Real-Life Inspiration: 10 Understated Designers

Real-Life Inspiration: 10 Understated Designers

Sarah Coffey
May 10, 2011

While Hildi's over-the-top decorating style made for an entertaining 48-hour-makeover on Trading Spaces, "staple a garden of plastic flowers to your wall" isn't the kind of design advice most of us are seeking. Gaudy decorating might make for good TV, but it's the subtle talent of more understated designers that we look to for real-life inspiration — people like Russell Pinch, Oona Bannon, or Jayne and Joan Michaels.

  1. Jayne and Joan Michaels: Identical twin sisters who live and work in Manhattan, this pair has a portfolio of spare yet storied interiors that feel simultaneously austere and edgy.
  2. Anne Coyle: This Chicago designer is instantly recognizable for her combination of classic shapes with pastels that she manages to update in a fresh, modern way.
  3. Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon: London-based husband and wife team Russell Pinch and Oona Bannon are the two halves of Pinch Design. Their style is simple and graceful, and they design furniture and lighting "for both elegant domestic spaces and stylish contract environments."
  4. SchappacherWhite: Architects and designers Steve Schappacher and Rhea White have a New York-based firm that specializes in renovation and historic preservation. Their projects tend to be light, airy, and elegant.
  5. Bottega Tokyo: This is the design firm of Apartment Therapy's own international house tour contributor, Liezel Strauss. Based in Tokyo, Liezel and her partner, interior architect Briony Timmins, work with clients to create "beautiful, soulful" homes and interiors.
  6. Retrovious: Located in London, this unique combination shop and studio sells salvaged architectural pieces, furniture, and a good mix of what they describe as "mad and quirky pieces," but they also collaborate with architects and designers to "kit out" homes, hotels, and storefronts.
  7. JAGR Interiors: Based in Philadelphia, JAGR is the brainchild of John Alexander and Michael Gruber. They design furniture and interiors inspired by traditional period pieces from the UK.
  8. Kenneth Brown: An established personality in the design world, Kenneth Brown has owned his own firm since 1997 and he's appeared many times on TLC and HGTV. His warm, modern style and love for dark brown are the hallmarks of his memorable rooms.
  9. Patrick James Hamilton: Patrick is an Apartment Therapy blogger and a talented interior designer — to see more of his subtle, sophisticated interiors, check out his personal blog, Ask Patrick.
  10. Soucie Horner: Chicago-based Shea Soucie and Martin Horner spent several years at large firms before teaming up to start their own design firm. Soucie brings a strong background in modern architecture, while Horner focuses on rich but subtle fabrics, furniture and decor.


Do you have a favorite understated design talent? Share yours in the comments.

Images: As linked above

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