grand salon at Ch‚teau du Grand-Lucť designed by Timothy
Corrigan features beautifully carved original 18th century
boiserie. Comfortable upholstered seating replaces the expected
spindly French period furniture one would typically find in a
room like this.
think the words "refined" and "laid-back" could be
used together in the same sentence. Yet, they perfectly describe
Timothy Corrigan. One of the most sought-after designers in the world,
he has made a career out of bringing easy elegance to home decor.
Recently, Corrigan weighed in on his design approach and how his
Midwestern roots helped shape his signature style.
M: You started
out in advertising. How did you become a designer?
TC: In the late
1980s, the advertising agency I worked for transferred me to Paris to
run its European operations. Living in a city like Paris, where
design, art and history are such an integral part of day-to-day life,
I developed an interest in interior design. I started with my own
apartment, which was published in House & Garden magazine, and
then began doing friendsí homes on the side.
Then my father
died unexpectedly at age 65. It proved to be a life-altering moment
and made me realize that despite the success I had achieved in
advertising, my true passion was architecture and interior design.
In 1997, I
opened my first office in Los Angeles. I have had a dream roster of
clients, including Hollywood celebrities, royalty and corporate
leaders from around the world. Over the years, my career has been
validated with industry honors like being named to Architectural
Digestís AD100: Top Talents in Architecture and Interior Design for
the past nine years and receiving the Star of Design award from the
Pacific Design Center this year.
M: What are your
ties to Milwaukee?
TC: My father
(Robert Corrigan) was born in Oconomowoc, but left Wisconsin to attend
boarding school on the East Coast. He moved to Milwaukee in 1974 to
serve as dean of fine arts at UW-Milwaukee. That was just before my
freshman year in college and we lived in a charming 1920s house on the
junior and senior years at Vassar, I interned at Zigman Joseph PR in
Milwaukee. The experience gave me a terrific background in how
businesses are run and the importance of building a strong brand
presence, no matter what field youíre in.
I still have
many friends in the Milwaukee area. I love the city and visit several
times a year for both work and pleasure.
shades of blue and white, an ever-popular color combination, was
used in this guest bedroom at Corriganís ch‚teau in France.
French antiques are mixed with a comfortable upholstered sofa.
by Eric Piasecki
M: How did your
time spent in the Midwest influence your work?
TC: Despite the
fact that I have worked with royalty and movie stars, I believe one of
my guiding principles of design is based on practicality. And that
sense of practicality is, I believe, something I attained from my time
in the Midwest.
Who wants to
live in a room that screams, "Look, but donít touch?"
Rooms are meant to be lived in, so itís important to use materials
and surfaces that allow you to spill something without worrying that
youíve ruined it. I use outdoor fabrics in indoor spaces like family
rooms and kitchens most of the time. I also put a coat of marine
varnish on even the finest antiques as an extra level of protection so
people can live in their homes without so much worry.
M: When did you
become interested in architecture and design?
TC: As a boy, I
was fascinated by architecture. I made houses out of balsa wood. I was
10 or 11 when I saw a photo of Frank Lloyd Wrightís Fallingwater and
I was awestruck. I was so impressed with how he integrated exterior
elements into the house. My mother also took us to museums often, and
that early exposure established my connection with art and culture.
unfinished painting by Carolus-Duran hangs above an intimate
seating area inspired by fashion editor Diana Vreelandís
famous crimson living room. The custom sofa is upholstered in
silk velvet with a hand-embroidered border of silver and pewter
threads; the pattern is repeated on three small stools opposite,
an example of Corriganís attention to detail and comfort.
M: Describe your
TC: A magazine
once described my aesthetic as "European elegance infused with
California casual," and I think thatís a good summation of what
I try to achieve. Iíve spent much of my life in Europe and
appreciate so much of what it has to offer in terms of style and
history. And while I love the European design aesthetic, thereís
something very special about the ease of life in America.
M: What do you
like about being a designer?
designer has particular areas of strength, and for me the most
enjoyable part is figuring out how a space can be designed for maximum
livability and use. Weíve all seen rooms that look like no one ever
goes in them. If thereís a room in your house that isnít being
used, figure out what will make you use it. There are a lot of things
to consider in making a room work ó the flow of how you move around
the space, the silhouette, the scale and shape of the furniture, good
lighting, colors that evoke the mood you want to create. All of these
elements combine to create a space where people want to spend time.
M: What inspires
TC: I always
look to historical sources for design ideas because there truly are
very few new ideas. All design springs from some historical
antecedent. For example, people often think that bold use of color is
a very recent thing, but in reality itís totally Technicolor. If
anything, the beige and graying down of the home is a recent thing.
Thank goodness the period of "greige" is coming to an end
and weíre seeing a return of more color.
M: What was your
first success as a designer?
TC: One of my
earliest design projects was working for Madonna on a wonderful 1920s
Mediterranean-style house in Beverly Hills. The experience turned out
to be somewhat of a challenge, but I proved to myself that I could
make it as a design professional.
M: What is one
of your favorite projects?
TC: I recently
had the privilege of designing the first integrated line of fabrics,
furniture and floor coverings for Schumacher and Patterson, Flynn
& Martin. I loved the entire process because it pushed me to
really evaluate what Iím drawn to and what I value in terms of
design. I had to figure out how to take the shapes and colors I love
and turn them into a cohesive collection that will work in peopleís
M: What are you
currently working on?
TC: In addition
to some wonderful design projects around the world and the debut of my
first of two china collections for Royal Limoges, Iím currently
designing several collections for THG, a French manufacturer of luxury
fittings and accessories. Iím taking details found in fine jewelry
and silverware and applying them to plumbing fixtures. m