The Style Files: Gil Schafer

If you are drawn to this blog because of your love of design, then chances are, today’s interview subject, Gil Schafer needs no introduction. The third-generation architect has designed some of the most beautiful, thoughtful homes in the American vernacular for the past twenty five years and is one of the most revered architects amongst the savviest of design circles. Prior to starting his eponymous firm, Gil worked for one of the top firms in the country, Ferguson, Murray, and Shamamian for nearly a decade. I recently attended a talk given by Gil and the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art in which he mentioned how much the houses he grew up spending time in during his childhood would spark an early interest in architecture. These homes stretched from California and the Midwest to the Northeast, Georgia, and the Bahamas. While completely different from one another, these houses would all become imprinted in his memory, influencing and informing his style and love of architecture for the rest of his life. Gil has completed beautiful homes all across the country and has a true gift for architectural details that make a house feel as if it has always been there, even if it hasn’t. The vernacular of the house is always appropriate and inspiring. Gil recently released his second book, A Place to Call Home: Tradition, Style, and Memory in the New American House, published by Rizzoli.

Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?

Gil Schafer: Traditional, Understated, and Comfortable

PC: How has living in New York influenced your aesthetic?

GS: I love the energy, pace, and sophistication that comes from living in New York. It means that you have to bring your “A” game to everything you do, every day. The visual reference points all around you every day are highly sophisticated and refined—from the interiors you experience to the way people dress. Having grown up in the countryside as a boy, that relentless urbane energy was an initial adjustment, but now I love it. I also love, though, taking a break from it, back to the country on weekends, to escape all that just a little.

PC: What does your home say about you?

GS: That I am a hopeless collector, that I love memories, and that I need things to be comfortable.

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

GS: So many different place: to places discovered while traveling, to books, magazines, and movies, and to the homes of people who know how to live beautifully.

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

GS: Living: Lauren Santo Domingo—an amazing sense of style in both her houses and the way she dresses. Dead: David Hicks, for all the obvious reasons.

{Lauren Santo Domingo at Home in Paris | Photography via ELLE Italia}

PC: What trait do you most admire in a person?

GS: Generosity and humility

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

GS: A new house on the coast of Maine

PC: Who or what has been your greatest professional influence?

GS: My former boss for nearly a decade in my formative professional years, Mark Ferguson (Ferguson & Shamamian Architects). He taught me the importance of professionalism, being organized in your thinking, flexible in your solutions, and to nurture talent.

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

GS: Staying at a really good hotel when traveling for pleasure, price-be-damned.

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

GS: My new book A Place to Call Home was just released and I’ll be touring around the country over the next 6 months. The best part of a book tour is getting to see some of the cities I love and meeting the wonderful people who live in each of them. You can find my full tour schedule here: In addition to that, I’m working on a number of projects that are really exciting me, spread all over the country—from family compounds on Block Island and in Shelburne, Vermont, to new houses in Florida, Maine, and California. It’s a blast to work in so many different places because you are compelled to find unique solutions for each, based on the sense of place for each.

Go-To Outfit: Navy blazer or grey suit, and always a tie

Style Mantra: Always make an effort, but never try too hard.

Scent: Never wear one.

Piece of Jewelry: Watch—either IWC’s chronograph “Portuguese” or a large diameter dial watch from Swatch in a peppy color

Color I Never Tire Of: Just one??

Flower: Lilac or Peony

Indispensable Design Element: Moldings

Era for Design: First half of the 19th century in America

Dream Project: a house somewhere in the tropics—or Montecito, California

Fabric/Textile: Linen or wool felt

Drink: Diet Coke

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: Watch stupid television (The Bachelor or Bachelorette or an old Seinfeld rerun)

3 Things I Love About My City: The energy, the sophistication, the talent to be found here

Weekend Destination: My house in the Hudson Valley, in Upstate New York

Hotel: Ballyfin in Ireland

City: London

Museum: Musee de la Chasse in Paris: the hunting thing is interesting, but what brings me back again and again is the chicness of the interior.

Artist: Franz Kline, Vuillard, Fairfield Porter

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: “That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind & Fire

Prized Possession: Old photos

Risk Worth Taking: Love

Greatest Extravagance: My house in Maine

Rule to Break: (once in a while…) Perfect correctness

Movie Set Design: “I Am Love”

I can never have too many…Ties

{Main Photography by Eric Piasecki, Courtesy of Gil Schafer}


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