When I was reading the book before the meeting, I kept thinking that the designs of Thad Hayes have a quiet elegance about them so I asked him how he defined his work and he mentioned a few words that resonate, "appropriate," "relevant," and "thoughtful." All of his projects begin with the client and he is a careful listener and is very thoughtful in his approach. Each of his projects are also appropriate to their environment. For him, the hunt for antiques, furnishings and accessories that create a layered look is what makes each of his designs unique to their environment and owner.
The man of the hour, interior designer Thad Hayes in his studio
I loved that Thad Hayes had filed his book without thought between Fallingwater, Class Act: William Haines Legendary Hollywood Decorator and the design books by David Hicks. They are all in good company!
Thad Hayes was born and raised in Louisiana and his artistic talent was luckily fostered by his parents. It was car trips to visit historic plantation houses and his own home growing up that influenced his future when his mother hired an interior decorator and he realized that interior design could be a career. But what's funny is that he ended up with a degree in landscape architecture and didn't even have a job when he moved to New York in 1979. At that time, New York was a pretty gritty place with high unemployment similar to today but Thad Hayes had an optimistic spirit and a bit of luck on his side when his upstairs neighbor, painter and designer Stephen Shadley, introduced him to Robert Bray who invited him to work for Bray and Schaible. After three years with the firm, Thad Hayes felt ready to go out on his own and the rest, as they say, is history!
Thad Hayes has been a bit under the radar and part of the reason for this he said is that he doesn't go out to all the parties and social events. He has a young son whom he likes to spent time with at the end of the day and again, it's this thoughtful nature that makes him the designer that he is today. His office has never had more than eight people so it keeps the projects manageable and allows him to give each one his attention and it shows.
Of course, I had to ask Thad Hayes if he had a favorite project and he said that he had two. The first, which can be seen in the photo above and the next four is located in Pam Beach and he loves it for it's historical value. If most anyone else had bought the home, they probably would have either razed it and built a McMansion or completely gutted it but luckily it was purchased by the Lauders who wanted to restore it. In the bathroom above, they kept the original pink sink and appreciated the quirky and whimsical nature of the house. If you can't have fun in Palm Beach, where can you?!
In the dining room, Hayes had Gracie repaint the original 1930's wallpaper.
It's funny that in contrast to this colorful house, his other favorite project in the book is Dune House a more simple and modern home also by the beach but it just serves as another example of his thoughtful nature. Some houses can be bold and others need to be more quiet, just like people.
Another reason that each project is unique is that the team shops separately for each project and rarely uses the same fabrics or furniture again.
I had to ask Thad Hayes if he had any advice for young designer like myself who are going out on their own and he suggested keeping the client base varied in age and occupation. Older clients slow down their decorating and as we've just seen first hand in New York, perhaps it's not a good idea to have only clients who work in finance. Practical and solid advice that I'm sure not many people would have thought of on their own.
I could look through Thad Hayes: The Tailored Interior for hours. The details are subtle and deserved to be studied and not just glanced over. It's also interesting to note how much work goes into putting a book together. This one was started over two and a half years ago and it took two years just to photograph the 21 projects included. I think that's worth remembering the next time you wonder why a design book is so expensive!
I owe a big thank you to Thad Hayes for taking time out of his busy day to talk with me. It was really very inspiring and fun to be able to hear the stories behind the projects and the making of the book. I also want to thank Jessica Napp of Rizzoli for her assistance. There are a lot of design books on the market these days but I have no doubt that Thad Hayes deserves his place of honor among Fallingwater, Billy Haines and David Hicks!