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Monday, November 7, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Geoffrey Bradfield, Internationally Acclaimed Designer

Geoffrey Bradfield specializes in creating daring, elegant and luxurious residences and offices for an international clientele. Among this roster of projects for Fortune 500 clients is the major design overhaul of the Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney estate in Old Westbury, Long Island and the restoration of the late King Hussein's mansion in Maryland. His recently completed redesign of the 200 room Equinox Resort in Vermont was elevated to the Starwood Luxury Collection. Bradfield has recently completed the designing of famed Hollywood director Oliver Stone's New York residence.

“Functional Opulence" is the key to his designs, which draw inspiration from the Orient, African Primitivism, and Art Deco. The work incorporates fine art and antiques with modern materials and high tech accessories, attaching the same sculptural value to utility objects as to important pieces of art. The look, drawn from the twentieth century, results in intensely comfortable and superbly elegant environments that delight eye, mind and body alike.

The company has designed palatial residences, private jets and yachts, and unique office environments for clients throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia. "Silent Celebrities" is a term coined by the firm that fervently guards the privacy of its clients which include some of the most prominent families in the world.

Bradfield has received on five successive occasions the coveted recognition by Architectural Digest magazine in their "AD 100" in January 2000, January 2002, January 2004, January 2007 and January 2010 as one of the top designers in the world. He was honored in the Architectural Digest January 2005 issue as 'Dean of American Design.' Bradfield is recognized in the book America's Elite 1000 - The Ultimate List, Millennium Issue, the Inside Story Behind America's Top 1000 Names"; published by Codogan Publications.

The designer has partnered with Stark Carpet, and designed a line of textiles and wall coverings, called Geoffrey Bradfield Signature Collection. His line of furniture, the Millennium Modern series sells internationally and was the subject of a curated solo exhibition at the Sebastian + Barquet Gallery in 2009.

South African born, Bradfield was well-established in Johannesburg before moving to New York City in the late 1970s. Initially working with McMillen, Inc. and later long time partner of the late Jay Spectre, the work of Bradfield's company appears in the pages of the leading design magazines including Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Elle Décor, Veranda, Classic Home, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home and The New York Times. Bradfield has won numerous design awards and honors, and has lectured at the Smithsonian. He has participated in the annual Kips Bay Show house and is a frequent guest on television shows which include a profile on CNBC's "High Net Worth," CNN's "Style with Elsa Klensch" and a one-hour special on the workings of his company on HGTV in addition to features on that network's shows "Top Ten Design," "Interiors by Design" and"Design for Living.”

Bradfield is co-author of Point of View: Design by Jay Spectre (1991). He is author of Celebration: Christmas in New York (1993) and a book showcasing his work of the last decade, Geoffrey Bradfield - Defining Millennium Modern was published in 2004. His latest book, Geoffrey Bradfield Ex Arte was published by Panache Partners in 2009 and features a compilation of his international projects and was highly recommended by Whom You Know:

Geoffrey Bradfield and his associate, Company Vice President Roric Tobin, are in constant motion. The firm's New York-based office, as well as satellite companies in Palm Beach, the Emirates and Qatar, keep these gentleman constantly jetting from one continent to the next catapulting their brand onto the global stage.

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We are absolutely thrilled to present Geoffrey Bradfield as our latest Mover and Shaker. Peachy Deegan interviewed Geoffrey Bradfield for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first designing memory?
Geoffrey Bradfield: Athlone was the name of my family farm, bordering the Transkei in the Eastern Cape. The home had no architectural merit to speak of. It was solid and unadorned, and resembled something rather like a fortress. But what it lacked in artistic merit it made up for in scale. Built on a promontory with commanding views of the Indian Ocean, it was my first exposure to grandly proportioned rooms. Their imprint would forever inform my sense of graciousness and scale.
As a young child, the staff were constantly being commandeered by me, moving furniture from one end of the drawing room to the other. When they complained to my mother, she told them “let him be.” The writing was obviously on the wall.
My first major assignment was in Johannesburg. I designed and decorated the apartment of the Impresario, Pieter Toerien. He was my first celebrity client – I was 23 years old and it garnered me a lot of attention. Of course, everything is relative and I was swimming in a very small pond.

What is luxury to you?
I am never jaded about the fact that I have a motorcar and driver in New York. I count my lucky stars. For me, it is the greatest luxury - my Bentley Continental Flying Spur and my driver, Ang.

