Many are the platforms that are trying to make the most of the world’s current confinement, by reinventing themselves and showcasing the evergrowing and inevitable connection with the digital age. Such is the case with the online design marketplace, 1stdibs, that created a virtual showhouse that gathers 10 iconic interiors reimagined by 10 top designers. Imaginations ran wild, as each practice was given free rein to rethink one well-known and well-loved room, and charged with reimagining its furniture, lighting, and decor.
Unconstrained by the limitations so often imposed by reality, the designers had the freedom to take creative risks and realize alternative visions for the iconic interiors that they love.
“With so many physical events on hold this spring, we thought creating a virtual showhouse would give design lovers the opportunity to see the magic interior designers can create when they’ve no client and no budget to constrain their imaginations,” Anthony Barzilay Freund, editorial director and director of fine art at 1stdibs, said in a statement.
The living room of Villa Santo Sospir, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France, by Sara Bengur of Sara Bengur Interiors
Conscious of our need for escapism in these trying times, New York-based designer Sara Bengur selected the Côte d’Azur home of socialite Francine Weisweiller for her iconic interior—specifically the living room, designed by interior designer Madeleine Castaing, with walls “tattooed” in fantastical fashion by artist, filmmaker, and writer Jean Cocteau in 1950. “With Cocteau’s murals depicting Greek mythic figures, you enter a space that makes every atom in your body smile,” Bengur says.
Her redesign for 1stdibs took the colour yellow as its starting point, in a celebration of the sun god Apollo, who Cocteau placed above the fireplace. The eye shape of Pierre Chapo stares back at the walls, as does the eye on a plate on the mantelpiece. Items that reference the original design and the postwar period in which it was conceived—including a 1936 Gio Ponti sofa and a bamboo sconce and light fixture—sit alongside pieces of contemporary design that draw on Bengur’s international range of influences, such as the throne-like Favela chair by Brazil’s Campana Brothers and works by Italian artist Piero Fornasetti.
Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, by José Solís Betancourt and Paul Sherrill, Solís Betancourt & Sherrill
Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s German pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition occupies a special place in the history of modernism, and in the mind of Washington, D.C.–based José Solís Betancourt, who spent many an idle moment fantasizing about transforming the iconic interior into a living space.
His design envisages it as two domestic spaces: a living room and dining room. While retaining its minimal aesthetic and the famous Barcelona stool, the new take for 1stdibs adds touches of warmth and tactility—antique carpets; sheer curtains; materials such as wood, velvet, and fur; and a candelabra that hints of romance.
Forum Baths, Pompeii, by Nicole Fuller, Nicole Fuller Interiors
Seeking a space for reflection, inspiration, and calm, Nicole Fuller turned her attention to a much earlier period of history: the Forum Baths of Pompeii, created in about 79 B.C.
A Botticelli-style portrait hangs on one wall, while the sconces reference a more recent artistic master, Alberto Giacometti. Stained glass windows create a kaleidoscopic effect, scattering colours and light across the space in a therapeutic manner, while the customized infinity bed creates space for comfort, pampering, and rejuvenation. “You could call this the ultimate happy place,” Fuller says.
Nelson Rockefeller’s Living Room (1926), New York, by Suzy Hoodless
London-based talent Suzy Hoodless chose the Nelson Rockefeller living room in New York, designed through a cross-continental collaboration, for her iconic interior. “The Fifth Avenue apartment seems to be the epitome of a successful collaboration between the owner and art collector Nelson Rockefeller and Jean-Michel Frank, perhaps the most avant-garde designer of the period,” she says.
Her transformation layers vintage furniture and styles from various eras: The 1950s Runar Engblom armchairs reupholstered in playful textured fabric contrast with the streamlined Hans Olsen TV bench. Alongside it, the furniture has been drawn into the centre of the room to create a cosier atmosphere. “I wanted to modernize the layout, bring it in, make it more sociable and in keeping with modern living,” Hoodless says.
Lansdowne Dining Room, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, by Thomas Jayne and William Cullum, Jayne Design Studio
Robert Adam’s dining room at The Met is displayed unfurnished, which is what appealed to New York-based AD100 designer Thomas Jayne and William Cullum. “The room is relatively ornate but was sparsely decorated, even in its time—we saw this as an opportunity to reinvent it as a great room with multiple functions.”
