Q&A: Tom Scheerer

A girl's bedroom designed by Scheerer, featuring 1960s bedside lamps and a printed linen upholstered Louis XVI chair, and the designer. (All photos © Francesco Lagnese)
Name: Tom Scheerer
Occupation: Architect and interior designer
Resides in: New York City
Best known for: A flair for colonial style and, in his own words, "relaxed modernism," an approach that emphasizes color pairings and nuanced texture and eschews prim formality. 

1. Antique or modern?
I'm not choosing! It's absolutely critical to have both. A wholly modernist interior is so often lifeless, and a wholly antique one in this day and age seems so false. It's trite to extol "the mix" but it's part of any good decorator's formula.

2. City or country?
City for me. I get antsy in the country or at the beach after about four nights. I like the buzz, the convenience, and the diversity the city offers—also the anonymity.

3. Which colors do you use most?
Whites, naturals, dark brown, and always a bit of green. If you have these as a base, a little bit of any other color will make a room sing. I'm thought of as someone who uses color well—and a lot of it—but [I'm] actually pretty sparing.

4. Favorite materials or textures?
I would try not to obsess on any particular materials or textures as it's all about the contrast and juxtaposition; rough against smooth, shiny versus matte, the natural or found against the man-made.

5. What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Appropriate. I try to keep this word and thought at the forefront. Randomness does not make for good decorating. Every element of a decorating scheme must push the story being told forward in some way.

A Sag Harbor dining room complete with a vanilla-hued lacquered dining table, Japanese rattan chairs from Yamakawa, and a 1970s Ingo Maurer pendant.6. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in, and how so?
Not a bit. However, those interiors instilled in me a sense of how to achieve comfort and style without seeming overly deliberate or decorated.

7. Does a room need a view?
A real view is a luxury, certainly, but there are ways of creating interior views that can remediate. I'd opt for good natural light first and a view second—you can always go outside and look around.

8. Favorite designer or architect?  
If I could call up a living decorator, I might pick John Stefanidas. But I'd want his house too—the one in Greece. His rustic-chic formula is unbeatable to me.

9. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
I'm very much into my shows..... Girls! Luther! House of Cards! Call the Midwife! There are so many others, and they're so much more satisfying and reliable than the movies.

10. What qualities do you most admire in a room?
The key to any well-decorated room is the furniture plan: the interplay of varying furniture forms, the space between them, and the way that they can be arranged to bring comfort and conviviality to a room—whether it's designed for four or forty.

An entrance hall decorated with a sleigh ball harness, an English spoolwork bench, and faux-bois wallpaper (above left) and a loggia furnished mostly in 1930s-style rattan pieces designed by Scheerer.11. Forbidden word in your house?
Moist. No contest.

12. Decor affect you're against?
Puddling curtains. It's pretentious and impractical! 

13. What is your favorite room in the house?
It's a toss-up between the kitchen and the bedroom. I'm most at home alone at the stove, but can also think of nothing better than an evening "on the raft" [with my] iPad, phone, books, TV clicker, and dinner. If I had a western-facing terrace in a temperate climate that's where I'd be, but alas, I do not.

14. What is your most treasured possession?
I'm really not all that attached to my possessions. If I had to run out of my New York apartment in a fire, I might grab my huge polished coco de mer—not purchased on a trip to the South Seas, but in a junk shop in Austin Texas.

15. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design? Does it?
I'm an East Coast person by birth and education, and Americana has had a subtle influence on everything I do in decorating. English and American furniture forms—yes, I mean brown furniture—look and feel so natural to me. 

A sunset-hued dining room where the focal piece consists of a grid of minimally framed modern photographs.16. What is your favorite thing about the East Coast—design-related or otherwise?  
So many iconic architectural styles have developed up and down the East Coast over the past 300 years, including the New England saltbox, the Adirondack lodge , the antebellum plantation house, etc. The West Coast, with its more recent history, has had to fast-track these styles with mixed results. But there are great moments in California design too: the Golden Gate Bridge, Sea Ranch at Big Sur, Palm Springs Modernism, and original decorating by Michael Taylor and Tony Duquette.

17. To which country would you move for the design?
Greece. Life on an island in a rustic house is my ideal—but for just a few months a year, please. I'd like it to be terraced in a small village high above the ocean with a western-facing view over the sea.

18. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be?
An Eero Saarinen table for its economy of design. It's reductive and as pure as a supported horizontal surface can be; graceful but strong, steady, and easy to keep clean.
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