Designer Spotlight

Mentored by ‘Giants of Design,’ Stewart Manger Forges His Own Singular Style

Portrait of Stewart Manger
Interior designer Stewart Manger combined Art Deco, Haussmannian and contemporary influences in an elegant Paris pied-à-terre. In its drawing room (top), a Gerhard Richter painting hangs over an Hervé Van der Straeten cabinet, and gilt-armed Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann fauteuils keep company with a Jouffre sofa and lounge chair. The acrylic cocktail table is by Fredrikson Stallard and the side table by the Campana Brothers. Photo by Fritz von der Schulenburg. Portrait by Francesco Lagnese

Designer Stewart Manger knows exactly what Isaac Newton meant when he wrote, “If you have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” 

Before starting his own New York City firm, in 2016, Manger worked for 15 years under the tutelage of David Easton, David Kleinberg and Bunny Williams

“I spent more time than most designers working at other firms,” he says of his stints, each lasting about five years, with these towering figures. “But that mentoring you get from giants of design — I have no regrets.” 

These legends all taught Manger something, to be sure. But their sage advice is filtered through his own unique aesthetic lens and knowledge of the decorative arts, resulting in interiors rooted in historical furnishings of extraordinary quality. (Not surprisingly, his clientele tends to be particularly well-heeled.)

Those historical roots, however, don’t mean that Manger’s rooms are exercises in period stuffiness. In this regard, he follows Easton’s dictum that “rooms should sing” and Williams’s that “rooms should be happy” — which is probably why he is sought out by both 40-somethings and older clients. (This fall, when Rizzoli publishes Romancing the Home, the designer’s first monograph, a wider segment of the public will enjoy a glimpse of the impressive interiors he’s created.)

Manger, who grew up between New York City and a family home in the Hamptons, went to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and earned his undergraduate degree in political science and art history. 

His art history courses were his equivalent of Newton’s apple, supplying the gravitational force that pulled him to London to enroll in Christie’s fine and decorative arts education program. He then spent a year working at the British headquarters of Sotheby’s before resuming life in New York, where he worked for a year at Christie’s. 

The pied-à-terre’s library features works by Pablo Picasso (above the Jouffre sofa) and Marc Chagall (over the side table at right). A ceramic sculpture by Kate Malone adorns the Patrice Dangel side table at left; the leather-clad table is by Marc du Plantier, and the table lamp is by Atelier Midavaine. Photo by Fritz von der Schulenburg

In 1993, Manger returned to school, enrolling at Bard, from which he graduated with a masters in decorative arts in 1995. While still a student, he had internships at the Brooklyn Museum; the Getty Center, in Los Angeles; and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

It still had not occurred to him to become an interior designer, however. Then, Marian McEvoy, at the time editor of Elle Decor — whom Manger met through a mutual friend — hired him to organize lectures and events at various shows the magazine sponsored or participated in, and to help with various other projects. After two years, McEvoy recommended him for a job with Easton, who needed a senior designer.

“I had no experience in design,” Manger recalls. “But Marian told David he would benefit from all the knowledge of furniture and decorative arts I had acquired at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. He taught me how to build a room. He was a great teacher.”

The family room is a vision of cream and caramel hues, from the lacquered ceiling to the velvet curtains to the soft rug. A pop of brighter color comes from the Damien Hirst Butterflies piece above the Jouffre sofa. The hanging lamp is CL Sterling & Son. Photo by Fritz von der Schulenburg

Manger’s next mentor was Kleinberg. “He made room for me in his office in the summer of 2001. I learned a lot about contemporary design there. He also used to tell me things didn’t need to be so perfect.”

From there, Manger moved to Williams’s design firm. “Her office was the busiest and worked at a very fast pace,” he says. “I used to tell her that I never worked so hard, but I also never had so much fun.” He remains friendly with Kleinberg and with Williams, who wrote the foreword for Romancing the Home. (Easton died in 2020.)

“I was taught that every project should be a reflection of the client and the location,” Manger says. Nevertheless, like any designer, he has favorite tropes. 

Hand-painted DE GOURNAY WALLPAPER panels add drama to the main bedroom, where a petite ALEXANDRE VOSSION chandelier illuminates a bed and bench by Vosges. The desk lamp is by Patrice Dangel, and the rug is by BEAUVAIS CARPETS. Photo by Fritz von der Schulenburg

Chief among these? “I like the play of light and dark.” This proclivity is manifest in a shingle-style Newport mansion, where Manger hung a black Jean Dunand screen depicting a jungle scene against a pale, tone-on-tone plaster wall. It also informs the family room of a Parisian pied-à-terre, where velvet cognac curtains and a similarly hued lacquer ceiling provide a dark contrast to the parchment-colored wall.

Manger has a predilection as well for Art Deco furniture. “Deco always tends to work,” he says. “Even younger clients appreciate the modern quality of it. But the style also fits easily within a traditional environment.” 

Stewart Manger living room in Park Avenue apartment New York with view to dining room
The living room of a grandly proportioned prewar apartment on New York’s Park Avenue frames an enticing view of the dining room. To the right of the opening connecting the two spaces is a painting by Hunt Slonem and to the left a photograph by Candida Höfer. Under the artworks stand a pair of consoles incorporating straw marquetry. A 1940s French sideboard anchors the dining room, where Jean Royère–style chairs surround the table. The artwork behind is by FEnella Elms. Photo by William Waldron

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Parisian pied-à-terre, which sits in a Georges-Eugène Haussmann building in the 6th arrondissement, overlooking the Boulevard Saint-Germain. “I wanted to honor its history, so it’s done with a very strong voice of Paris in the nineteen thirties,” says Manger. “It was completely gutted, but we put back moldings that reflected what would have been there in the nineteenth century.”