How would you explain what you do to someone that has not seen your work?
I am an ardent modernist and my work is largely predicated on the use of major Contemporary art. Although I have a great respect for the past, I like my work to reflect our moment in time. I do not recreate period rooms. I use antiques as accents. They take the form of a sculptural presence in a space. Their beauty and age adds resonance to a contemporary interior.

What are your favorite places to travel to, to shop with your clients for your projects and what do you love about these places?
London, Paris, and Rome. These three choices in no way limit our global reach. I have always lived in the present and in the pursuit of “the new.” Because of today’s global reach the possibilities and options are endless. 

What do you miss most about South Africa, and what should the world know about South Africa?
I was raised on a farm in South Africa, at a time when the country was part of the waning British Empire. My paternal grandfather was the Magistrate of the district. It was a time warp, a civilization that has long since vanished. It is now a vibrant and positive democracy with opportunity for all. What has not changed, is the unrivaled natural beauty of the country.

We love the Equinox; Peachy grew up going to Manchester, Vermont every Friday after Thanksgiving to Christmas shop. How did you enjoy working on that project?
We are so pleased that you like the Equinox. It was an extraordinary project for my office. HEI Hospitality really gave us carte blanche and the results capture the integrity of our intentions. I wanted the décor to exemplify the sort of perfectly calibrated balance between history and contemporary panache. I drew upon the metalwork of Diego Giacometti as inspiration, which added artistic weight to the Great Room and adjacent lobby spaces. I had visited Diego Giacometti’s studio in Paris frequently during the last years of his life. Introducing these furnishings, was an homage to a great artist. While charming in its way, the hotel had become quaint and sadly dated. The $20 million restoration introduced modern luxury to a 200-room resort. My clients were emphatic, in that they wanted a contemporary point of view that would also capture the dignity of its history. Since our redesign, it has been elevated to the prestigious status of Starwood’s Luxury Collection.

What is your favorite color combination?
White, with almost any color from the spectrum.

What textures do you appreciate most?
I like texture contrasts, i.e. brushed steel, mirror, or exotic woods juxtaposed with rich fabrics: velvets, chenilles, linens or silks, etc.

What is your most favorite chandelier in the world and why?
Glamour is an essential element of my designs. Moura Starr’s collection of chandeliers is distinctive and exciting. They effectively marry the traditional with a contemporary spirit. These transitional crystal light fixtures guarantee instant glamour, and express perfectly my own design philosophy.

What was it like to work with the late Queen Mother?
It was a great privilege working for the late Queen Mother. Although frail toward the end, she remained extremely gracious, like most of the elderly Royals. Our paths crossed because of our spiritual commitments to the Anglican Church. For the dinner, which Her Majesty commissioned at St. James’s Palace I designed over-scaled floral table centerpieces – inspired by her coronation crown – using white carnations, purple statice, white tuberose and silver-sprayed vines.

Without revealing any names, what would surprise the world the most about your clients, either generally or specifically?
Most of our clients, apart from the obvious [extremely well-heeled and many in the billionaire category] are young and self-made. It is creatively rewarding to be able to work with a generation that is not afraid of its shadow, embraces the 21st Century, and all it has to offer.

If you were stranded on a desert island in a one-room cabin and could pick any ten objects of beauty to furnish it with (we are assuming you have all functional pieces in), what would they be and why?
I am attached to very few possessions. I am a nomad, having moved many times in my life. Every time I move, I find I need less. The exceptions would be:

(1) Mr. Willoughby: because he rules.

(2) my photo albums, as they are a diary of my entire life.

If I were forced to make a list beyond this…

(3) El Greco’s Expulsion of the Money-Lenders from the Temple, now hanging in the Frick, perhaps the only painting I covet.

(4) If a decent library constitutes one item of beauty, then, yes, as I am an avid reader.

And finally… if pushed…

(5-10) Half a dozen 23 year old amusing models, an infallible ingredient... youth and beauty.

Does Mr. Willoughby have a doghouse and if so how did he decorate it?
Mr. Willoughby does not have a dog house. He prefers to recline on pillows. He has a very discerning eye and hires a decorating company called GB Inc. 

Will you be writing another book and if so, when will it be coming out?
My company is in the throes of publishing a new book, due to reach the shelves in the Spring of 2012.

