Chapter One: The celebrity and the interior designer

As I peruse through magazines, such as Architectural Design, Home Beautiful, Ella Decor, Town & Country, as well as the seemingly endless numbers of design books, the overall message I find is that celebrity homes are considered the crème de la crème of design. We are invited to be voyeurs as we gawk at each glossy page, making notes, mental or actual, on what we like or dislike. We read with a vague sense disbelief that these showpieces somehow reflect the same concerns the average homeowner has; that celebrities are just like us when it comes to home design. Oh sure their sofa may cost what you earn in 6 months, but like you, they struggle with turning their [massive] house into a cozy home.




A celebrity’s design process articulates the steps that they took achieve a balance between Hollywood expectations and the realities of life. In November 2017, Architectural Digest featured Julianna Moore’s Manhattan townhome, in all of its “ordinary” splendor. “When one enters the home of actress Julianna Moore, the first impression is of surprising normality,”[1] AD recognizes that this is usually not the case as normal is considered the “antithesis of the magic and wonder that fabulous design is meant to inspire.”[2] Moore considers herself a “passionate design junkie,” a status that is similar to how many women describe themselves when it comes to home décor.[3]



The article showcases her impeccable taste and her theories of design and space, “I like things that have real personality and authenticity. I hate a knockoff.”[4] Most celebrities work with a design firm, but in printed pages, they are given honorary status as interior designers because in that moment, they will have a much broader influence than many design firms. It is rare that interior designers reach celebrity status, although with the dawn of HGTV, that is changing. However, celebrities offer interior designers a chance to share the Hollywood spotlight and to establish or expand their brand.



The history behind this relationship begins in the early 20th century when Elsie de Wolfe, a former stage actress, began her second career in the 1910s as an interior designer. She was also a socialite who went by the name Lady Mendl. She is considered the mother of the profession, who shaped a generation of designers. While interior decoration existed before her, by most accounts she laid the foundation of a profession we would recognize today. From this point,the American public began to turn to this growing number of “experts” to help them. I will write more about her in the next few weeks, but de Wolfe’s work and influence highlights the beginning and growing bond between the celebrity and the interior designer that sparked an osmosis between the two regarding style, standards, and expectations. For de Wolfe, her celebrity social standing and her work in interior design worked in tandem.

In many respects, Moore’s closing comments in AD also reflect this natural, yet evolving bond between celebrities and interior design, “I like things that feel human, things that tell a story. If it’s coming into my home, it has to have real meaning.” [5]

Spoken like a designer.

[1] AD, November 2017, page 106.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 109. Other words used are obsessed or addict.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 111.

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