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Q&A with Tom Delavan

Name: Tom Delavan
Resides in: New York City
Occupation: Interior Designer and Creative Director of Gilt Home
Best known for: Being the former editor at large for domino magazine
Website: http://www.tomdelavan.com

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Probably my house—although to call it an “accomplishment” is premature. It was a real fixer-upper, and 12 years later, it is nowhere near done. Nevertheless, it is a place that feels like home, and my friends and family seem comfortable there.

What is your most prized possession?
Lulu, my white lab. Does she count as a possession?

Whose style do you admire?
I would say Sam Shepard. He manages to be credible as both a cowboy and an intellectual. Sadly, I am neither.

In what historical period would you most like to have lived?
I honestly can’t imagine living in any other time than the present. I feel cut off from the world if I don’t have high-speed Internet for more than a day.

With what fictional character do you most identify?
I would not admit to identifying with any fictional characters I have read about recently!

Where do you feel most inspired?
There is no one place, but places that have worked in the past are either places steeped in history (Rome, for example) or places that allow me to clear my mind (skiing pretty much anywhere).

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A day with people I love and nothing to do.

In your next life, who would you most like to be?
I would like to be a combination of Steve Jobs and the Dalai Lama.

You’re known for creating carefully curated design projects that give an effortless appearance. How do you keep your hard work from showing?
I try not to obsess too much about the details. At a certain point you have to let go—if you obsess about every detail, you can squeeze the life out of a room. And sometimes the things you didn’t plan make it all much better.

You have a background in art history and served as a specialist in contemporary art at Sotheby’s. How has your study of art influenced your work in design?
I like to think I think more broadly—it’s not about fabrics and trimmings but about how a space feels and how it should work. Also, I think a lot about what an object means, whether it is an artwork or an object that is completely functional. I don’t pretend to be an artist; a lot of design is about choosing the right pieces, but I do try to be sensitive to the space. There is nothing worse than when someone strips out the soul and replaces it with their design.

What’s the secret of incorporating an art collection into a home?
Should you ever not buy a painting you love for fear that it won’t match your sofa? It’s not that things need to match, but they do need to get along. It’s like inviting people to a party—if they are all the same, it will be a dull party, but there needs to be some dialogue. I think people use the term eclectic as an excuse for throwing things together indiscriminately.

Which artists continue to inspire your work?
I always talk about Cy Twombly and Félix González-Torres.
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