Required Reading

For Reed and Delphine Krakoff, a House Is Not Just a Home — It’s a Dream!

The residences that this dynamic husband-and-wife duo — he a fashion designer and creative director, she an interior decorator and antiquaire — have created for themselves are filled with a hauntingly beautiful, rule-breaking mix of furniture and fine art.

A new Rizzoli book by husband-and-wife creatives Reed and Delphine Krakoff presents photographs by Ivan Terestchenko of six of the houses the two have decorated for their family. Their Louis XVI hôtel particulier in Paris features an Adolf Loos chair, a Jean-Michel Frank side table, a Carlo Bugatti sellette and an Ivan da Silva Bruhns carpet. Above: The restored hundred-year-old main house at the heart of their former property in East Hampton, New York. All photos by Ivan Terestchenko, courtesy of Rizzoli

Delphine and Reed Krakoff are so engaged with each other and so aesthetically in sync that you’d be forgiven for wondering if they share even their dreams. Wonder no more: Here comes Houses That We Dreamed Of (Rizzoli), their first book, which features Ivan Terestchenko’s evocative photographs of six of the remarkable homes they’ve jointly created during their 15 years of marriage.

To simply say they’ve created these places, however, doesn’t quite capture the romance and enchantment at play. What the Krakoffs have done, it seems, is conjure these sumptuous spaces into existence using an unlikely magical recipe whose ingredients are historic, vintage, modern and contemporary art and furniture, which they arrange within extraordinary architectural shells. These include two grand townhouses on New York’s Upper East Side, a rambling stucco house in East Hampton that was the childhood summer home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, an all-white high-modern structure in Palm Beach, a spectacular apartment in an ornate Parisian hôtel particulier and a storybook château in New Canaan, Connecticut. (Its story involves the prior tenant, copper heiress Huguette Clark, who long owned the 52-acre property — in addition to residences on Fifth Avenue and in Santa Barbara, California — but chose to spend her final two decades in a New York City hospital room, where she died at the age of 104 in 2011.)

Delphine is a French-born interior designer and antiques dealer (her firm is called Pamplemousse), and Reed, a renowned fashion figure, is the chief artistic officer of Tiffany & Co., where he’s breathing new life into the storied jeweler’s image and offerings. His debut home collection for the company includes a classic paper coffee cup rendered in bone china, as well as Ping-Pong paddles and balls, all in Tiffany’s singular and suddenly sexy-again blue.

Reed’s sensitive rebooting of Tiffany isn’t altogether unlike what the Krakoffs have done with the various residences they’ve renovated and decorated to share with their four kids (ages 11 to 22) — projects that have also enriched their marriage. True creative collaborators traveling hand in hand through a world of beauty and refinement, they are also generous and articulate tellers of their extraordinary domestic story, as Anthony Barzilay Freund, Introspective’s editor in chief, recently discovered over lunch at New York’s NoMad hotel.

At the Parisian home, Damien Hirst‘s 2005 Beautiful Separation Divides a Whole Completion of Dispersing Togetherness Painting holds pride of place, hanging amid other works of fine art and design by Paul Dupré-Lafon, Frank StellaHarry Bertoia, Joris Laarman, Harumi Nakashima and Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé.

 

In the Hamptons home, a stainless-steel Bertoia willow sits in the corner, just beyond a pair of Diego Giacometti side chairs flanking a Karl Springer console. When they acquired the property, the Krakoffs found the painted-zinc pelmet above the windows almost completely destroyed, but they managed to salvage it.

I’d love to begin by learning how the book came into being.

Delphine: We had talked about doing a book for a while, as a project that we could do together that would be enriching.

Reed: It just felt like the right time. We had met Ivan Terestchenko, who had photographed a house of ours for a different book project, and he seemed like the perfect person to do it.

His photos are haunting. There’s a dreamlike quality to them, which is reflected in the book’s title. Did you tell him you wanted the images to look a certain way?

Delphine: I think that’s his style. It captures the essence of each house quite beautifully, and he’s very good with light.

Reed: One of the reasons that’s his style is because he works by himself, with no assistants, no lights. We let him do what he wanted.

So, you wouldn’t even necessarily be around during the shoots?

Delphine: Often not. We left him alone. He just meandered through the houses.

Reed: We didn’t want it to look like an interiors book. We wanted it to be more of a portrait of the houses and just let him discover the spaces on his own terms.

Delphine: I think the images also feel fresh and authentic because they are not styled. There was no such thing as, you know, bringing in flowers for the shoot. It was truly a portrait of each house, without any makeup.