They wanted to imbue it with a joyful quality and a sense of having evolved and matured with use over time, with furnishings and crafts from various eras and from around the world. Their reconfiguration gives the dining room a more modern character inspired by studio living, with space for multiple uses, while still respecting its original architecture.
Grand Staircase, Presidential Suite at The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, by Courtney McLeod, Right Meets Left Interior Design
“It is a stark departure from the bold Hollywood Regency style of the original—I wouldn’t dare try to replicate the over-the-top deliciousness of Mrs Draper’s design eye,” says Courtney McLeod, of New York studio Right Meets Left, of her redesign of Dorothy Draper’s 1913 original.
The sweeping staircase and expansive double-height wall become a backdrop to a new set of Art Deco-inspired prints, motifs, and colours. Foregrounded are striking items, including a centre table by Ghiró Studio and a curved Vladimir Kagan sofa covered in printed fabric. Studiopepe’s Hello Sonia rug creates a graphic path up the stairs.
The Loft, Casa Batlló, Barcelona, by Gil Melott, Studio 6F
“I believe disparate does not mean disharmonious—it offers an opportunity for a new language or rhythm,” says Gil Melott of Chicago’s Studio 6F, describing a philosophy that he shares with Antoni Gaudí, whose iconic interior in Casa Batlló feels like being inside the ribcage of a whale.
Melott imagined a fictional family living there, adding an inviting 1930s mahogany bar; a dramatic, trident-like bronze floor lamp; a Persian carpet; and sofas from his own line of designs.
Yves Saint-Laurent’s Bedroom at the Villa Mabrouka, Tangier, by Peter Mikic, Peter Mikic Interiors
Villa Mabrouka, Yves Saint Laurent’s final residence in Tangier, Morocco, was designed in the 1960s by Jacques Grange as the antithesis of the fashion designer’s other, more opulent, antique-filled homes—with simple stretches of bright colours and a stripped-back approach to furnishings and decor.
London-based Peter Mikic homed in on the sea-facing bedroom, taking inspiration from the ocean for the aquamarine Murano glass pendant light and shell mirror, and adding ornate touches such as the metal fire screen and carved wooden picture frame. The bright yellow of the 3D-printed chair reflects Saint Laurent’s own aesthetic, as do the brass bedside tables by Scarlet Splendour and the ceramic Ettore Sottsass Totem in white and aqua, a nod to YSL statement bangles.
Palais des Études courtyard, École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, by Lee Mindel, SheltonMindel
AD100 designer Lee Mindel took inspiration from the notable alumni of the 350-year-old École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, focusing on the courtyard that is used today to exhibit students’ work.
A miniature reproduction of Auguste Rodin’s Le Penseur sits in the middle, with characters from paintings by pop artist Julian Opie milling about. “They’re racially diverse and six feet apart,” notes New York-based Mindel. Someone carries an umbrella, in reference to Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The final touch is an assemblage of paper lanterns by Japanese-American designer Isamu Noguchi, who Mindel notes voluntarily interned himself at a detention camp in Arizona during World War II to help fellow detainees design and build recreation areas.
Grand Salon, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Apartment, by Brigette Romanek, Romanek Design Studio
Unlike his Moroccan home, the apartment in Paris that Yves Saint Laurent shared with his partner Pierre Bergé is opulence embodied, packed with antique and modern treasures, from neoclassical bronzes to furniture by Eileen Gray.
AD100 designer Brigette Romanek felt it was futile to compete on those terms, so instead, she stripped back the layers, textures, and objects (except the oak-panelled walls) to create a graphic, minimalist room for everyday life. The few key objects added include sofa, chairs and Tongue chaises by Pierre Paulin, all upholstered in cream; marble coffee tables by Angelo Mangiarotti; and a blue-and-white abstract artwork by Joanne Freeman. “My design brief to myself was to create a space where people could relax, hang out, feel inspired,” the L.A.-based designer says. “The room itself is a conversation. It breathes, but every piece is a statement.”
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