Richard Mishaan Design.
Style: Superspirited interiors that often blend iconic furniture, punchy patterns, and powerhouse art.
Projects: A hotel in Colombia, residences in the Dominican Republic, Florida, and New York.
In The Works: Lighting for Arteriors, a book about Colombian crafts, artworks for Soicher Marin.
Clients: Patricia Duff, John McEnroe.
Inspirations: Museums and art shows.
Key Influences: Syrie Maugham, Carlos de Beistegui, Tony Duquette.
New York; richardmishaan.com
Richard Mishaan Design
Richard Mishaan embraces a curated eclecticism, appointing interiors with diverse charismatic furnishings, objects, and art. The same spirit can be house at his Manhattan boutique, Homer.
Design Philosophy: "Clean, tailored, collected."
Up Next: A Mediterranean-style mansion in the Dominican Republic; the restoration of a 16th-century hotel in Cartagena, Colombia; and the launch of the Richard Mishaan Furniture Collection at Homer this spring.
New York; richardmishaan.com
Over his 20-plus-year career, Colombian-born interior designer Richard Mishaan has built a reputation for being the ultimate mix master. A favorite among collectors, he arranges disparate elements, say, a 17th-century console and a striking contemporary sculpture, into harmonious juxtapositions. It's a skill that's on inspiring display in his second monograph, Artfully Modern, due out in November from the Monacelli Press. And one that also defines the homes he has decorated for himself, including retreats in Cartagena, Colombia (Architectural Digest, May 2012), and Long Island, New York, as well as an apartment in Manhattan.
That last residence, located on a gilded stretch of Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park, is where he has lived for 18 years, and where he and artist Marcia Rolfe Mishaan raised their now-college-age son and daughter. For them the apartment is very much a family space, albeit one filled with fine furniture and museum-quality art-- a testament to their appreciation for beauty and to the decorator's refusal to follow prescribed design dictates. As he puts it, "I hate having constraints about what goes where."
Evidence of this is front and center is the entrance hall, where a table by Guy de Rougement hosting a stainless-steel piece by Chinese artist Zhan Wang stands near a neoclassical carved-wood console. On the wall hangs an exuberant assortment of works, ranging from glass droplets by Rob Wynne to a scene by 19th-century Italian painter Federico Andreotti. Bracketed by the cerulean-blue cove ceiling and the green-and-white marble floor, the unlikely combination of art and furnishings feels at once comfortingly traditional and defiantly original. "For Richard, the apartment is a but like a lab," Marcia says. "He's constantly trying new things."
Individualization is the theme of any Mishaan project, since, the designer explains, "I'm always working to create a context for my clients' lives, rather than forcing mine on them." When it comes to him own spaces, the well-traveled decorator makes liberal use of idiosyncratic art by high-profile friends and associates, such as the vibrant painting by Donald Baechler over the living room sofa or the Andy Warhol Brillo-box sculpture in the library. The works of Fernando Botero, a family friend, are also a conspicuous presence-- though one now appears a bit different from when it was first produced. For years, says a slightly chagrined Mishaan, he exhibited a Botero drawing in the living room without a protective layer of glass-- that is until a makeup-artist pal decided to brighten the black-and-white sketch with a daub of blush.
Among the living room's other treasures is an elegant bronze chair with a heart-shaped back designed years ago by Eric Schmitt for Homer, Mishaan's home furnishings store (now in Greenwich Village). Another is an 18th-century fauteuil that was recently determined to have belonged to Marie Antoinette. And then there is the multitude of creations-- some sculpted, some painted-- by another family intimate, Manolo Valdes, many of them inspired by Diego Velazquez's circa-1656 masterpiece Las Meninas. It's an eye-catching array that Mishaan pulls off by sticking to a mostly neutral palette for floor coverings, upholstery, and window treatments. "In an art-filled room, the art is the only place you should have color," he cautions.
Of course, there are times when the furnishings can be as intriguing as what surrounds them, as is the case with the powerhouse Piero Fornasetti carpet that runs the length of the hall leading from the apartment's public rooms to its private sphere. Depicting slithering serpents and rendered in shades of green, black, and red, the rug makes a vivid statement, at once alluring and menacing, a blend Mishaan finds compelling. "When I was growing up in Colombia, it was a violent society," he says. "But it was one packed with incredible art. I think my sense of color and boldness comes from that."
Though outfitted in pacific shades of taupe and cream, the master bedroom has its share of visual drama as well, what with a David Hockney painting (one of the designer's early purchases) and a Valdes metal bust that is enveloped by a swarm of butterflies. Like every room in the apartment, this spot speaks to Mishaan's eclectic eye and the irresistible pull that comes with stumbling upon the perfect object-- even when there isn't an obvious place to put it. "I just like discovering things, and that's what I do," the decorator says, adding, "Collectors buy first and then ask, 'Where is this going?'" Clearly, it's a strategy worth emulating.