A curvaceous, free-form-feeling calfskin-veneered lighting installation by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec hangs above a Martin Szekely Table Blanche library table in the Parisian hôtel particulier. The photos in the book, Delphine explains, “are not styled. There was no such thing as … bringing in flowers for the shoot. It was truly a portrait of each house, without any makeup.”

 

For the living room of their modernist home in Florida’s Palm Beach, the couple selected a mid-1960s George Nakashima side table (foreground), a 2008 Bone armchair by Laarman (left midground) and a Prouvé Antony bed (center background). The artwork above the fireplace cheekily conceals a large flat-screen television.

I’m in the midst of renovating a house, and while I couldn’t begin to replicate what you’ve accomplished — serially! — the book is instructional and does offer what I’d call rules on how to take risks, trust one’s own eye and live both stylishly and comfortably.

Delphine: That’s very flattering. I think it’s easier for you as an outsider to see what we’ve done, but in terms of rules, I would be hard-pressed to name even a few. Reed, would you be able to?

Reed: At this point, it’s very intuitive and instinctual for us. That’s kind of where the idea of the dream came into it. In Delphine’s own work, it’s very different, but when we work together, we don’t think about things like “style” or “appropriateness” or “This is a design move that we love to do, and we always do it.” It’s much more about what feels right at the time.

Delphine: That’s true even with the coming together of the room during an installation. I mean, we have a truck full of furniture, but we don’t have a clear sense of what’s going where. While in my own work, the plans are done, and I’ve long known exactly what goes where. But for us, it’s much looser. And we’ve learned that some great things happen unexpectedly.

Since you’ve collected so many remarkable pieces over the years, it must be like having a pile of toys to play with, some new, some old, some timeworn or forgotten but all unique and wonderful. The possibilities for fun and discovery are endless.

Delphine: It’s super-exciting for us. We’ll bring in many pieces that we’ve loved and we’ve had for twenty years, and they’re given new life in a different context.

Can you talk about one piece that has traveled with you from house to house to house and feels new in each setting?

Delphine: For me, it’s a brown-and-white carpet by Henri Gonse for Cogolin from the 1940s that has had many lives. And it feels completely new in its current iteration [in a space called “the gallery” in the New Canaan house].

Reed: We’ve used it in four houses, and each time it’s been different. I think that speaks to the fact that what’s good is good, and if you buy what you love, it works anywhere.

The main gallery of the Krakoffs’ home in the Connecticut countryside features pieces the couple has collected through the years and used in other houses. These include a Louis XVI chandelier, a François-Xavier Lalanne sheep sculpture and a carpet designed by Henri Gonse for Cogolin.

I guess the privilege, or perk, of moving is that you see your belongings with fresh eyes. We stop looking at even the things that we most love after a while.

Reed: Absolutely.

Delphine: These are the pieces that make an interior feel authentic and meaningful for you and your family. They’re full of memories and associations.

Are there things, though, that you’ve jettisoned over the years?

Delphine: Not many.

Reed: Once in a while, there’s something that just won’t make it upstairs or that we literally can’t fit. But really, rarely do we get rid of things because, again, if you love something, then you really want to live with it, and you always find a way — maybe not immediately but somehow, some time.

Our collecting is kind of at the heart of our interiors, but what’s different about our approach is that we don’t stop if it’s not in fashion. We’ve been collecting for twenty-five years now, and we’ve found that there are good things in every period. We’re building our collection with anything that’s interesting, whether it’s Louis XVI furniture or…

Delphine: …or Americana. Our collecting is not “fashionable.” And that’s why our interiors are not “fashionable.”

Reed: Yeah, we don’t collect things because they’re popular, ever.

The Krakoffs write that the Connecticut house’s dining room “is a study in contrasts.” Hanging behind another Szekely table (surrounded by American Queen Anne chairs) is a 10-foot-long 2008 felt wall sculpture by the Bouroullec brothers, which, the Krakoffs explain, “is site specific, reimagined in every new space and taking on new life with each installation.”

I love that you collect, for instance, American Queen Anne furniture and Tiffany Turtle lamps, which some people might consider passé but in your spaces look remarkably sculptural and chic. Of course, a lot of the things you’ve collected have become popular, like Line Vautrin and the Lalannes, because, to some degree, you set trends.

Reed: When we first started buying Line Vautrin mirrors, twenty years ago, there was no market for them. I remember I bought two for a few hundred dollars each. I gave one to a dealer friend, and we kept one.

Delphine: And then I bought one every time I was pregnant. We’re not buying them anymore, and it’s not that they’re less beautiful.

Reed: It’s just that it’s less fun to collect them when they are so expensive.

