Diverse was the one word that kept coming to mind as I looked through the brilliant portfolio of David Phoenix. An effortless melding of New England Aristocracy and West Coast Style is where David excels.
Of course, his east coast/west coast trademark style is no coincidence. As a young boy growing up in New England David dreamed of becoming a world renowned Chef. At the age of 18, he realized that dream and landed an apprenticeship at La Cote Basque in New York. After much deliberation he soon discovered that while he wanted to create “beautiful things” the culinary arts were not his true calling.
With only a suitcase, $2,000 in his pocket and uncertain of his next direction, he arrived at LAX to start a new life. In need of a job David answered an ad for a baker at “the happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. After a brief stint doing the graveyard shift David figured he didn’t trek all the way to California to be a baker at a “Mickey Mouse” operation.
David, following his instincts, went to work as a sample librarian at Brunschwig in the Pacific Design Center. His eagerness to delve into the design world was ignited. Following his time at Brunschwig he went to work at Pierre Deux and finally the Ralph Lauren Flagship store in Beverly Hills.
While at the PDC one day, happenstance intervened and David encountered none other than Maria Shriver. After he convinced her to let him help with selecting fabrics for her office, Shriver was hooked on David’s aesthetic. David became the choice designer for the Shriver’s, as well as the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
With a lifelong passion for America’s cultural and architectural heritage, David has received a well-deserved honorable appointment to the (SHRC) State Historical Resources Commission of California.
Which talent would you most like to possess?
To be a painter is a talent that has always impressed me. California Plein Air paintings are my favorite, but pop art and abstract impressionism is also captivating.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Beating stage 4 Cancer last year. It was a life changing experience that has blessed me with a new appreciation for life.
What is your most prized possession?
A lamp that belonged to my great grandmother, which was passed down to her. It was in the front window of her home in New England. Every time I would visit her she would wave goodbye to me and I remember her warm smile and the lamp in the window. I always told her that I admired the lamp, and then one day I received a box from her. In it was the lamp.
It’s Italian Majolica, very colorful, and it sits in my front window today. It makes me smile every time I drive up to my house.
Who are your style icons?
Valentino. He is the most talented and legendary fashion designer in recent time. I love his clothes, the way he lives, his passion for details, and as his sense of humor. I also love the way he entertains. In interior design, Alberto Pinto is a master of sophistication, and Jacques Garcia, Rose Tarlow, and Sister Parish are also designers I love.
Who would you most like to collaborate with on a project?
I would love to collaborate with the Bel Air Hotel. It’s walking distance from my place, and I spend quite a bit of time there. I’d love the opportunity to take this classic piece of California design, and create new spaces that are sophisticated, yet clean and comfortable… Think, Californian Elegance.
What books are currently on your bedside table?
Currently on my bedside table, “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert, “Creative Thought,” by Thomas B. Ward, and “The finest Rooms by America's Great Decorators" by Russell Lynes. The last one is an out of print book that I refer to occasionally. It features some of the great decorators that paved the way for the design community.
What is your favorite luxury in life?
Sleeping in on Sundays, and spending the little free time I have with the ones I love. Being able to walk down to the Bel Air Hotel for breakfast is a daily luxury that I enjoy as well.
Who would you most like to meet and how would you spend the day?
My soulmate. And we’d spend a leisurely day in the kitchen cooking and enjoying each other’s company.
How would you describe your personal style?
Someone once told me that I’m grand but cozy, and that really stuck with me. I think my personal design style is all about quality and comfort within sophisticated spaces. No one wants to enter a space and feel like they are strangers in their own home. You want to create a space that is chic, yet at the same time so comfortable that you wouldn’t want to leave.
What inspires your creativity and designs?
I’m inspired by the rich, diverse landscapes of New England and California. As a native Bostonian living in L.A., my projects meld a dual design perspective that I often call “California Elegance.” As well, the co-creative process with my clients is always very inspiring for my work. I love to hear about a clients needs and ideas, soak up their lifestyle, and let that provoke me to create a beautiful environment to live in.
Which iconic interior decorator or architect do you most identify with?
David Adler is an architect I truly admire. I love the homes he built in Chicago. One in particular is The Amour Residence (1931.) I love the formality and symmetry of the house, and find it do be so innovative for the time period. Another favorite Adler house is in Lake Forest, Chicago, called the Lasker Estate (1925.) The floor plan is amazing. His use of detail adds to the richness of the estate.
Profile by Ronda Carman