Q&A: Nick Olsen

Name: Nick Olsen
Resides in: New York City
Occupation: Interior designer, Nick Olsen Inc.
Best known for: Championing New Traditionalism in his vibrant, pattern-happy residential projects, which routinely pop up in shelter publications including House Beautiful and World of Interiors.

1. Antique or modern?
Antique and modern—I appreciate each most when juxtaposed.

2. City or country?
City, because after 13 years in New York I find I can't live without the constant stimulation—though regular vacations are a must!

3. Which colors do you use most?
At the moment, all shades of aqua and teal, sunshine yellow, and rich purple.

4. Favorite materials or textures?
Silk velvet, polished leather, raw plaster, duchesse satin, and a Clarence House woven fabric called Fleuret Jaspe.

5. What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Quality. I strive for it and wish my clients would too.

6. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in?
Not so much. I grew up in a very red, white, and blue, Country Living-inspired bungalow. The only common thread would be [the presence of] color, and lots of it.

Nick Olsen design | Lonny.com
(Ph. courtesy Nick Olsen)
7. Does a room need a view?
No. Dark and moody rooms are some of the most interesting. Billy Baldwin legendarily used massive abstract paintings to substitute for windows in some of his most gorgeous rooms.

8. Favorite designer or architect?
Miles Redd, my former mentor, because he taught me so much about decorating and running a business.

9. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
The Peak of Chic by Jennifer Boles; it's like an encyclopedia of decorating history and a game of Trivial Pursuit all in one site.

10. What qualities do you most admire in a room?
Scale, textural contrast, a novel furniture plan, and at least one bold and unexpected gesture.

11. What is a forbidden word in your house?
Drapes. It hurts just to type it out.

12. Design rule you love to break?
Never paint a small room a dark color. I say lacquer it admiral blue with abandon!

13. What is your favorite room in the house?
Any "great room" that functions in multiple ways. I like rooms that are divided into many cozy nooks for reading, dining, having a cocktail, and so on.

14. What is your most treasured possession?
An old novel entitled Beauty and Nick that I found at the flea market one afternoon. I've never cracked it but the title is so fitting!

15. What do you wish you could do without?
Trashy reality TV shows. I could've read and re-read Proust's entire oeuvre about 70 times already with the hours I've wasted on Real Housewives alone.

16. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design?
It's a stereotype, but La La Land feels much more casual—see Belgian linens, raw textures, and massive scale. New England seems all about historicism and character, while New York and its suburbs more often aspire to Fancy with a capital 'F.'

Nick Olsen design | Lonny.com
(Nick Olsen's former abode as seen in Lonny, ph. © Patrick Cline / Lonny)
17. What is your favorite thing about the East Coast—design-related or
otherwise?
The sense of urgency and ability to decorate literally overnight. If I want a 1/4-inch side-pleated aqua silk taffeta curtain ruffle by the close of business tomorrow, I know where to go and how to git-r-done.

18. If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be?
Charles de Beistegui's Château de Groussay, decorated by Emilio Terry. And I'd vacation to Francine Weisweiller's villa in the South of France.

19. On what movie set would you like to live?
The Blue Lagoon or the tree house from Swiss Family Robinson.

20. To which city would you move for the design?
The cliché answer is Paris. It's such a romantic city that's obsessed with design but is too proud to admit it.

21. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be ?
Hands down, a chair. Because chairs have endless personality and carry the weight of the world (hardy har har).

View our feature on Olsen in the April/May 2010 issue of Lonny!
Melissa Goldstein is a Lonny and StyleBistro contributing writer whose work has also appeared in ELLE, Wall Street Journal, GQ, The Observer, Spin, and Lucky Magazine.
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