By KRISTAN SVEDA
Photography By CHICHI UBIÑA
Interior designer and home décor boutique owner Sandra Morgan summons her passion for fashion, art, and color with each design.
Sandra Morgan is somewhat of a renaissance woman when it comes to interior design. The Long Island-raised designer and owner of Sandra Morgan Interiors took the long road to the industry. So with each project she summons her passions for publishing, art history, and especially fashion to create interiors that showcase a client’s personality and continually offer something new to delight the eye. And for those who are doing the designing themselves and are shopping for one special piece of art or an entire room, her successful home décor retail boutique Sandra Morgan Home on Arch Street in Greenwich, CT, has a curated collection of Sandra Morgan décor. We caught up with Morgan to find out how she got her start and where she finds her inspiration.
What brought you to design?
As a very young girl I was always interested in my room, and my doll house was a great destination for me. I went over the top with that when I was young. When I went to college I became an art history major. I am inspired by architecture and cultures all over the world. After college, I landed a job with a house and garden magazine at Condé Nast, where I worked for the fabric editor in the interior design department. Then I segued to Mademoiselle. I became an associate editor there. That’s where the link between fashion and interiors became more interesting and evident to me. It was always about color, texture, and line composition, whether fashion or interiors. When I was married and started having a family, we moved to Connecticut. I set up my own design firm accidentally; because people liked what I was doing with my own place. Little by little I developed a business. Then I went into a full-scale retail business importing furniture from England and opening an art gallery. In 1988, I established Sandra Morgan Interiors. Ten years ago my daughter Laird Morgan Tolan joined the firm. She comes from a strong fashion background in New York City, having worked as a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel, Ann Taylor, and Victoria Secret. Interiors and fashion speak to each other in many ways.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Our style at the firm is modern classic. We respect the traditions of the past and always give it a modern spin to make it relevant. My interest in color comes from my art history background: my love of paintings from the Fauves [a loosely allied group of French painters including Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and others], and Impressionist paintings like Monet and Émile Bernard. The art piece of the puzzle is very important. It shows up continuously in the work that I do.
What services do you offer clients? Describe your team of experts.
We do everything from the ground up. We can start with the architects, which we’ve done many times—from studs to finished product. We do just about anything that a client will ask of us, down to finding the sheets and towels for their bedrooms, master suites, and guest rooms. We have a team here that sometimes works on projects individually and sometimes shares projects with each other. We have long established relationships with excellent workrooms. We are a full service interior design firm who specializes in residential interior design.
What do you think makes your firm exceptional in the industry?
There are lots of good designers around. What makes us different is that we do have an ongoing art gallery and retail showroom featuring contemporary artists of note—both established and upcoming. People do come just to sort of get the feel and the energy of what we are doing. Everything is for sale, but it’s also a showcase for what we do and what we offer.
If interior design were fashion, who would your clients be wearing?
Ralph Lauren and Armani by day. Valentino and Oscar de la Renta at night. I’d have to throw a little J.Crew in there to keep the checkbook in balance.
Tell us about the project we are looking at.
My client came to us wanting to freshen up her home. She had a traditional home that hadn’t been decorated for 10 years. She was going to have a big party in the spring to celebrate her son’s marriage. She is passionate about color and wanted to lift the house into a different spirit. We ended up doing almost the whole house. We had this wonderful color palette of lavenders, blues, greens, and pinks. We used as many of her antiques as we could. A grandfather clock holds court in the room as the kingpin. We added a contemporary glass coffee table. In the sunroom we whitewashed and stenciled the floor to compliment the fabrics my client already had.
Do you have any news to share with our readers?
We have a summer art show opening May 19, featuring colorfield artists—artists who have been working in the tradition of Marc Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler with an expressive use of color in large fields. To kick off the show we are holding a cosmo cocktail reception and artist talk that evening.
Classics Refreshed: Four of Design’s biggest trends are reinvented classics
Like fashion, trends come and go and then come back. The key is learning how to rely on the classics without letting them get static and finding something new with staying power. “Today’s lifestyle is more casual,” says Morgan. “We’re not living like the people in Downton Abbey anymore, but our clients still like to have a certain level of elegance in their lives. Just not quite as formal.” Here, Sandra Morgan offers up some of her favorite ways clients are staying current with not-so-new design ideas.
Our clients, particularly our younger families, are interested in midcentury modern design: clean lines and uncluttered. It has a history, but it’s not old enough to be antique, which might be too serious for them. Right now in the shop we have a fabulous Lucite sculpture dating from the ’40s. It’s a classic piece that has a lot of richness and excitement in it. Lucite, of course, has been very popular, but I’m wondering what the next material of the moment is.
There is a strong flavor of African and Moroccan ethnic design. I’m seeing beautifully intricate, complicated graphics in fabrics. There is a great relationship with interiors and fashion. I’ve been really struck with what I see in the ads in the New York Times. Even Ralph Lauren, which is American classic is showing fashion inspired by African textiles and design.
Gold is being revived as a warm, rich metal to use as opposed to everything being polished nickel. A color palette of strong yellows—buttery yellow, taxi cab, or lemon yellows are hitching on the coattails of the gold metals.
I love what is happening with textured wallcoverings. The old grasscloths I grew up with just suddenly eight years ago started morphing into this wonderful new design element. They are no longer neutral. Everybody is printing color and design. That’s great fun for instantly changing the feeling of a room.
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