What is the most funny or ridiculous request you've had from a client and how did you meet it?
I have found that kids know exactly what they want; they don’t even have to be asked. One youngster called for a suit of genuine knight’s armor as a tie rack. It set the indulgent parent back a considerable sum. Talk about entitlement.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
The Swiss architect, Le Corbusier. I believe that restraint magnifies impact. Over-design is something I try to avoid. A perfect example is Le Corbusier's 1931 masterpiece, the Villa Savoye on the outskirts of Paris.
To some extent, the Art Moderne period of the 1940s. But, it does go far beyond that. I am very intrigued with the advent of technology.

What are you proudest of and why?
Quite frankly, that I have maintained my sanity.
There is no magic formula for challenging the present. What counts [at the moment] is the know-how, the passion and will, to keep in the fray and remain relevant.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
The White House.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
This is a very difficult question to answer without appearing immodest. But for the record, and in the third person…

2005 AD American Dean of Design

Architectural Digest honored Geoffrey Bradfield for creative and professional excellence in the distinguished international group of architects and interior designers known as the AD100" (five times in the past decade.)

Haute Living Magazine compiled lists of the most influential people living in New York City, naming Geoffrey Bradfield as an industry leader in interior design. The magazine describes Geoffrey Bradfield in its spring 2009 edition as "the designer of choice for billionaires everywhere, [his] impeccable taste can be seen in some of the city's most spectacular residences."

South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as Chairman of the Phelophepa healthcare Train in South Africa, announced that William Hickman, Colin A. W. Cowie, and Geoffrey N. Bradfield were named 2007 Phelophepa Award for Excellence winners by the American Friends of the Phelophepa Train. The Phelophepa Train is a unique clinic on rails that provides health care to South Africans in need. "Our Gratitude to Geoffrey Bradfield for his love, compassion and continued support to his homeland...," said Archbishop Tutu at the ceremonies. "I have the immense pleasure of greeting him as our guest of honor at this very special event in recognition of his sterling success globally as one of the most inspiring and internationally acclaimed designers of our time."

Geoffrey Bradfield was awarded the honor of Guest Designer for 2007 at Rooms On View, South Africa's premier decor exhibition.

Interior Design Magazine awarded Geoffrey Bradfield Inc.'s line of furniture for Stark Carpet with the Best of Design 2007 Merit Award. This honor was announced in the December 2007 "Best Of" edition.

Merit Award 2007 from Interior Design

Robb Report’s 2010 Top Ten Designers

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
The Morgan Library.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
The Rolls-Bentley Showroom

What is your favorite drink?
Vodka Martini extra dry, straight up with a twist.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
That I was seriously propositioned by a drag queen.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
La Grenouille.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
People Like Us by Dominick Dunne.

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Although war-torn and weary, for all my shortcomings and flaws, I like being in my own skin.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
The Bradfield Ordinance: A decree in my name, issued by Mayor Bloomberg, that work in the city should only commence at 10:00 o’clock of a morning.
Because I am a night owl and desperately need the extra few hours of slumber.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Running from the drag queen that propositioned me… just kidding!

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Viewing perfection: The permanently displayed 287 carat yellow Tiffany Diamond, discovered in the Kimberley mines of South Africa. Its extraordinary fire and beauty are the symbols of the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
The young King David. I think that the Old Testament Psalms are the most beautiful words of praise ever written.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
A visual blockbuster: the recent homage to Alexander McQueen at the Met.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I do sincerely believe in giving back. We live in a city of incomparable generosity. The entire culture of Manhattan is woven into the ideal of benevolence. Obviously, everything is relative and I consider my contributions modest. On the short list of my efforts:

I have established a scholarship at the New York School of Interior Design enabling foreign students to continue their study. I have been instrumental with the help of the curator, Craig Miller in establishing the core of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 20th Century textile collection. I am a serious contributor to MacDonald’s Stewart Foundation in Montreal, a preeminent museum showcasing rare examples of 2oth Century design. A very personal commitment for me is my involvement with the Phelophepa Train in South Africa. A Miracle Train, a mobile medical unit that travels to South African rural areas providing health-related services to the poor. I am also involved in my church.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Underrated: sincerity.
Overrated: celebrity.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
You book reviews in Read This- because you so obviously actually read the book cover to cover.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
I have not had the pleasure to date, although I do dine at Swifty’s fairly often. As most cocktails favored by the female gender tend to be rather sweet, I suspect that it would not be my preference. However, I am willing to give it a try, before I pass judgment.
[Note from Peachy: there is a significant amount of lime in each Peachy Deegan cocktail, half a lime to be exact, that counteracts the sweetness]

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I am an open book.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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