Interior designer and architect Gail Green’s iridescent, sparkling prose is in striking contrast with her understated personal style, but is totally in keeping with her often iridescent interiors. Indeed, the interiors she designs frequently sparkle with tiles that reflect and refract light, just as they do in the background of Klimt’s The Kiss. The total effect is brilliant!
Green’s interiors are brilliant, subtle, muted, bold, using leather, wood, glass and steel in ways one would never anticipate. She delights in multi-media effects—in the startling and unexpected— in the use of materials in places they would normally never appear. She says that her own motto is “Delight in the Unexpected!” and so she does! All of her work is playful, all is startling, all is amazing and delightful.
Green is dizzyingly versatile, spanning eras, modes, motifs, and influences. In one of her interiors, dubbed “The Titanic,” giant portholes salvaged from an actual ocean liner are the focal point and main light source, shedding a green marine light throughout and turning the blue floor tiles a similar green. The room also features fantastical elements such as a faucet resembling a vodka bottle and another made to simulate genuine gears, contrasting with the very solid captain chairs, the likes of Charles Rennie MacKintosh, the Scottish architect, designer, and watercolorist.
A striking Harlem interior inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, uses wood and leather interchangeably—wood where one would expect leather and vice versa. A Stickley clock is offset by a leather panel above the fireplace, which bears a quotation: “He who has no love for books has no love for life.”
Green plays the music of Cole Porter as she creates a bathroom in homage to Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,”—mixing disparate elements which thematically work—such as the Roman Numeral tiles designed by Green herself, a Jean Cocteau mural, and a remarkably elegant toilet seat which resembles a sculpture of stainless steel. And while we are on the fundamental theme of the “water closet,” Green gives credit where credit is due: “ Kohler’s new Hatbox water closet is a humorous expression of the common day toilet. While perfectly functional and exquisitely designed to look like a hat box, it is, in the end, just a toilet. “
Sometimes her interiors revolve around a single, startling piece such as a desk made entirely of straw. Green comments: “A desk hand-made of straw, piece by piece, hour after hour, with a great labor of love, is a tour de force. Costly, yes; worth it, definitely. It sublimely surpasses the ‘sameness’ of most furniture.” The desk is really beautiful, with the muted golds of a faded tatami mat, (also made of weathered straw) sturdy yet elegant. One woman crafts these desks, slowly and with meticulous painstaking care. For her extraordinary craftsmanship, the artist/artisan, Viollet was awarded the Chevalier Medal.
How did Green come to interior design? As a Columbia University English PhD and college professor, she had already begun to take an interdisciplinary approach, focusing on the literature, art, and music of the late 19th and early 20th century. One day a friend, who was a major player in the design business and who liked the way Green presented herself, asked her to help redesign her apartment. She discovered she could make as much money per project as a designer in half a year as she could over a whole year as a professor. In addition, she really loved what she was doing. The friend, delighted by the results, recommended her to others. She then began to obtain many residential and corporate contacts and contracts, and the rest is history.
Since her Columbia days, Green has been particularly inspired by artists whose work spanned disciplines and broke traditional boundaries—such as the Pre-Raphaelites, William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Josef Hoffman, and Frank Lloyd Wright and Mackintosh. Green likes to use the appealing graphics of William Morris who designed textiles and wall paper, designed houses, wrote fiction and poetry, and also painted portraits. Similarly, she is inspired by the furniture of Joseph Hoffman, who is noted for his architecture, interior design, and beautifully crafted furniture—much of Hoffman’s furniture appears in her interiors. And she says she is still interested in the literary side of her work!
A key moment in Green’s career was when she was accepted into the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, the sine qua non for interior designers, which solidified her reputation and credibility. She has designed interiors all over New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts to Palm Beach and Boca Raton, Florida. Working now with the kind of clients some of whom possess paintings of significance: a Rothko, a Matisse, and a Picasso, she also provides design and architecture services to the up and coming young professional. Her projects, as you might expect, command “Attention to Detail” and quality craftsmanship together with an understanding of a client’s particular needs and desires.
Coming full circle, Gail Green is teaching again and giving seminars at the Princeton Club on real estate. This fall, she anticipates lecturing at the Harvard Club on design.
“As Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe exclaimed `God is in the details.’ The famous architect knew that what separates the sublime from the mundane is the attention to detail that an artisan expresses in their work. It is refinement of technique, if you will, a stylistic turn of the hand that somehow transcends the mediocre, bringing the work into the realm of the ineffable. … Of course, [we are talking] about the loving care and eye that the master craftsperson creates, when sculpting his work of art, whether that be a painting, a building, or an interior. ”Attention to detail goes hand-in-hand with quality workmanship. It is a creative process in two ways: one is the evolvement of a work of art from its inception in the artist’s hands, the other is where the artist leaves off and the work becomes a living entity unto itself. … What is the outcome? Sometimes something so beautiful, it is inexpressible; sometimes something so witty, that it transcends humor, sometimes something so subtle, that its refined sensibility, its synesthetic appeal to all the senses is, just “is.” (Gail Green, Attention to Detail: God is in the Details).
Woman Around Town’s Six Questions
Favorite Place to Eat: Cafe Boulud
Favorite Place to Shop: Hermes
Favorite New York Sight: Chrysler Building
Favorite New York Moment: Being honored at the Kips Bay Designer Show House; alternative, being at the U.S. Open Tennis Finals
What You Love About New York: The cultural institutions, and that one can walk most anywhere
What You Hate about New York: 42nd Street and Times Square, with some exceptions