October 19, 2015
Writen by Pilar Viladas
All photos by William Abranowicz and courtesy of Rizzoli
The latest book by the New York decorator brings together just eight of his residential projects, delving deep into their colorful, ravishingly elegant rooms — spaces that mix a masterful sense of tradition with the perfect dose of irreverence.
“I relish my responsibilities as an alpha dog,” says the New York decorator Jeffrey Bilhuber, who has just released a new book. “What most people want is to be told what to do.”
Jeffrey Bilhuber has been working his particular brand of decorating magic for three decades. The New York designer is fluent in many stylistic idioms, but he is particularly adept at the kind of traditionalism that looks deadly serious until you spot the irreverent, expertly placed touches, like a stuffed peacock or a sculpture by the contemporary artist Chuck Price that sits atop a carved and gilded 17th-century bracket. Consistent throughout his work is a sense of glamour; even a cottage in the country seems to have been only recently vacated by Katharine Hepburn in her Bringing Up Baby days. It’s no wonder that celebrities (David Bowie and Iman, Mariska Hargitay) and stars of the creative world (Elsa Peretti, Hubert de Givenchy, Anna Wintour) seek him out to, as he writes in Jeffrey Bilhuber: American Master (Rizzoli), “spin whatever you put in front of me into something much more glorious than you ever imagined without me!” The title may be immodest, but the contents deliver. With a text by Sara Ruffin Costello and photographs by William Abranowicz, the book — Bilhuber’s fourth in 12 years — presents a mere eight interiors, but it goes deep into the ideas, materials, color choices and furnishings of each one.
A great proponent of color and ornamental motifs, Bilhuber used purple hues and hand-blocked Indian fabrics in the Palm Beach home’s second-floor siting room. The restored Napoleonic chairs still have their original 19th-century bead trim.
After a glowing foreword by Hargitay — “At the end of each project, you get the best version not of him, but of YOU,” she writes — and an introduction by Bilhuber himself, the reader is immersed in his creative process. The pages are peppered with pithy pull quotes: “You’re only as good as your client,” or “Modernity is not about a new material; it’s about how you navigate your way through the world,” or “What’s liberating is to be fearless.”