Design Experts

Inside design: Victoria Hagan

Inside design: Victoria Hagan Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

Inside design: Victoria Hagan

In her corporate bio, Manhattan-based interior designer Victoria Hagan concludes that "suitability" is one of the most important considerations in decorating. Perfect, we thought. Who better than Victoria (a working mother of twin boys) to reconcile the sometimes duplicitous joys of stylish decor and family life? After all, wrapping up the living room with wonderfully white slipcovers sounds dreamy, but the spectre of gooey hands and sandy little feet is reality. Named one of Architectural Digest's top 100 designers and noted for her light touch with palettes and casually chic home designs, there are few more qualified than Victoria to deconstruct the romance of simple living.

S@H: What are the biggest challenges to having a stylish home with kids? VH:
I don't want my kids to remember me as the mom who worried constantly about the furniture. I think you have to make a conscious effort to change the dial to "relaxed." That means making practical choices. Say goodbye to your white carpets. In fact, roll up all of your carpets for the summer -- it's easier, and it feels lighter and airier. Keep the window treatments minimal and use shades or sheers, so you can see the view. Sunshine is free, so let it pour in. There's nothing more beautiful than light reflecting off a bare wood floor -- and what could be easier to maintain?

S@H: I notice that despite having twin boys you often employ a light colour palette in your own homes. Are you courageous or just crazy?
VH:
The shade of a fabric is less important than what it's made of and its weight and texture. A pale cotton, for example, is much more practical than a dark silk. (I tell my clients that if they have to have silk, use it on a throw cushion.) There are so many fabulous durable fabrics out there, so choosing a light, bright palette for summer is very achievable. But forget about grape juice! Every other spill comes out of these fabrics, but not grape juice. If you can live without it, your life will be so much simpler.

S@H: Simple is a great word to describe the ambience of your own designs. Why is simplicity so important to you?
VH:
Simplicity is key. But simple doesn't have to mean boring. It just means beautiful things with ample space around them. You gain serenity from organizing a room with lots of breathing space. That means creating an easy floor plan that you can move around in. I always walk through a room after I've placed the furniture to make sure I don't walk into anything or have to squeeze around something. You want to be able to travel from the patio to the kitchen unimpeded by obstacles. I also tend to keep the palette in a house simplified. I just finished designing a client's home, and we used a pale blue and white in one room, the same blue with a soft green in an adjoining room, and a softer blue and periwinkle upstairs. I don't like creating rainbows in rooms, especially in the summer. It's too jarring. I find it much more pleasing to stay within one colour family -- it feels more harmonious. In the summer, you live outside, so I always try to bring that outside feeling inside -- to capture the essence of the out of doors, whether in the choice of palette or by simply clipping a single green branch and putting it in a vase.

S@H: Are there specific furnishings that you find people most often get wrong in their attempt to reconcile form and function?
VH:
A comfortable sofa is a must. I don't think people think through how they intend to use their sofas before purchasing. Will the whole family curl up on it? If so, you'll need deep cushions. Will you lie down and sleep on it? Then ensure it's the right length for the tallest person in the family and that the arms are low enough to support your head. I try to help my clients make practical decisions first, and then we can play with the decorating elements.

S@H: Your new line of furnishings came to American stores in fall 2002 [the Canadian launch is planned for fall 2003]. Was practicality a part of your design scheme for those pieces?
VH:
Despite the fact that the market for furnishings is competitive, I really felt that there was still room for a line that was graceful but also practical for families. There are 25 pieces in the line, including a large round dining table -– because it's easier to squeeze extra bodies around a round table –- and end tables with shelves big enough to hold magazines and all of the other things families tend to collect. And let's face it, we all collect things.

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Design Experts

Inside design: Victoria Hagan