How Adam Lippes Makes Any Space Feel Rich and Lived-In

In another life, the fashion designer could easily have been a decorator.

By: Laurel Pantin
Photography: Zeph Colombatto

Designer Adam Lippes is widely known for his upscale, but totally comfortable aesthetic. His eponymous label includes the kind of under-the-radar, super-luxe items that we dream of building our wardrobe around, and while he’s a household name within the fashion industry, we had no idea he was such an interiors buff on the side. “The inspiration around the line comes back to refinement and sportswear,” he said of his label. “All of the inspiration for the collections comes from interiors. I think I’m sort of a frustrated interior designer.”

We visited his Washington Square Park townhouse a week before his NYFW presentation (which is taking place today!) to snoop through his (many, many insanely beautiful) collections, and pet his two matching labradoodles, all the while hearing exactly how he makes a space feel historic and lived in, even when you’ve only been there a year or two.

“I do do some interiors. I don’t really talk about... And for myself, I like moving things around. I think fashion design and interior design are all of the same ilk, like art with constraints. We have the constraints of the body, or we have the constraints of the four walls, or the constraints of engineering in architecture. There are designers who are looking at fashion magazines all the time; I’m always looking at interiors.”

“I’m very interested in eclectic designers, who mostly design with patterns and that look very lived-in and natural. Mongiardino is one of my favorite all-time designers.”

“Space-wise, it’s very hard for me to be attracted to a modern space, because unless it’s done really well and can withstand the test of time, everything feels off.”

“I was just in India, and there’s a bar in Jaipur called Bar Palladio that is the most incredible space. I love spaces that feel lived in, that have a sense of history, of space and that are brought forward—they aren’t just throwbacks.”

“The Alex Katz painting really reminds me of my mother. It’s important to me. Any piece that’s out really has a lot of feeling to me, but I think if I had to leave in a fire and take one, I would take that painting.”

“Collecting is sort of the bane of my existence, unfortunately. It’s a problem. I have a home in the Berkshires that’s filled with stuff. I collect beautiful things, so it’s not like it’s all silver boxes, or all artwork, or all bowls, or ceramics or china or birds or models… I’m just really attracted to how things are made and most of the time they’re all old because people aren’t making this stuff anymore. It’s part of a search process for me”

“Washington Square is really a dream. There are so few of these houses here that are still private; most are owned by NYU or are some sort of commercial space. I love the history of the street and the houses and the way that this particular parlor floor was maintained. It was really a find.”

“I’m looking to move to Brooklyn Heights. When I move, I look for these impossible New York spaces that wouldn’t be done today. Brooklyn Heights has that history. I like to move because I like to redecorate; I like to play.”

“[I buy almost everything] at auctions all over the world. I’ve become really adept at knowing something from a photo and not having to see it. I try to keep this rule that if it’s above a certain price I have to see it in person because that helps to limit the spending. There are these auction houses all over the world, not just the Christie’s and the Sotheby’s—there are small auction houses in almost every town. I watch, and I dream, and I save, and I think. Anything that has a quirk, that has a hidden compartment, that has some weird sort of thing to it, [I love].”

“[My best tip to make a space feel lived in is] don’t decorate immediately. Take time. Do not buy everything at one store. We have these furniture stores in America that, for some reason, sell themes—a French Provincial theme for example... People don’t live in themes,, but it’s very hard to mix these themes together unless you are really able to mix. The mix is the hardest for most people. How do you mix all this stuff together? Take time. Look at magazines you respect.”

“For inspiration, find people whose style you respect and emulate it not only in furniture but in layouts. I have huge boards of interiors that I’m [inspired by].”

“There's also a thing about limiting what you buy, because it can become tchotchke-y. Stop stop stop stop stop.”

“My theory for fashion is that in every garment there doesn’t need to be too much fashion. A little fashion goes a long way. In homes too, and they need to be comfortable.”

“Scale is very confusing to a lot of people, especially in New York where spaces are smaller. I would always edge on bigger is better in furniture. Things that are too small and dainty tend to look small and dainty and uncomfortable.”

“I didn’t buy it, but I found this incredible silver box from the ‘30s that has a cocaine compartment. It’s hidden because I guess even back then it was probably [taboo]. How random is that? I love to find things like that—it feels so wild.”

“Playing with upholstery helps a space feel lived-in. In the country I mix up a lot of upholstery. You can take an inexpensive chair and buy a piece of embroidery that you find somewhere, set it in the chair, and really make it this really special piece.”

“This is a model of the Stockholm Cathedral made around 1880. It's paper mache. It literally came in a mess. I had it restored. That's something I think people are really scared of—finding a good restorer—because you can't believe what they can do with stuff, and again it doesn't have to be crazy expensive. Look beyond the state of something. I put a light in there and it lights up, which is kind of fun at night.”

“Also, play with color. I like Farrow & Ball. Not only do they have the best paint, but they have a limited assortment of colors—but they’re really good. Sometimes too many options lead to confusion.”

“I still use eBay a lot for glassware and for porcelain. You really have to play with the search word because you never know how people have listed it. I have an incredible collection of glasses that have been shot for magazines, and literally I have not spent more than $6 on each glass. I’m not spending $300 on glass. It just takes time and passion.”

“I edit [constantly]. I take away and replace—upgrade, I guess you could say—especially silver boxes. Now I’m only looking for certain types of silver boxes, so some of my friends have gotten silver boxes for birthday gifts [laughs]. I’m always changing and discovering.”

“Always check the auctions. Even the Christie’s and Sotheby’s. They have home auctions and a lot of things have no reserves. You might not get everything you want, but you might. And if you’re good at an auction and you can control yourself—because it does get competitive—you can really find some incredible pieces that cost less than getting a cabinet at Pottery Barn. You might be able to buy a Biedermeier chest of drawers for the cost of Restoration Hardware.”

“The internet has opened up the whole world. There are auction houses in Sweden and the UK and all over. If you like things that are old, buying overseas is a whole lot better than buying in America, because they just have more. Obviously you have to think about the shipping and get a handling on that because that can really destroy your budget.”

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