The main salon features gilt-armed Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann fauteuils, Armand-Albert Rateau gilded-leather chairs at a card table, plaster reliefs based on Rateau designs and a screen by Anne Midavaine, which she based on her grandfather Louis Midavaine’s famous 1932 polar bear paravent. Custom de Gournay wallpaper, also showcasing Rateau flora and fauna, wraps the master bedroom. The library features a Jean-Michel Frank–style rug.

Stewart Manger living room in Park Avenue apartment New York
Another view of the Park Avenue living room shows a square painted Alpha Workshops table and a round Niermann Weeks table flanking the sofa. Topping these tables are lamps in the style of Jean-Michel Frank. An Emmanuel Babled lava-stone coffee table sits in front of the sofa. Photo by William Waldron

Still, as Manger puts it, “Everything can’t be so sewn up.” He jumped forward to the present day with assorted pieces in different rooms, placing an Hervé Van der Straeten bronze-fronted cabinet, for instance, under a Gerhard Richter painting in the drawing room, sconces from the same designer on either side of a Serge Roche mirror in the entry and his ceiling fixture in the library. Contemporary sculptor Philippe Anthonioz made the plaster chandelier in the drawing room, which Manger outfitted with a modern rug and dark wood framing to “give the room rhythm,” he says. In the library is a horned Elizabeth Garouste chair.

Various pieces in the drawing room are by Fredrikson Stallard (an acrylic Gravity coffee table), William Sullivan (bronze card table) and the Campana Brothers (a side table). 

Manger brought his elevated élan to a shingle-style house in historic Newport, Rhode Island. In its living room, ivory-hued sofas and chairs from Jonas Upholstery sit with floor lamps from WP SULLIVAN and a carpet by PATTERSON FLYNN MARTIN. The coffee table is Vosges. Photo by Francesco Lagnese

This points to another Manger trademark: his use of tables in diverse styles to inject spaces with a subtle eclecticism. “I don’t mind pairs,” he says. “However, I like things to be balanced but not symmetrical.” 

The living room of a grandly proportioned prewar apartment on New York’s Park Avenue provides a beautiful illustration. Flanking the sofa are a square painted Alpha Workshops table and a round Niermann Weeks one. An Emmanuel Babled lava-stone coffee table sits in front of the couch. In a corner is a lacquer low table from Bernd Goeckler and the owner’s own Corinthian-capital occasional table, while opposite the fireplace is a barrel-shaped shagreen-covered side table.

“You don’t think the room is so eclectic at first — it has one voice.” Manger notes. “But when you look at it closely, you see a lot of things that don’t necessarily go together.” 

Dining room designed by Stewart Manger
In the dining room, Schneller chairs surround a 1940s French dining table. The chandelier and sconces are Italian. Photo by Francesco Lagnese

True to form, under works by Candida Höfer and Hunt Slonem, he mixed in Deco and Deco-style pieces, such as Jean-Michel Frank–style lamps, a boxy armchair and consoles incorporating straw marquetry, one of Frank’s favorite materials. The consoles bookend the entrance to the dining room, itself anchored by a massive 1940s French sideboard of macassar ebony and mahogany. Here, Manger surrounded the dining table with Jean Royère–style cartouche-back chairs. The space has an understated yet magical elegance that comes from the (judiciously deployed) pedigreed furniture and shimmery blue wallcovering. At night, aglow with flickering candlelight, it is enchanting.

Main suite designed by Stewart Manger
In the main suite, which features a custom bed and a view of the Atlantic Ocean, the vintage chair and side table in the window are from Karl Kemp Antiques. Photo by Francesco Lagnese

Even at the Newport shingle-style house — which the homeowners didn’t want to feel too decorated because of its informal oceanside setting — Manger’s interior design radiates a quiet elegance. 

That owes in large part to his selection of such high-wattage antiques as a Frank console in the entrance hall, a 1940s French dining table and 1940s Karl Kemp chairs in the library. States Manger, “Quality pieces elevate everything.”

And that, according to the designer, includes your mood. Like his mentors, he has concluded that “people want to live in uplifting environments.”

Stewart Manger’s Quick Picks

Line Vautrin Gerbera mirror, ca. 1955, offered by Galerie Marcilhac
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Line Vautrin Gerbera mirror, ca. 1955, offered by Galerie Marcilhac

“These are wonderful, and I use them in many of my projects.”

Angela Cummings cufflinks, 20th century
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Angela Cummings cufflinks, 20th century

“Angela is a great jewelry designer who worked for Tiffany for years. Her designs are stylish and timeless and not cost-prohibitive.”

Liz O'Brien Editions Jayne sofa, new
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Liz O'Brien Editions Jayne sofa, new

“Her designs never age, so they are easy to incorporate into any environment.”

Alpha Workshops side table, new, offered by Liz O'Brien
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Alpha Workshops side table, new, offered by Liz O'Brien

“Their specialty finishes are beautiful, and you can customize the pieces to coordinate with an interior design scheme.”

André Ducaroy screen, ca. 1945, offered by Maison Gerard
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André Ducaroy screen, ca. 1945, offered by Maison Gerard

“Maison Gerard furniture and accessories are marvelously designed and easy to use in my interiors. It’s important to accessorize your project well.”

<i>Otherworldly</i> , 1963, by Le Corbusier, offered by Mourlot Editions
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Otherworldly , 1963, by Le Corbusier, offered by Mourlot Editions

“Le Corbusier lithographs are highly decorative and well priced. I always search for art for clients. You want to have something hanging on the walls when clients move in.”

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