because it has a touch of gray to it so that it is really easy to live with. I have used this in the entry to my Paris apartment and as the trim color in much of my chateau in France.
You spent part of your childhood in Mexico? Did that influence your design?
I cherish the early years that my family lived in Cuernavaca outside of Mexico City. I can’t help but believe that it influenced me in a number of different ways: using color throughout your home is so important to help make a room feel fresh and alive; I love mixing pieces from different cultures and periods. You see so many wonderful, different cultural influences in Latin American art and design.
Your mind set must have been born from your travels as a child. What made the most impact?
As a boy I was fascinated by architecture. I designed houses out of balsa wood and even created the landscaping around them. When I was ten or eleven I saw a photo of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and I was awestruck. I was so impressed with the way Wright integrated the exterior elements into the house itself. I was lucky enough to have great exposure to the arts as a child. My mother took us to museums and that early exposure established my connection with art and culture.
You are known for mixing things up, creating cozy elegance and eco-friendly lushness—how do you do it?
I try to create an environment where people feel really at home and welcomed. Comfort is the key ingredient. Comfort is more than just being soft and cozy though—comfort is also a mental thing—do you feel comfortable enough to be able to put your feet up on something? Can you put down a glass on a table without worrying about leaving a mark? Can you let the kids play in the room without being afraid that they are going to ruin something? That is essential. We try to use materials and finishes that let people have both the physical comfort as well as the peace of mind that they can truly “live” in their homes.
What is your design philosophy?
With a strong foundation in classical design, we incorporate aspects of today's world that impact the very ways one actually lives and interacts in an environment, be it a home, office or hotel. One need not sacrifice a beautiful setting to be comfortable and practical. In all our projects, we try to make design choices based on our philosophy of eco-luxury that environmental consciousness doesn't have to mean sacrificing style, quality or effectiveness, and that working well, looking beautiful and taking care of our planet can all go hand-in-hand. We believe that a successful project is one that never looks as if it has been decorated and strive for a balance of European elegance infused with California comfort. In order to achieve these objectives, it is important to carefully mix the best examples of furniture, art and design from different periods in order to create a space that is interesting, warm and alive.
Tell us about eco luxury and green design? Can the “normal” design buff hope to achieve it?
I believe in the importance of living responsibly with the environment. My line of eco-friendly home care products was introduced in 2006. I have always used antiques on my projects because they are such a solid investment and if you think about it, they are also the ultimate ‘green” product—no new resources are used in creating them! “Eco-Luxury” is our philosophy that environmental consciousness doesn't have to mean sacrificing style, quality or effectiveness, and that working well, looking beautiful and taking care of our planet can all go hand-in-hand. “Green” doesn’t have to fit the stereotype of bamboo and Birkenstocks. We have designed a number of projects that one would never suspect were “green.” There are so many great options on the market now: organic fabrics, low voc paints, furniture made with sustainable wood, etc. so there really is no excuse not to design responsibly anymore.
Why are antiques the ultimate green tool in design?
Antiques are the ultimate green tool because they require no new resources. They can also be repurposed for different uses then they were originally intended. For example an armoire can be used as a bar, or a table can be cut down to use as a coffee table, assuming it is not museum quality!
How does a modernist lover learn to utilize antiques in design?
We often use antiques in modern settings in order to give a space an added element of drama. Using only one period or style of furniture makes a room feel stiff and stagnant. Likewise a contemporary piece of furniture or art in a traditional setting keeps things fresh and avoids the room looking like grandma’s house.
What designers would you love to sip cocktails with in your home?
While he was not a designer, King Louis XIV of France was really the inventor of style as we know it today. He is directly responsible for France being the center of fashion, fragrances, fine furniture and decorative arts for three hundred years!
New York design icon Vicente Wolf has been a great inspiration. While at first glance we may appear not to have much in common from a design perspective, we both approach design on the premise that by mixing pieces of different styles, periods, textures and quality you appreciate each one more. Although he has lived in the United States for many years, Vicente is originally from Cuba, so perhaps we share those early Latin roots in our approach to design?
Did you study design formally?
I always loved architecture, but I majored in English Literature. After getting out of university I began working at a large advertising agency, I was able to develop strong business skills within a very creative environment. By the time I was 27 had become the youngest senior vice president in the history of big Madison Avenue ad agencies. At the age of 30, I moved to Paris to run the international operations of our European network.
In Paris, I found a wonderful large 19th century apartment that needed a lot of furniture. I started exploring Paris’s famed flea markets and Drouot auction house. When it was completed, a friend asked if I would consider having the apartment published in House & Garden magazine.
Friends and advertising clients started asking me if I would help them with their residences and before I knew it, I was doing that. After seven years in Paris I was promoted to president of my company’s international operations. But I found that the world of architecture and design really was the passion that I was meant to pursue.
I moved back to California and became a full-time designer, with the establishment of Timothy Corrigan, Inc. in Los Angeles in 1998. We opened our office in Paris in 2000. Museums, travel and books have been my primary teachers. I am a maniac about continuing to learn and grow; my reading is history or architecture and design books and auction catalogues. My seven years living full-time in Europe opened my eyes to the way history has always impacted the world of design.
What advice do you have for upcoming designers?
Design is all about trust between you and your clients and you and your suppliers. You must establish that sense of mutual trust and continue to reinforce it all along the way. Designers must listen to the client. It’s not about you or your ego.
It is important to study the history of architecture and design. Even the most contemporary design has its roots in the past. Designers must always continue to learn and grow in your knowledge. Designers should try new things and venture out of their safety zone sometimes. This is a business so designers should handle a client’s money as prudently as if it were your own!
What’s wrong with today’s design industry? How can it improve?
I think that some design magazines don’t really think about the way that people live in their homes...too often, you look in magazines and see homes that may be nice to look at but when you think about how you would actually live in that space it would be a real problem! So much of contemporary furniture has nice looking lines but no comfort. No one really wants to live in a space where there can’t be a little mess around the house...let’s face it; we all have “stuff” that we need to have out and about in our house. Many contemporary designs don’t really allow for you to really live in your home.
How can people with less money achieve your look?
It’s probably easy to achieve our look on a budget than it is if you are going for a totally contemporary look! A magazine once wrote that our design style creates homes that usually take generations to achieve. What that really means is that you shouldn’t be too “matchy-matchy!” Don’t be afraid to mix a second hand sofa with a flea market treasure that you find...then mix in a bright colored new lamp and you have a look that reflects your own individual taste and style. Using slipcovers of washable or outdoor fabric on your furniture is also a great idea because when the inevitable spills do happen, you can throw the slipcovers in the wash and they come out looking fresh and new!