Michael Caine and Doris Kearns Goodwin |
All is Forgiven, Michael Wolff

Lunch At Michaels

LunchAtMichaelsThe usual suspects who flocked to Michael’s today were so busy tucking into their Cobb salads they didn’t even notice there was a genuine knight in their midst. No, it wasn’t Michael Bloomberg (he’s off at Vanity Fair‘s inaugural New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, as are, I suspect, several other Wednesday regulars). None other than Michael Caine slipped in after the room had filled up to meet agent Boaty Boatwright. I’m not sure, but I think the Academy-Award winner was wearing a Members Only jacket. Oh well, like my mother always said: it’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it — and Sir. Michael looked pretty damn cool.

Fawn Galli and Diane Clehane
Fawn Galli and Diane Clehane

I was joined today by the fabulously talented and delightfully low-key interior designer Fawn Galli, whose latest project in Cornwall, Connecticut, a historic house with a mix of traditional and contemporary spaces, is the subject of an upcoming profile in Saturday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal. (The story is available online here.) Unlike many of her peers who strive to be as famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) as their clients, clever, classy Fawn is happy to let her work speak for itself. When I asked her if she’d ever consider doing a reality show, she looked slightly horrified. “I have been approached, but I don’t think I see myself doing that,” she said quietly. Alert the media!

From what I’ve seen of her work in House Beautiful, Domino, O At Home and several other shelter books, Fawn isn’t one of those designers who doles out their own “signature” to every client. Instead, her inspired interiors that meld the traditional and the modern always seem to have something different and distinctive about them. (“I like pieces with character.”) An avid traveler, she finds inspiration in textiles, ’70s disco and nature. Her layered, often-color-drenched interiors (hot pink, acid yellow and emerald green are favorites) employ unexpected materials, such as silk damask drapes with hemp tie-backs. “I try to design spaces that reflect the personality of the client. It’s not about the placement of the sofa and chairs, and I never over-decorate with furniture,” she told me between bites of salad Niçoise. “I always learn as much as I can about every client and find out who they are, where they’ve traveled, what they like and tell my clients, ‘Let’s have fun!'”

The biggest challenge for every project, she said, is “gaining trust” of her clients. The toughest gigs involve working with couples, in which two opposing points of view need to come together to create a space both parties will love to live in. “I secretly really enjoy it, but sometimes it requires a polite, but firm hand.” To wit: one husband was adamantly opposed to some bold wallpaper choices his wife had selected for three rooms and wanted it taken down once it had been installed. Fawn, certain it was the right choice, but looking to strike a compromise so the rest of the project would go smoothly, convinced the husband to live with the wallpaper in one room. “I try and be clear: I’m going to give [clients] what they want, but I’m also going to push them. But not too far. I waited a year, and then I asked him if he liked the wallpaper we’d kept up and he said, yes, it was the right choice. I understand that change and newness can be very hard for some people. It’s all about balance.” No wonder half of Fawn’s projects come from repeat clients and many others are personal referrals. “This business is a lot of word of mouth.”

Fawn started Fawn Galli Interiors in 2007 out of her West Village apartment as a full-service, high-end residential and commercial firm, offering everything from construction management and renovations to overseeing every detail of the decorating process. Her clients include screenwriter David Kopp,designer Giovanna Randall (the bejeweled royal blue dress she was wearing was from Giovanna’s “Honor” line) and Paris Review editor Susannah Hunnewell. Her design projects include a Newport, Rhode Island, property with guesthouse; homes in Connecticut and the Hamptons; a West Village townhouse; the SoHo offices of a film editing company; as well as her own Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, townhouse. “I decorated it 10 years ago and haven’t touched it since,” she admitted.