September 12, 2021At 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
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.
“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
“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
“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.”
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.”