More Lalanne sheep can be found in the Paris apartment, where the entry hall’s 20-foot ceilings allowed for the vertical installation of Allan McCollum’s 144 Plaster Surrogates, 1989. A Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend lantern by Matali Crasset hangs above an Adolf Loos Elephant Trunk table.

Well, there’s great appeal in discovering somebody, whether it’s a forgotten figure from the past or an up-and-comer. You’ve long collected the works of contemporary designers, from Marc Newson to Joris Laarman, who is now having a terrific show at the Cooper Hewitt. But you were buying his furniture when he was just out of school.

Reed: One of the best things about the contemporary field is you can actually collect the really seminal pieces, whereas if you’re collecting, say, Art Deco

Delphine: You can…

Reed: You can, but the iconic works are mostly in museums, and that’s true even for figures like Marc Newson — his Lockheed Lounges are mostly in museums now. The great appeal of collecting contemporary work is that you can get to know the makers, understand much better firsthand why they did what they did. We’ve also done books on a few of these figures — Mattia Bonetti and the Lalannes — and that has been a really important part of our collecting.

By bringing together under one roof such a wide array of objects, from historical to cutting-edge, you pull off what some might deem the impossible: You show off each object to its best advantage.

Reed: Again, there are appealing things — at least to us — in every period. There’s not one period where we would say we couldn’t find something that was interesting to us.

In the master bedroom of one of the two New York townhouses included in the book, a pair of mirrored Serge Roche screens and two oak Jean-Michel Frank benches bookend a five-arm Serge Mouille wall light, ca. 1953. “Mouille’s lighting,” write the Krakoffs, “has consistently been part of many of our interiors.” Under the Marc Newson Event Horizon table sit two oak stools by Frank.

An illuminated version of Laarman’s sculptural Ivy wall installation rises through four floors of the Paris residence. “We didn’t want a traditional lighting scheme for the stair hall,” the Krakoffs explain in the book. So they asked the artist “to create a concept that would be integrated into the curve and rise of the space as well as serve the utilitarian function of providing light.”

Can you describe what unifies these disparate pieces?

Delphine: I think we gravitate toward things that are geometric and substantial and where the materials are authentic. We don’t have anything that is slight.

You certainly don’t seem to go for shy or recessive pieces. Most of your furniture has a presence.

Delphine: Yes, there’s a weight to everything there.

Reed: Whether it’s inexpensive or expensive.

And whether it’s from the nineteenth, twentieth or twenty-first century. Which is maybe why it all works together. Speaking of working together, what is it, Reed, that you most like about collaborating with Delphine.

Reed: It’s hard to put my finger on one thing. First and foremost, she is someone who brings a different point of view, but always a point of view that I am interested in and respect and am curious to understand better. Creative collaborations must be dialogues that are meaningful and important. That’s fundamental.

Then there’s the technical stuff. Delphine is much more organized — it is, after all, what she does for a living. I tend to be impatient, and I’ll buy five chairs when what we really need is a table. But it’s a very simple partnership — it really is. It’s just something that we love doing together. We spend our free time visiting houses, architecture museums, art galleries.

 

Chairs by Elizabeth Garouste and Mattia Bonetti — originally made for the famous 1980s Parisian nightclub Le Palace  — adorn a chic space tucked under the slate-shingled hip roof of the Connecticut home.

And you, Delphine?

Delphine: What I love about Reed is that he’s obsessive.

Reed: Really?

Delphine: Yes, it’s true. When he’s thinking of one thing, he’s thinking about it exclusively and from all different angles, and I think his obsessions have led to some pretty amazing additions to what we’ve been collecting. And I really respect his eye. He can always look at things and see different aspects of them. Finally, you know how everybody has a crazy talent? Reed’s is an amazing visual memory. I’ll call him when I’m at work and say, “You know that pair of tables? I can’t find the catalogue. I remember they were offered at Christie’s a couple of years ago.” And he says, “Yes, the catalogue is in the living room. It’s under the pile. The tables are featured on the page on the left.” And he’s always right. I’m talking about catalogues from fifteen years ago!

So, he has this crazy visual memory. But it’s really a gift. It allows him to imagine the room as a whole in a way that sometimes I don’t believe will work, because on paper it’s not supposed to work. Is that fair?

Reed: No, that’s me. One of the things that we do together, we talk about things that we love and put together that most people would not agree with at all, in theory, and would not want to have — say, a Tiffany Lamp with a Marc Newson chair and a Queen Anne settee. I think what’s best is that we are constantly challenging each other’s ideas about what makes sense.

 


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