F or Adam Lippes, before there was fashion, there were the decorative arts – but don’t request his decorating services. “I’ve been asked,” the fashion designer, who previously worked for POLO Ralph Lauren and later as Creative Director of Oscar de la Renta, tells Sotheby’s. As illustrated by his Brooklyn Heights abode, a self-decorated maximalist oasis that Architectural Digest profiled earlier this summer, Lippes has an undeniable eye for design. Channeling his inner decorator, Lippes selected his favorite pieces across four Sotheby’s auctions and created mood boards, much like his masterful Instagram. “What fascinates me about the decorative arts is the quality of the pieces and their intriguing stories,” says Lippes, who infuses his eponymous line’s otherwise contemporary silhouettes with patterns and trims that nod to history. Ahead, discover how Lippes harmoniously combines his passions, and why Wedgwood – though one of his chief inspirations – has yet to make its way into his personal collection.
Your home seems to be built around entertaining. How important is it to you to have not just conversation pieces, but also pieces on which to have conversations?
There’s nothing more personal and luxurious than having people in your own space for dinner or drinks, especially because in this city so many people dine out. You can realize you’ve known someone for 20 years and have never seen that person’s home. I try to create a lot of different areas to spend time in around my house, not only with furniture but also with lighting.
Where did your love of historic interiors begin?
My mother was an interior designer, and my father was and is a collector. He collected everything from mid-century American Color Field artists to Biedermeier furniture, Art Deco boxes and Cartier gold compacts. He also had the biggest collection of Leica cameras in the world. Now he’s an avid Contemporary art collector – art I don’t even understand.
Working for Oscar [de la Renta] ten years really refined my interest in design because I was exposed to worldwide decorative arts from to his incredible friends and his own collection.
"Collecting is not about having something for a space. Collecting is just about collecting."
Is there any item your parents gave you from their collection that you most treasure?
There’s a French 19th-century longcase clock in my entranceway that belonged to my mother’s family. It’s chiming means life to me. When you hear the chime it means the house is alive.
“This Savonnerie carpet inspires me not only in the world of decor, but also in the world of fashion. The movement of the pattern, the tans, burgundies and blues, could all influence a print or color story. I also love the idea of this carpet in a more minimal, sexy room. Low slung silk velvet sofas, Crespi lamps and a Philip and Kelvin Laverne table kind of room.”
How do the decorative arts inform your fashion design?
Decorative arts and decorating in general lead the inspiration for what I do in fashion, from prints to color story to lifestyle. Rather than researching fashion, you’d find me researching decorative arts, especially [interior designer and Italian architect] Lorenzo Mongiardino and [French antiques dealer and interior designer] Madeleine Castaing. Mongiardino was genius in the exoticism of what he did, and Castaing was genius in her layouts. They had this incredible sense of the mix.
Our starting point for this Spring 2020 Ready-to-Wear collection was Wedgwood’s Fairyland Lustre line. Wedgwood fascinates me. When someone says, “Wedgwood,” you think of blue and white porcelain, but it’s so much more than that. I haven’t started to collect Wedgwood yet because I’m afraid once you pull that trigger, you’re in trouble.
For this same collection, we also worked with an incredible porcelain painter named Costanza Paravicini to paint a print for us. She makes incredible plates in Milan for her brand, Laboratorio Paravicini.
“The clarity of this Meissen macaw drew me to it the second I turned the catalogue’s page. Its lines and crispness can work in any setting. I normally am a big fan of pairs, but could easily see this as a single focal point.”
You incorporate several fabrics from your collections into your home and vice versa, correct?
I do. I’ll use it to cover furniture, make pillows or drapes, and cover walls. In fact, I discovered a few days ago that we have 20 yards of extra jacquard fabric that I love from a collection we made about three years ago, and I am going to use it in my country house in the Berkshires. I’m so excited.
I think a lot of old interior patterns also make great clothing patterns. Especially if the shapes have a sense of ease to them. If you’re going to do a bold wallpaper jacquard with a fit-and-flare dress, you’re going to look like you’re wearing a drape. But if you do it in a soft fabric T-Shirt with a slouchy pair of pants, it’s going to be cool.
“I am a collector of portraiture. I find portraits to be a form of escapism. Who is the sitter? What was he or she thinking? This one is stunning. The use of the red cloak jumps off of the picture. Her face is serene and fearful. And the details of the prayer book are so fine.”
How do you curate your Instagram, which is this distinct blend of art, design and fashion?
We want people to understand the lifestyle behind the brand. Fashion plays a part but not the biggest. We probably have more interior followers than fashionistas. To help make it feel cohesive, we organize by color. We think of everything as a room, as a flow-through.
Where do you shop for antiques?
Invaluable, which Sotheby’s is on. I buy very little in traditional antique shops. I find the auction hunt much more fascinating. I treat the auction catalogues like I’m walking through a museum. I try to narrow down by thinking, “If I could go home with one thing, which one would it be?” Collecting is not about having something for a space. Collecting is just about collecting. I fall in love, I mark it, and I print it out. If I can afford it, great, and if I can’t, it goes in my dream pile. I’ll keep looking for it.
Adam Lippes's Sotheby's Picks
309LotA MEISSEN LARGE WHITE FIGURE OF A MACAW (ARA ARARUNA/ARA MACAO) 20TH CENTURYa meissen large white figure of a macaw (ara araruna/ara macao) 20th centuryEstimate 8,000 – 12,000 USDEstimate 8,000 – 12,000 USDSelected Meissen and Other Ceramics from the Collection of Henry H. Arnhold24 October 2019 | 10:00 AM EDT | New York
428LotA LARGE CHINESE FAMILLE-ROSE 'FLORAL' DISH QING DYNASTY, YONGZHENG PERIOD | 清雍正 粉彩花卉圖大盤a large chinese famille-rose 'floral' dish qing dynasty, yongzheng period | 清雍正 粉彩花卉圖大盤Estimate 10,000 – 15,000 USDEstimate 10,000 – 15,000 USDSelected Meissen and Other Ceramics from the Collection of Henry H. Arnhold24 October 2019 | 10:00 AM EDT | New York
308LotA MEISSEN LARGE WHITE FIGURE OF A HERON (ARDEA CINEREA) 20TH CENTURYa meissen large white figure of a heron (ardea cinerea) 20th centuryEstimate 7,000 – 10,000 USDEstimate 7,000 – 10,000 USDSelected Meissen and Other Ceramics from the Collection of Henry H. Arnhold24 October 2019 | 10:00 AM EDT | New York