Richard Mishaan Design
Colombian-born, New York-based Richard Mishaan is a protean spirit. A one-time fashion designer who studied architecture at Columbia University and apprenticed in Philip Johnson's offices, Mishaan embraces aesthetic diversity in his interior schemes, relishing suave synergies between old and new, high and low, subtle and exuberant. In addition to working on numerous residential commissions, last winter he revived Homer, the beloved furniture boutique he had owned from 1997 to 2008, in a new Greenwich Village location, where he showcases his own distinctively tailored collections alongside a mix of vintage and contemporary pieces. Mishaan is also designing two hotel properties in Miami, including Wyndham's closely watched gut renovation of the Shelborne in South Beach. "They've changed me," he says of the hospitality projects. "I'm like a yacht designer, maximizing every inch of space"-- without ever compromising comfort or elegance.
Interior designer Richard Mishaan unveils a family getaway with a cross-cultural beat-- and spectacular views of old-town Cartagena.
Bougainvillea blossoms cascade across the painted facades of Cartagena's old walled city, adding to the exotic palette of flaking yellow, persimmon, chalky orange, and pomegranate-red. As a child, Richard Mishaan spent his winter holidays in this Spanish colonial port on Colombia's Caribbean coast. "It's an enchanting place," says the interior designer, who grew up in Bogota and is now based in New York. Returning to Cartagena a few years ago to work on a commercial project, he fell in love with it all over again and was soon looking at real estate. When a 16th-century residence near the center of the historic district caught his eye, he decided to buy it and renovate it as a retreat for himself, his wife, and their two teenage children.
Because the area is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Mishaan was obliged to follow stringent preservation codes. "I had to start thinking in a clever way," he says-- something of an understatement given the amount of renovation he would do. The interiors had been chopped up into small rooms by previous owners, so the designer had to use an elaborate system of scaffolding to support the facade while he selectively gutted the core. This was complicated by the fact that the interiors, which bracketed a central courtyard, were in two different buildings-- an older single-story structure in front, now containing the living and dining areas; and a more recent three-story one in back, made up of mostly public rooms on the first floor, with bedrooms above.
The demolition process was strangely freeing. Mishaan began envisioning the house as a marriage between antiquity and modernity, a place to commune with the past while enjoying the comforts of the 21st century. Instead of mimicking vernacular styles, he decided to simplify the layout and organize rooms in a logical progression, creating a balance between romance and reason, at the same time adding historical allusions throughout-- sometimes tongue in cheek-- with objects and furnishings that would play off the dwelling's colonial past. Wherever possible, he stripped back the accretions of age to uncover original features, including 500-year-old Brazilian wood beams in the living area, and then restored them. The project took two years.
Antiquity strikes the first note in a pair of heavy wood doors, original to the house, that welcome visitors in from the street. The traditional Spanish zaguan, or arched foyer, boasts freshly plastered walls, which Mishaan stained with an ocher pigment and highlighted with small gold-leaf squares. The floor of veined black marble has been newly laid, while the 24-foot coffered ceiling, an elegant stitching of ivory and ebony inlays against dark wood, was painstakingly reconstructed based on existing fragments.
The foyer's relative duskiness gives way to a brilliant, sun-drenched courtyard whose white walls and minimalist detailing are very much of the present. The former owner had maintained a tropical garden here that Mishaan felt was oppressively lush, so he cleared it out and planted just a few slender palms. A pool and fountain were redesigned as well, and now a waterfall rushed down a wall faced in marble-mosaic tile, producing a calming sound that helps to muffle noises from the street.
Though separated by the courtyard, most of the interiors share the same crema marfil marble floors and white-painted walls, both chosen by the designer to foreground the glimpses of nearby architectural details visible through almost every window: cupped terra-cotta tiles, a sloping buttress stained by age, stone finials, corbelled rooflines. These picturesque views (neighbors include an old Catholic church and an 18th-century palace, lately operating as a hotel) become an integral part of the decor and, in a sense, complete it. Throughout the house, Mishaan opted to keep the furniture, much of it from his own eponymous collection, pared down in profile and limited to a range of subdued tones-- ivory, natural flax, dark blue-- while deftly mixing in geometric-patterned fabrics of pre-Colombian influence.
Perhaps the one room that strays from this clean-and-simple approach is the high-ceilinged living room, where tabletops and a wall of oak shelving hold a collection of eclectic object suggestive of the old treasures that were once shipped through colonial Cartagena: Here are vellum books, prayer beads, artifacts by indigenous peoples, a pair of 16th-century gilt-wood crowns. The master suite, on the third floor of the newer building, continues the maritime theme, but in a more whimsical way. Arrayed on a grandly scaled wall is Armada, a work by New York artists Jessie Henson comprising found paintings depicting idealized views of ships on the high seas.
The house culminates on the level above, a terrace with a vista that feels like a sudden release after the teasingly seductive views measured out below. This is Mishaan's favorite spot at the end of a long day.
"When I was young, Cartagena felt like a very remote place," he says, and the romance of that sentiment carries into the present. Here on the terrace, with the city revealed on a scale that encompasses its full tapestry of fairy-tale towers, sun-flecked tile roofs, Baroque cupolas, palm trees, and the ubiquitous bougainvillea, the rest of the world is decidedly easy to forget.
The Biedermeier stool by Richard Mishaan for Bolier nods to Viennese style with its curved legs, rounded frame, and walnut veneer. It is available in standard fabrics or c.o.m. and stands 19" h x 30" w.