A lyssa Kapito is known for her interiors’ clean lines and neutral palettes – but do not call her a minimalist. Instead, the New York City-based designer considers her aesthetic a “minimalist take on traditionalism, in which editing is key to keep homes feeling fresh.” The Long Island-born Kapito came from an art history background, however since opening her eponymous firm in 2012, she has proven her natural gift lies in interior design. Just ask the 135,000 followers of her Instagram account, which was also praised by British Vogue and Elle Decor. Illustrating her two artistic pursuits, Kapito selected her favorite pieces from Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Online auction (22 February–7 March Online) and spoke to us about creating spaces featuring a cleansing palette that are far from plain.
Can you tell me more about your art history background and how you came to be an interior designer?
During undergrad I was an art history major at Columbia University, then I got my master’s degree there in Renaissance art. I had interned at an auction house during college, and I began to realize that I might see art through a different lens – that is, through interiors. So I decided to try my hand at interior design during the summer after my thesis. I went to work for Bunny Williams, and I loved it. All the puzzle pieces fit together.
What was the most valuable thing you learned from her?
I believe that people can be talented designers, but without the wherewithal to run a good business, they will inevitably run into issues. Bunny runs her business extremely well. My company has been very successful, and I owe much of that to modeling our business after hers.
How do you prevent minimalist interiors from looking cookie-cutter or subdued?
True minimalism is very straightforward, and I tend to like more surprising shapes and elements. However, I do like them pared down. For example, I may upholster something in mohair or linen without any patterns so that it feels more approachable to the eye and actually allows you to appreciate the object’s form.
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Biggest THANK YOU to @housebeautiful for including our project in the new March issue (on newsstands now)! House Beautiful was the first home magazine I ever subscribed to and it’s such a pinch me moment to be in it! Thank you @josaltz @therobertrufino and Jennifer Fernandez for making this happen!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #HBmarchissue
Can you speak to the importance of accessorizing?
Interiors without accessories and art are flat. Accessorizing gives heart and soul to a space. With neutral interiors in particular, art plays a much more significant role. In a maximalist interior, art can function within the space beautifully, but it has less of a chance to transform the space.
What else distinguishes your design sensibility?
I tend to use materials that have a very rich texture. Steele. Leather. I love the contrast of plaster next to bronze. I also play with dark versus light. Because I do not incorporate a lot of color into my rooms, the variation of shades is very important.
How consciously do you bring geometry into your designs?
Everyone looks at my work and notices the geometry, but it’s not as conscious or as contrived as it may seem. I just love to mix lines with organic shapes, so again, there’s an element of contrast.
"When you design a room with only pieces from the same period and place, it feels like you’ve ordered everything from a catalogue. It doesn’t feel collected."
What do you think about that misconception that Contemporary art must be displayed with contemporary furniture?
When you design a room with only pieces from the same period and place, it feels like you’ve ordered everything from a catalogue. It doesn’t feel collected. Homes should touch upon all the different interests that people have. There are some people who are truly consistent in the things they like and choose to live with, and I respect that. But it’s not me, and it’s not my clients.
What was your experience like picking works from the Contemporary Art Online auction?
It was so much fun! I think it’s important to note that every artwork you purchase does not need to be a major blockbuster. There are some genuinely beautiful pieces in the sale that are so significant aesthetics-wise and are quite attainable.
What other categories do you think pair well with Contemporary art?
I think photography looks fantastic with traditional interiors. Medium is important – you don’t want all your art to be paintings. Greek and Contemporary art work surprisingly well together because you have something classical and something very reduced. Corinthian columns next to a Cy Twombly is probably the most powerful mix of traditional and contemporary I can think of.
The scale of art and objects in a room is also significant. Everything shouldn’t be on the same plane. A tall cabinet next to a low chair, for example, adds a tremendous amount of interest.
How often do clients find you through Instagram? Anyone major?
Absolutely. We have some significant clients who have found us through Instagram, including a celebrity. Five out of our six current projects started through Instagram.
As a social media pro, are there any other accounts that you love and recommend for design inspiration?
The Row’s account is a beautifully curated mix of art, fashion and design. They feature contemporary and traditional, which speaks to what we do. I also love @tmagazine and @cerealguides.