Redd State: Undebatable Glamour


No one does bold color and lustrous surfaces like interior designer Miles Redd. Tour some of his vavoom rooms for lessons in luxe


PULL COLORS FROM ROOM TO ROOM | An acid green hue, picked off the leaves in the wallpapered hallway, takes the lead in the adjacent room. French blue on the leather doors provides a thunder-stealing supporting role.

I USUALLY TRASH robo-recommendations, but when Amazon emailed me to say I might enjoy looking at decorator Miles Redd’s “The Big Book of Chic” (Assouline), I concurred. (Also, as it happens, my husband, photographer Paul Costello, shot most of the interiors in the book.) The cover, like a front door that’s different from all the others on the block, compels you to open it. I called Mr. Redd, who is a friend of mine, and made him walk me through an advance copy.

I was transported. Flipping through the pages is like going to a cocktail party in heaven at which Diana Vreeland insists you try the frozen vodka shots, Truman Capote’s got his feet in Babe Paley’s lap and Pauline de Rothschild is floating around the room saying “to hell with what anyone thinks.” And then there’s Mr. Redd as a young Cecil Beaton, in top hat and tuxedo, making this whole production possible.

New York-based Mr. Redd is known for bold color combinations tempered by good antiques with a touch of Alice in Wonderland magic. His work has been published often, but it’s a treat to have him driving the art direction this time. Sometimes he’ll pair a bit of inspiration—a Sargent portrait of a couture-clad princess sitting beside a Chinese urn—with a room he decorated where the curtains look exactly like the ruffled gown in the painting. Or he’ll cruise you through a house done in an arresting palette of peacock blue, apple green and cherry red; the colors, expertly woven from room to room, become a de facto tour guide.

There’s a mountain of design books out there teaching us how to decorate. You won’t find pedantry in this one, however. Not a single sentence about making “wow” furniture arrangements or how to mix checks and stripes. Mr. Redd lets his rooms narrate the story. Crisp restraint in a 1970s Fire Island cabin speaks of weekends splashing in the pool and lounging with friends in front of the fireplace. Disciplined exuberance in a Fifth Avenue paneled library broadcasts intelligence and beauty. English shabby chic in Mr. Redd’s first East Village apartment, where guests (including a younger me) sit on the harlequin-pattern floor eating caviar, suggests the consummate high-low moment. Mr. Redd’s work is wildly varied but rallies around a common theme: glamour. Beauty is what gets this decorator out of his mirrored bed in the morning.

“Flipping through the pages is like going to a cocktail party in heaven in which Diana Vreeland insists you try the frozen vodka shots.”

“It’s a deeply personal book about inspiration and fantasy,” Mr. Redd told me over the phone (no emails, texts or tweets, he requested). “Each chapter is like a love letter to a client.” He went on to explain that under the dust jacket there is a close-up image of a fauteuil that alludes to the cover of “A House Is Not a Home,” photographer Bruce Weber’s interiors book. “Bruce Weber took photographs of the quirky things he thought were interesting, like a bag of dog food next to a William Kent table. How terrifically confident and glamorous is that?”

How To Get Ahead, According To Redd

1. Align yourself with the best people and then absorb everything you can from them.

2. Accept criticism from those you respect—it will make you so much better.

3. Say yes when you’re young and no when you’re old.

4. Exercise, eat right and sleep.

5. Clothes make the man.

6. Return phone calls and show up.

7. Preserve great beauty with good sense.

Mr. Redd’s book demonstrates that almost anything can be lovely if treated thoughtfully. Often-overlooked 19th-century pieces that might seem too granny to most are swooped up and customized. “It’s impossibly expensive to replicate that level of craftsmanship today,” Mr. Redd said. “I love to modernize those kinds of antiques with something interesting like a faux tortoise finish.”

“The Big Book of Chic” illuminates Mr. Redd’s obsession with color. “All you have to do is look in nature,” he said. “They are all there.” While endorsing the open-minded approach, Mr. Redd also emphasized the importance of deleting. “Everyone needs a good editor. It’s totally intuitive, but I can zero in on what’s out of place or not working in a room immediately.”

A few years ago my friend Ruthie Sommers, the Los Angeles decorator, was struggling with some design issues in her living room. Casting out for inspiration, she wondered, “What would Miles Redd do?” We decided to phone him up in New York. He picked up on the first ring and started to rhapsodize about “a little lacquer here and a bit of matte plaster there,” but then paused for a minute. Finally he said, with a good deal of enthusiasm, “Oh honey, just make it as glamorous and cool as you are.” Ruthie was re-inspired.

—Ms. Costello is a writer and design consultant based in New Orleans.


Paul Costello for the Wall Street Journal

Cherry red chair with a masculine touch

Manufacture Tension

Cherry red leather on a masculine English armchair toughens up a feminine corner.

Miguel Flores-Vianna

Curvy furnitures compliments the parlor room.

Deploy Shapely Pieces

A parlor room is defined by a swoop- back tufted sofa that sets the tone for curvy furniture and window pelmets.


Paul Costello for the Wall Street Journal

Give off trompe l'oeil effect from the curtains.

Go Haute Couture With Curtains

Two shades of red trim create a subtle trompe l'oeil effect on otherwise simple window valances in celadon silk.


Paul Costello for the Wall Street Journal

Make a cozy section in your living room.

Carve Out Intimate Conversation Areas

Living room corners are ideal for cozy banquette seating where low-light sconces and occasional chairs lure guests to break away from the crowd.


Fritz von der Schulenburg/Veranda

Add Chinese vases for opulent entrance hall.

Always Be Styling

Negative space underneath an entrance hall console becomes an arranging opportunity. The symmetry and heft of blanc de chine vases, Chinese foo dogs and a pair of obelisks match the opulence of the patterned floor.


Paul Costello

Place a reading table to make the room practical yet chic.

Temper Chicness With Usability

This library, lacquered in midnight blue, features ebony bookshelves with nickel supports. A well-placed reading table makes the room both lovely and practical.