Acclaimed decorator Stephen Sills sits down with Cabana to share highlights from an illustrious life in design. Read on to discover Stephen's dream (and nightmare) interiors, favorite dinner guests, guiltiest pleasures and greatest challenges.



Stephen's home in Bedford, NY © William Waldron, Stephen Sills: A Vision for Design


The most memorable trip I’ve taken:

Russia: 100 guests invited by Cy Twombly to see an exhibition of his drawings at the Hermitage. Each evening, he entertained us at a different palace.

The best party I’ve ever been to:

The christening of Sao Schlumberger’s last apartment in Paris decorated by Gabhan O’Keeffe. Everyone from New York was there; Mica Ertegun to Deeda Blair.

A moment that defined or changed my career:

After my second year in New York, I received a call. Dominique Nuzzi, my receptionist at the time (who also cut my hair), let me know it was Ian Schrager. He had seen a picture of my one-room apartment in the World of Interiors. He wanted to meet with me to discuss the Royalton Hotel that he had just started work on and Philippe Starck had designed. He needed someone to organize the fabrics, coloring, and materials. Ian became a friend and introduced me to great clients, Nan and Steven Swid, who I would eventually do four projects for. I was off and running!


Stephen's guesthouse in Bedford, NY © Francois Halard


The greatest challenge I’ve overcome:

In the midst of my career, I did a very large project that took two years to complete in Philadelphia. When completed, the client litigated and the whole story appeared on the cover of NY magazine. It was a nightmare. A great lesson learned about success in New York: when you get too successful people want to pull you down.

My proudest achievement:

My second book, photographed by François Halard, with early work and Karl Lagerfeld agreeing to write the forward after looking through early pages.

An object I would never part with:

In my early 20s I saw a wonderful spread of Cecil Beaton’s house in London and fell in love with a beautiful cone fixture by Giacometti. I referred back to it over many years. My friend Nicky Haslam redid the Beaton apartment for a Texas man who bought it. I wrote to Nicky and explained that if the client ever sold the house, and was selling the Giacometti items, I’d love to purchase them. Nicky called back saying the client was in fact in the process of selling the townhouse and put me into direct contact with them. He sold them to me at Christie's’ estimated costs. I was able to get Giacometti corner sofas with bronze legs and that plaster pendant light.


An interior by Stephen Sills © Francois Halard 


The best gift I’ve ever received:

A consulate French table that I had admired at Bill Blass’s house in the country. He sent it to me and said it’d be better in my house than his. A very touching gift.

My guiltiest pleasure or extravagance

I have too many guilty pleasures, I couldn’t dare limit it to one.

My next weekend away destination:

The Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, designed by Eliel Saarinen.

I would describe by childhood as:

Charmed, perfect childhood. My mother was a musician who loved classical music. My father was a real intellectual who read constantly and taught me what the outside world was going to be. His knowledge served me very well throughout my life. My grandmother had three sisters, all artists. It was an ideal childhood. I left small town in Oklahoma after high school … off to college and Europe and my adventure! Coming back every holiday to see my wonderful parents.


An interior by Stephen Sills © Francois Halard


My favorite flea market or antiques fair:

Serpette in Paris … always a big overturn, every three months with new treasures.

I feel most confident when wearing:

Casual clothes: good shoes, blue jeans, a good top, a vest, a sweater, a good button-down shirt.

My go-to recipe:

I love to cook, and I love to invent different dishes. I go directly to Martha Stewart’s cookbook or she’ll cook with me! I’ve learned a lot from her. I love a good pasta dish with really good Italian pasta.

The best advice I’ve ever been given:

Mike Nichols told me that the secret to being an artist is hard work, as simple as that.

My all-time favorite fabric:

I love all fabrics for the right purpose they serve.


An interior by Stephen Sills © Francois Halard


The person I call for good advice:

Kim Hull has been with me for over 30 years. She is like my sister.

The person I call for a good time:

There are too many people I call for a good time. I can’t name one.

My dream dinner party companion:

Already experienced. In the late 80s at La Fiorentina, where my friend Jim Lawrence was getting married, I was seated next to Estee Lauder. Unbelievable charm, warm personality, and so inquisitive about my life in New York. She revealed so much about herself, just a magical, brilliant woman.

An artwork or exhibition that took my breath away:

A few years ago, I saw a magnificent collection of two Russian collectors who donated their works to the Hermitage. The exhibit was mounted at the LVMH foundation in Paris. Also, I have to say that the installation of the Frick pictures against the concrete of the Breuer building is one of the most striking pairings in recent years; 18th century pictures against that architecture is special.

Ideal interior in three words:

Calm, beautiful, and honest.

Distasteful interiors in three words:

Trendy, uneven, and bad quality.

A new artist or designer whose work excites me:

Richard Dupont: a friend and an inspired human being.


An interior by Stephen Sills © Francois Halard


Just One More Thing...

One master: Picasso
One muse: Greta Garbo or Maria Callas
One city: New York
One artwork: A Goya landscape
One book: Impossible
One museum: The Met, New York
One shop: Alexandre Biaggi
One song: Vissi d’Arte
One color: Grey
One flower: Rose
One word to describe Cabana: Marvelous


Dining room by Stephen Sills © Simon Upton, Stephen Sills: A Vision for Design


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Stephen Sills' new monograph, Stephen Sills: A Vision for Design, by Stephen Sills and David Netto, is published by Rizzoli USA and available now.

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