It is refreshing when you meet someone who loves what they do, and knew they wanted to do it from a young age. Shawn Henderson is one of these people. He wanted to be an interior designer since 8th grade. So, it is no surprise that his interiors show the seasoned sophistication and strong confidence of someone who started cultivating his aesthetic when most of us were still tinkering with crayolas. Shawn’s elegant interiors are classy, while infused with a touch of chic and at times a sense of whimsy and fun-as in the shearling-covered swing (maybe a nod to his young beginnings) and velvet-covered molding details in the room he designed for the Kips Bay Show House.
In the 2nd of his interviews with some of the brightest and well known talent at Kips Bay, Charles Pavarini III, Chairman of the Designer Committee, chats with Shawn about which celeb he sees living in the Kips Bay room he designed, what design icon he would like to collaborate with in the future and his ever-expanding fantastic (and multi-functional) furniture collection.
CP: The room you designed, A Sensual Playroom, has so many memorable aspects. First catching our eye is the shearling covered swing. How did that come to evolve?
SH: there was such a tight timeline to complete our rooms that the pressure to come up with a plan was intense! I first drew up a very standard furniture plan and we started to source things, but I was not too excited about it. I clearly remember walking around my yard upstate and I was looking at a tree swing that I installed and it all came together. I redrew the furniture plan immediately. I wanted to do something fun and interesting. Who knows if a client would ever let me do a swing in their home!
CP: How did you feel about designing a room in a super sleek, building with box-like rooms? We celebrate the way you made it into a warm cocoon (incredible artwork we might add-can you share the artist) with an aged, yet ever so chic, feeling.
SH: many of my clients live in buildings that are more contemporary. I view it as part of my challenge to create a warm & inviting space. For me, it makes the process more interesting. The artwork was by liu bolin, todd hido, robert greene, beth weintraub and jaq belcher. I think the variety in the pieces also added warmth & interest to the space.
CP: What celeb or well known business person can you see living in the “playroom?”
SH: Ha! What a fun question! Let’s say Angelina Jolie.
CP: We adore your collection of home furnishings and cannot help but notice that many of the pieces have built-in functionality (a place to rest a drink, et. al.). Is that a signature element that you try to incorporate into all of your designs? In what direction will we see your collection expanding?
SH: that is a signature element of my design. I created those pieces in response to the way we are all living today. I like to think those pieces solve lots of decorating problems. I definitely plan on expanding my furniture collection-more multi-functional pieces as well as a line of “classics” which would mix easily into any environment.
CP: You have trained with an A-list roster of design stars, including, Thad Hayes. In fact we see many similarities (between you and Thad)-natural colored palette, classic elegance, mix of vintage and contemporary. After having gone out on your own in forming Shawn Henderson Interior Design, how has your approach continued to evolve into your own signature aesthetic?
SH: I loved working for Thad. We worked so seemlessly together and I learned a lot and honed my aesthetic. I think my interiors have evolved in a way that is less rigid. I think there is a layered warmth to the work that I’m currently doing.
CP: Are there any rooms or design elements in the Show House that left you wanting to see more from that particular designer? SH: Many of the rooms are so great. I love David Scott’s room. I think he did a remarkable job with his space.
CP: You mention in your profile on your website that you grew-up knowing exactly what you wanted to do. Was New York always where you wanted to practice design? SH: always!......from the time I was in 8th grade.
CP: We thought the velvet walls and velvet covered moldings were to die for. Actually, left us speechless (and question-less). But we just had to mention them! Do you have anything else as memorable up your sleeve for future projects?
SH: Ha! Thank you! I’m working on a townhouse for long time clients of mine. Peter Pennoyer is doing the architecture. It will be something completely different for me because Peter’s work is so classical. But, I’m excited to blend that concept into my interiors.
CP: Are there any contemporary designers who you feel will have the same celebrity and celebrated body of work as Albert Hadley?
SH: there are so many talented designers out there and there are many of those who are in fact celebrities. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Hadley one time, he was able to balance his incredible talent with such grace & elegance…and those are really big shoes to fill.
CP: What is the best part of being a designer?
SH: making people happy in their homes.
CP: If you could collaborate in your next project with anyone (past or present) who would that be?
SH: I’d love to do the interior of a Tadao Ando house. I think he’s brilliant.