For this year’s Sotheby's Designer Showhouse and Auction, twelve established and up-and-coming designers are curating signature rooms with unique pieces from a range of Sotheby’s departments, including 20th Century Design, Prints, Silver, Photography and English furniture. Here, Robert Passal, who is creating the Showhouse Master Bedroom, shares his design philosophy, tips for new collectors and more.

According to Passal, an award-winning designer who began his career working for antiques dealer John Rosselli, a room’s style should not be limited to a single era or approach. “It’s all about the mix of periods in furnishings, art and accessories,” he says.  With access to myriad pieces from Sotheby’s various departments, Passal’s “cool, calm and sophisticated” master bedroom will evoke the best of many worlds.


What is your number one design rule?
Put dimmers on every light, in every room.

Finish this sentence: No room is ever complete without ______.
Personal items, such as art or accessories.

Is there a key to decorating bedrooms?
You want to create a soothing environment using upholstery, pillows and lush bedding. Colour and lighting are also important.

What adjectives would you use to describe the perfect master suite?
Soothing, sexy, luxe.


How can someone easily update their bedroom?
New bedding and great lamps are easy ways to refresh the space.

Were there pieces in Sotheby’s inventory that you especially fell in love with?
I absolutely love the charm and character of the Studio Tetrarch Tovaglia coffee table. It’s fun yet sophisticated.

What are your thoughts on the conversation between art and design?
One cannot exist without the other. I love the tension that develops when I work with modern or contemporary art in a traditional home.

Why do you enjoy working with antiques? What do they add to a space?
Antiques have a history and tell a story. They bring charm and character to a home. A home that is filled with new furnishings can often feel like a showroom.


What is the smartest piece of furniture someone can invest in?
Dining chairs. They are essential, and if you buy wisely, they can increase in value.

What period are you most inspired by right now?
Biedermeier is one of the few periods that evokes tradition but has truly modern lines.

Are there any designers whose work has influenced you?
As a young designer, I was fascinated with the work of Jeffrey Bilhuber. His use of colour and ability to create truly interesting yet functional floor plans is unparalleled.

Can you share some of your favourite sources in New York for furniture, carpet and unique pieces?
Newel is one of my top places for quality antiques from every era. I never tire of hand-painted wall coverings by de Gournay. For both antique and contemporary carpets, Mastour Galleries is my go-to source.