With my book at the printer I can finally get back to featuring more profiles on All the Best; I am thrilled to start with interior designer Timothy Corrigan. With offices in both Los Angeles and Paris, Timothy is known for his perfect balance of European grandeur and California comfort. A perfect example is his own home in Los Angeles’s Hancock Park neighborhood. His 1922 Georgian Colonial–style house is grand, yet bright, classic and cheerful. The house Timothy now calls home is the same house he grew up in as a child. When the property went on the market a few years ago there were seven other offers. So he sent the owner a photo of him in the swimming pool when he was a boy, with a note that read, ‘Let me come home.’
When not at home in LA Timothy retreats to his château in the Loire Valley, the upcoming subject of his book to be published by Rizzoli. I for one can’t wait to own a copy.
How would you describe your personal style?
I am a very practical designer. No matter how beautiful a space turns out, if you are afraid to use the room for fear of staining or marking up the furniture it is not a success! A magazine once described my esthetic as “European elegance infused with California casual” and I really think that it is a good summation of what I try to achieve. I’ve spent much of my life in Europe and really appreciate so much of what it has to offer in terms of style and history. While I love so much of the European design esthetic, there is something very special about the ease of life in California. So, if you can have a blend of the two, you have the best of both worlds.
What is your idea of earthly happiness?
I am never happier than when I am at my place in the French countryside, the Chateau du Grand-Luce’. It doesn’t really matter what I am doing there (pulling weeds, feeding the swans and geese, or walking in the woods) this is the place where I find the true meaning of joy. When I am there, I continually give thanks that I have been so lucky in my life. I am currently in the process of working on a book about the chateau with Rizzoli, so soon I will be able to share its beauty and magic with everyone.
What is the one thing in life you cannot live without?
To me the most important thing is to connect in a meaningful way with other people. In this age of text, email, twitter, and Skype I find that it becomes even more essential to really have meaningful conversations and exchanges with people. I make an effort to do such seemingly inconsequential things as asking the person at the tollbooth how their day is going. It is much too easy to lose touch with everyone in the world around us. When I come away from a good conversation with someone I feel so much fuller and richer as a human being.
What inspires your creativity and designs?
The most important thing is to keep exposing your self to new ideas, new styles, and new places. Without evening thinking about it you can find yourself running in an autopilot way of living…that is when you stagnate. It’s good to put yourself in situations in which you feel a little bit unfamiliar, in doing so you stretch as a person. I constantly keep pushing myself to grow, experience and learn new things. Even if you can’t travel, you can expose yourself to new ideas by visiting a local museum, going to a foreign film, reading a history book about a period or place that you don’t already know about.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
I am always reading two or three books at a time. Between my iPod, art/design books, and auction catalogues my bedside table is always piled high. At the moment I am reading: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. It is a most beautifully written and incredibly involving “memoir” that tracks a collection of Japanese netsuke as it passes from one member of a family to the next. The collection passes from Second Empire Paris (with all of the impressionists painters on the scene) to Vienna at he turn of the twentieth century up through the Nazi take over of the city and then on to Tokyo up to today. It is haunting depiction of both strength and loss in a single family through tumultuous times.
I am also reading Late 18th and 19th Century Textiles: Neo-Classicism to Pop by Sue Kerry. I am developing a new line of fabrics for a major manufacturer and I am fascinated to see what an important role textile played in defining one’s place in the world during those two centuries.
Finally, I am listening to the complete seven books of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time — I was never able to wade through the full series in print, so listening to it has been a pure joy. This is actually my second time listening to it (all 37 CDs) because I enjoy it so much!
What is your most prized possession?
The single object that means the most to me is a small silver and vermeil box with enamel and porcelain that was given by Empress Elizabeth (“Sisi”) of Austria to her niece, my great, great grandmother. It’s filled with an odd collection of small mementos from my family and early childhood, like the first starfish I ever found and some old keys to the stables at my grandmother’s house. It has gone with me from the time that I got my first apartment right out of college and so it serves as a kind of touchstone.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
Time with loved ones is my favorite luxury in life. My projects keep me so busy that I generally work 12-hour days, 7 days a week…all of which leaves very little time for socializing. When I do carve out time to for myself, I like to have a big group of family and friends meet at my house in the French countryside. We take long walks in the woods, sit for hours in front of the fire just talking, reading, playing games, or taking naps. It’s almost like going back in time to when life was all much slower and people really had the time to be with each other. I can think of no other place that I would rather be when I am afforded the luxury of time.
Past or present who has most influenced your direction in life?
The single person who has most influenced my life was an incredible Franco-Italian man called Marc Farinati degli Uberti. When I first moved to Paris in the late 1980’s, Marc introduced me to the world of art and antiques in which I live today. A gentleman art dealer, Marc knew everything about the arts from the Renaissance up through the latest in contemporary art. He let me trail him as he worked his way through the archaic Drouot Auction house sales rooms and miles of flea market allees. He introduced me to some of the finest private art collections in France and told me about obscure little museums in small towns and cities throughout Europe. In addition to all of that, he was one of the finest human beings I have ever known. I feel so blessed to have known this man and can confidently say that I would not be a designer today, were it not for the time that Marc spent educating me.
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
It would be so incredible to work with the film director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan conceptualizing the look of one of his films. He has the most extraordinary mind and I love the way he views time in a non-linear fashion. He creates whole worlds in his films that are both like (and unlike) anything that we think we have already experienced.
In the design world, I would love to help take a grand dame like the Carlyle Hotel in New York and help bring it more up-to-date for today’s hotel guest. The Carlyle has always understood that the best hotel stay is one in which you feel at home, the problem is that people’s conception of what is “home” has changed over the years. I think that there is great opportunity for them to continue to be the place to stay in New York City.
Profile by Ronda Carman
AD Photos by Roger Davies