Q&A: Oliver M. Furth

(The designer (above left) and a chinoisserie-tinged master bedroom in LA's Carlyle Residences. Photos by Stephen Busken and Jonn Coolidge)NameOliver M. Furth
Occupation
: Interior designer, chair of LACMA's Decorative Arts and Design Council, and co-producer of the Los Angeles Antiques Art + Design Show
Resides in
: Los Angeles
Best known for
: A European reverence for the classics, balanced by a touch of West Coast eccentricity.

1. Antique or modern?

The most interesting interiors have a mixture of antiques with a history, and contemporary pieces that look toward the future. 

2. City or country?
City. I’ve spent my life living in Los Angeles, and would miss the excitement and energy of a big city. That said, there’s nothing like a quiet, star-filled evening in the middle of nowhere to get that heart rate down. 

3. Which colors do you use most?
I’m often drawn to cool tones; blues and greens, which look particularly beautiful against LA’s sunshine, and are calming in our hectic lives. Right now, I’m into a particular shade of muddy turquoise-green called Eau de Nil. 

4. Favorite materials or textures?
I’m attracted to using materials in an unexpected way. I use cashmere or wool intended for men’s suiting for upholstery. And I like to take something very honest and humble and raise its level: I just lined an entry hall in handmade Japanese paper. For a project last year, I had an entire floor covered in high-gloss rubber; it reflected light and gave the room a glamorous Fred Astaire feel.

(Furth's conceptual take on an architect's office for a past instalment of LCDQ Legends (above left) and the dining room in the penthouse apartment of LA's Carlyle Residences. Photos by Coleen Rider and Jonn Coolidge)5. What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Gauffrage: which is an almost totally lost, old world technique in which heat is applied to leather and fabric to set a pattern. There’s only one person in the US who still does it, plus a couple of workrooms in Europe.

6. Does your current home look like the one you grew up in?
I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1980s, and my childhood home looked like that era: lots of big white “rising biscuit” upholstery, glass-topped tables, and giant indoor trees. My current home looks nothing like that, although I do have a couple of 1980s pieces hidden about.

7. Does a room need a view?
If we’re doing our job correctly, the room itself is the view!

8. Favorite designer or architect?
Sir John Soane, Frank Lloyd Wright, Edwin Lutyens, Henri Samuel, Albert Hadley, Kalef Alaton, and Andrée Putman.

9. Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without?
We subscribe to dozens of design magazines, many of them foreign. Often, folks on the other side of the globe are looking at the same world totally differently. Some of my favorites are Elle Decoration, AD Spain, Vogue Living Australia, and World of Interiors.

(The contemporary art-filled living room of a client's Hollywood Hills residence. Photo by Stephen Busken)10. What qualities do you most admire in a room?
I’m always attracted to the way a space feels. It’s one thing to create that beautiful empty room, but how does it feel when people are in it? Is the chair comfortable? Do you have a place to set your drink down? Does it smell good? Do you worry about spilling, or can you be at ease? Our job as decorators is to help create a background for people to live their lives, not get in the way.

11. What is a forbidden word in your house?
Couch. 

12. Design rule you love to break?
All of them! Know the rules; know when to break them.

13. What is your favorite room in the house?
The library. I’m a book hoarder, so anyplace filled with pages of information is great for me.

14. What is your most treasured possession?
My grandparents' Finn Juhl dining table.

(The living room in the designer's former West Hollywood residence. Photo by Rodd Zinberg)

15. What do you wish you could do without?
My phone.

16. How does West Coast design differ from East Coast design?
Good design is appropriate to its setting. The colors, materials, and scale for a living room in Philadelphia are totally different than for Phoenix. We associate pastels with the desert for a reason; they’re soothing in that hot, dry climate, but would be washed-out against the East Coast’s gray light and cold winters. Folks may be attracted to a certain look, but should put it through the lens of their environment and the way they live.

17. What is your favorite thing about the West Coast—design-related or otherwise?
I think Los Angeles is having its “moment.” We are at the forefront of all creative cultures –design, fine art, food, film, and fashion. It’s an extremely exciting time to be here.

18. If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be?
I think it would be amazing to stay in Peter Beard’s Serengeti tent, all draped with mosquito netting and hung with Picasso drawings. A perfect fusion of rustic and highbrow.

(A Hollywood Hills residence's sleek neutrals-heavy library. Photo by Stephen Busken)19. On what movie set would you like to live?
2001: A Space Odyssey.

20. To which city or country would you move for the design?
I would travel to the ends of the earth for design, but I don’t think I ever want to move from LA.

21. If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be and why?
A bookcase—full of stories!

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