Six Questions with Interior Designer Amy Lau
Perhaps the accolades say it all Architectural Digest AD/100 and House Beautiful’s Next-Wave awards along with spots on the Elle Décor A-List and Luxe Interiors + Design Gold lists have placed interior designer Amy Lau in the pantheon of Who’s Who in the design world. Her work graces the pages of the top shelter magazines, and her monograph, Expressive Modern (Monacelli Press) is a must- have for any design library. And fun fact, the multi-talented designer even created a dining room for everyone’s favorite serial killer, Showtime’s Dexter.
The Arizona-born, Manhattan-based interior designer is best known for her refined artfully inspired and color-filled interiors with a penchant for mixing vintage and contemporary. A/O Journal recently presented Amy with six questions on all things design. Enjoy!
A/O: How would you describe your look, what sets you apart and what influences your work?
AL: My look is always tailored to my client’s needs and desires, yet is forever elegant, unique, and nature inspired. I love to collaborate with artists and artisans to create bespoke pieces for my clients to individualize their home and make their hearts sing. So many elements influence my work. I am humbled and inspired by Mary Jane Colter, by Antonio Gaudi, the American painter Alma Thomas, and I love Louis Comfort Tiffany’s work. Overall, though, nature is my mentor and guide, and has been since my childhood when I would ride into the Arizonan desert on my horse, White Eagle.
A/O: Since design tends to be cyclical, what sort of changes do you see in the future?
AL: Rather than follow trends, I am inspired by a variety of things, ranging from the natural world to the lifestyle of my client. I am constantly learning from the incredible design I find throughout my travels – from Japan to Turkey, Mexico to Saudi Arabia – each place has a story to tell and a wealth of culture, tradition, and artistic technique to explore and incorporate in my design.
A/O: I know much has been said about the demise of “brown furniture,” do you feel like you are using more antiques these days and if so, what sort of pieces are you sourcing?
AL: My design philosophy is “curate, don’t decorate.” Therefore, I intellectually and meticulously edit each and every item in a room, so as to maintain a clear purpose for every object. Studying for my Master’s at Sotheby’s American Fine & Decorative Art brought me into contact with a network of experts, curators, scholars, appraisers, dealers, and conservationists, giving me a rich grounding in history and quality of antique pieces, and a very special appreciation of them. I will always mix antiques with contemporary pieces to give a space depth and interest. I always love to purchase vintage upholstered pieces, and archivally re-upholster them, extending their beauty and life.
A/O: The trend of shopping online for antiques continues, do you find that you are looking more on the internet and if so, why?
AL: I love to use the Internet to search for antique pieces, as the world of vintage is at my fingertips, giving me access to galleries from Hungary to Australia who are only too happy to share their exquisite pieces. That being said, I recently visited the flea in Paris and found a treasure of an antique Jugendstil period chandelier with exquisite Austrian glass globes, which I will soon be installing in my pre-war apartment just off Central Park.
ArtOrigo allows galleries to post their gallery events, fairs and exhibitions, also short videos, l think this is the future; ArtOrigo is inspiring to me for the breadth of pieces available, and the quality of the photography is exceptional. I love the Events & Projects section; it transports me to places around the world to see pieces and spaces from the comfort of my phone and computer.
A/O: What advice do you give your clients on collecting antiques?
AL: Research, research, research, check sources, talk to people, and do your very best to confirm provenance.
A/O: Are you a collector and if so, what do you buy?
AL: I have always admired iconic designers and artists from the past as well as present. Due to my intensive background in Fine and Decorative Arts, I feel that it’s important for me to invest in what I know best. So each year I set aside a certain amount of money to either commission, who I believe will be looked upon, as one of our greatest designers of our generation to create a "one of a kind" piece made specifically for me, or an exceptional museum-quality antique piece that I will enjoy and will also be a great future investment in the long run. For example, I commissioned one of the finest American woodworkers of our generation, Michael Coffey, to create a one of a kind, site-specific, hand-carved fireplace from Mozambique wood to go in my new apartment, and I purchased a very rare antique Jugendstil chandelier with original iridized Loetz glass globes by Pallme-Koenig.
A/O: And lastly, what is the one extravagant thing you would like to buy for your home that you don’t already own?
AL: A gorgeous curved sofa designed by Joseph Walsh and created by the bespoke furniture maker Philippe Hetier in Ireland.