Granted, it’s probably very unlikely we can “know” someone – “Savoir Sills” – from an interview. But when it comes to decorator Stephen Sills (he deplores the term “designer”, stating “it’s such a made-up thing from the 70’s when decorators were looked down upon, so everybody became a ‘designer’. A great decorator should be every bit as respected as a great architect.”) I can’t seem to get enough of his sybaritic take on classic design and, in particular, his Bedford country house, which Karl Lagerfeld declared “the chicest house in America.” A recent interview conducted by Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge with the New York Social Diary has once again opened the covetable doors of Sill’s self-declared laboratory of design, shedding new light on the direction his work is taking, with a rare peak inside this self-admitted shy recluse’s psyche. I will be one of many bloggers sharing these images, and there is no point in reiterating what has been recorded so recently in the NYSD interview … I simply want to use this medium to record and share them, as I will reference them often. If you are as enamored with the talent that is Stephen Sills as much as I am you, too, will return here – or there – again and again, as well. You can read the full story at New York Social Diary. Jouir!
A view of the main house with its four square architecture and original clapboard. A retaining wall and stone steps lead up to the back of the main house.
A Louis XVI Neo-classical oak cabinet stands against limed chestnut veneered walls in the entry hall. The portrait of an Arab boy is by artist Christian Berard. It was once owned by Christian Dior.
THE LIVING ROOM
Marble columns from the Mamluk period frame the entrance to the living room, decorated with a mixture of pieces that once belonged to Stephen’s ‘design’ heroes, including Bill Blass, Cecil Beaton, Rudolf Nureyev and Carlos Beistegui. Hand-grooved plaster walls and stone floors are the perfect backdrop for Stephen’s mix of fine art and antiques: a pair of English twig candle tables stand next to a pair of Georges Jacob recamiers; the oversized globe once lived in Rudolf Nureyev’s apartment; a stunning bronze head by Picasso stands atop a 17th century Indo-Portuguese table; a Cy Twombly drawing provides contrast to an Etruscan terra-cotta mask; a “greige” armless sofa and side chairs add a modern touch and tie pieces together from different eras in design; a Robert Rauschenberg drawing and a Louis XVI settee are centered between French doors; baluster-shaped pewter pilgrim bottles are arranged atop a Louis XV mahogany secretary.
A formal dining room and porch were converted into a spacious library where Stephen reads, watches TV and holds casual dinners. Christian Dior once owned the 18th century porter’s chair that stands front and center. Custom bookcases also conceal a door to the kitchen. To hide the disparate pattern of books Stephen lined his glass-fronted bookcases with bamboo shades painted white. An exquisite 18th century German Louis XVI desk is from Carlton Hobbs. The étagère is Directoire and holds a Giacometti lamp.
Stephen loves to cook and entertain in his casual all-white country kitchen.
A cone-shaped plaster chandelier by Alberto Giacometti hangs over a Louis XVI dining table and chairs. A corner of the dining room is filled with art, including a bronze sculpture by Jean Arp and drawings by Miro.
Stephen transformed the upstairs landing into an additional sitting area. The mid-19th century German corner cabinets were built to display glassware. A lattice-back chair and Georgian desk stand against a wall. An 18th century French provincial map hags on a wall in the stairwell. Stephen saved the iron rods for years before he was able to transform them into these staircase spindles.
Stephen had the walls of a guest-room (which had been Stephen’s bedroom according to previous publications) painted in an unusual high-gloss green. (Stephen calls the color ‘pond-scum green’). A tufted leather sofa and mahogany Directoire chair provide an elegant and comfortable seating area. A series of antique mirrored candle sconces hang above the fireplace mantel. A handsome Italian Empire steel bed welcomes the lucky house guest.
Country clothes are draped over a side chair; French doors flank an Italian writing table; an antique Austrian map, a Roman bust and sepia photos are arranged atop the fireplace mantel.
A stunning antique Portuguese embroidery is draped over the back of a sofa in the upstairs study; an eagle’s nest of barbed wire stands in front of the window; a wall covered with notes and photos of family and friends.
Stephen designed a second guest bedroom in soothing tones of blue and gray.
THE GUEST HOUSE
Stephen transformed what was originally a slate-roofed garage, about to fall down, and turned it into a guesthouse.
Inspired by the floor pattern of Pauline de Rothchild’s Chateau Mouton, with its multi-colored tiles, Stephen decided to flip the idea ‘upside-down’ and paint the ceiling of the main room in this lively pattern. The floors are laid with a rough Canadian marble brick that is stained white. Formal French furniture is arranged casually around a linen covered table; grotto tables from Kew Gardens are part of the eclectic collection of furnishings; a straw chair by Korean artist Kim Hyun-bin stands near a Robert Morris felt sculpture; a French ormolu-mounted money-changing table sits next to an 18th century French tester bed; eighteenth-century chairs from Turin, stand in front of a fabric-covered table topped with a Jean-Michel Frank lamp and ancient Chinese jade objects.
In the guesthouse hall a small painting by Stephen’s elementary school teacher stands atop an English lacquer table.
A high-lacquer grey paint creates a soothing background for a downstairs bedroom in the guesthouse. The lamps are by Dupré Lafon.
For the interview visit New York Social Diary