Designers to Watch

Rachel Laxer Specializes in Laid-Back Elegance

Portrait of Rachel Laxer
Rachel Laxer, who left a career in finance to pursue her passion for design, approaches her acquisitions for clients with a business mindset (portrait courtesy of Rachel Laxer). Top: The living room of this family home in London’s Belsize Park features a nine-foot-long sofa and a pair of mid-century-inspired armchairs upholstered in navy-blue velvet (photo by Mary Wadsworth).

At 40, Rachel Laxer swapped the frenzied career of an emerging-markets trader for a path that led to creating “oases of calm” in clients’ homes and workplaces. You could say the American-born designer’s interiors are as far from a trading floor as Pluto is from Earth.  

Laxer interned with British designer Kelly Hoppen in London after studying Japanese art history and architecture privately in Tokyo, where she was living at the time. Then, she went out on her own. Her portfolio includes Swiss chalets, Mayfair bankers’ offices, Hamptons beach houses and a spa in Spain — interiors imbued with restful elegance rather than shock value. “I like to design rooms that are a little quiet,” says the designer.    

Her interiors are layered with texture rather than color. The “jewel” in a room may be an artwork or a carefully chosen collection of mid-century ceramics. Her overall palettes are on the sober side, comprising shades of gray and navy. Pops of color do appear, however — often in projects located in overcast London, where Laxer spends half her time, although she is stateside more often now because of the pandemic. Subtle bits of glimmer are added through touches like the crushed-granite Phillip Jeffries wallpaper she chose for a fireplace wall in a Georgian house in the British capital, together with jewel-toned pillows.

Laxer’s financial background — she has an M.B.A. — has led to a value-investing approach to selecting the furniture and art she uses in projects. She likes repurposing postwar pieces and chooses photography of the same era, all with an eye toward appreciation, something her clients welcome. She’ll deploys flea-market finds and shelving from big box stores so she can splurge on investment pieces she sources on 1stDibs and elsewhere.  

The dining space in the Belsize Park home features a bespoke table and chairs. A gallery-style display of black-and-white photos is flanked by a pair of custom wall lights. Photo by Mary Wadsworth

Bold tropical-themed wallpaper by Pierre Frey enlivens the powder room. Photo by Mary Wadsworth

Rachel Laxer interior

In the study of another London hoME, a petite sofa is tucked into a wall of custom built-in shelving by architects McLean Quinlan. The armchair and ottoman sit on a vintage Danish rug. Photo by Patrick Steel

The living room includes a vintage coffee table from 1stDibs and a pair of Danish modern chairs. Photo by Patrick Steel

For a home in Scarsdale, New York, Laxer outfitted the study with a pair of Pierre Jeanneret chairs purchased in Paris from Galerie 54, a de Sede sofa and Maison Jansen lamps. The rug is a vintage Swedish flat-weave. Photo courtesy of Rachel Laxer Interiors

Laxer puts a great deal of attention — and a commensurate portion of the budget — into lighting, including fixtures she designs. Unsurprisingly, she admires French design icons Christian Liaigre, François Catroux and Jacques Grange “for their ability to mix different time periods, art and furnishings to create unique and magical interiors.” The same can be said for Laxer.  

Rachel Laxer’s Quick Picks

Hervé Van der Straeten Bikini side table, 2015, offered by Maison Gerard
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Hervé Van der Straeten Bikini side table, 2015, offered by Maison Gerard

This bronze table is the perfect piece of functional art to sit between two chairs — it holds a drink and sits beautifully as an object on its own.”

Robert Kuo brass Facet side table, 2020
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Robert Kuo brass Facet side table, 2020

Robert Kuo is one of my all-time favorite makers. Everything he creates —lacquer, repoussé metal work, rock crystal — is the highest quality. This brass faceted side table is like jewelry for a living room.”

Italian brass and glass chandelier, 1980, offered by Hannau
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Italian brass and glass chandelier, 1980, offered by Hannau

The scale of this mid-century Italian chandelier is perfect for hanging over a dining table or kitchen island. The patina of the brass adds warmth and character to the room and feels different than a new lighting fixture. A signature piece of lighting can elevate a room.”

Belgian brutalist sideboard, 1980s, offered by MORENTZ
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Belgian brutalist sideboard, 1980s, offered by MORENTZ

l love these lacquered seventies pieces because of the craftsmanship. The carved doors add depth and contrast to a large cabinet. I placed one in my own dining room and added black glass to the top to turn it into a serving buffet.”

Claude Conover Huyub vase, 1970s, offered by Sputnik Modern
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Claude Conover Huyub vase, 1970s, offered by Sputnik Modern

Claude Conover ceramics are a finishing touch, and I encourage my clients to build a ceramics collection. This vase would look wonderful on a coffee table or on a brutalist cabinet.”

Goons Wood Stool, 2021, offered by Galerie Philia Furniture
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Goons Wood Stool, 2021, offered by Galerie Philia Furniture

There is something charming about this rustic stool, which I would place next to a bathtub. It’s a great little piece for a drink when you are having a long soak!”

Dalo Idole ceramic vase, 2020, offered by Galerie Sandy Toupenet
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Dalo Idole ceramic vase, 2020, offered by Galerie Sandy Toupenet

The glaze is interesting, and I like the matte finish. This seventies piece would look great on a bookcase or sideboard.”

Theo Ruth for Artifort 115 lounge chairs, 1950s, offered by ESPACEMODERNE
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Theo Ruth for Artifort 115 lounge chairs, 1950s, offered by ESPACEMODERNE

I love a slipper chair and look for interesting vintage ones like these by Artifort, especially when they have a beautiful back detail that makes them chic from every angle.”

Paul Kingma coffee table, ca. 1980, offered by Galerie Stanislas
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Paul Kingma coffee table, ca. 1980, offered by Galerie Stanislas

“I’m obsessed with this stone nineteen-eighties table. The inlaid design on the top is akin to a mixed-media collage. I would place a Lucite drinks tray on it so as to not cover it up.”

Gaspare & Vittorio Asaro for form A Sei ceiling light, 2018, offered by Gaspare Asaro–Italian Modern
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Gaspare & Vittorio Asaro for form A Sei ceiling light, 2018, offered by Gaspare Asaro–Italian Modern

With a semi-flush mount, this fixture works well in apartments with low ceilings, as it disperses light without distracting too much from what else is going on in a room.  And it’s available in a variety of finishes.”

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