Friday, April 3, 2009

Carey Maloney

By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch

Designer Carey Maloney of M(Group) grew up in Texas : ‘It is a country. It’s a great place to be from.’ Every now and then he puts on an extra helping of Texan drawl—‘Ah’ m tellin’ ya’—that is a little self-mocking. He is very, very charming and his design work is sophisticated and confident. He laughed a lot in the first part of the interview but as we moved into talking about attitudes towards gay people, it is clear that he has a serious mind, and puts serious amounts of energy into his charity work, which he does together with his life-and-work partner, Hermes Mallea. They have worked with the New York Public Library for many years and have been instrumental in helping to promote and categorize what is the world’s largest collection of gay literature. They also organize the ‘Anti-Prom’ for kids who don’t feel comfortable going to their own school proms, one of those quintessential proofs of New Yorker generosity that help make the city the place that it is.

So things must not be easy right now – are you holding on to your clients? Is the money there?


[Laughs – and replies with plenty of irony] Oh, everybody’s inherited billions – sons of billionaires! Daughters of billionaires! That’s our target market anyway!

So are inherited billions different from people who have earned their billions?

[really laughs] Let’s not talk about money! Um … we’ve been very lucky with really smart clients that have great stuff already, and I’m tellin’ ya, when you’re shoppin’ in their own warehouse space or their other houses, you’re free! The treasures that they come to us with make the difference. I once said to a client: we need black and white photos and she pipes up, ‘Well there’s some photographs in that closet.’ Well the first one I looked at was Brancusi by Steichen. There were 36 photographs of that ilk. It was a treat!
Views of the dining room: An Asian screen from Naga Antiques was a housewarming present from Carey’s mom.
Looking into the dining room corner. The ‘440’ chairs are from M Group. A Pre-Columbian ‘Pancho’ from Trockmorton Fine Art stands atop an Art Deco sideboard purchased in Hudson, N.Y.
A tapestry from New Guinea hangs in the right corner of the dining room. Opposite, in the left corner, is an African statue purchased at auction.
A detailed Persian rug from Symourgh International adds a touch of color to the dining room. A painting by artist Hugo Bastidas from Norha Haime Gallery hangs above the bar in the dining room.
Above: Looking into the dining room from the foyer.

Left: Pancho at rest on his Indian throne.
But, really what is going to happen now in this business?

Well, it’s just that the general psychology of it is that it is inappropriate to spend money, so yes, you’re down from six billion to four billion, but it’s still inappropriate. Right now we’re doing a guest house in the Village. They live on one street in a big house and they’ve bought two matching townhouses two blocks away, which will be a 10-bedroom guest house – but we’ve got to be low key! But it’s still going on.

Do you think at some level interior designers are a ridiculous luxury?

No. They couldn’t do it without us … just the sheer logistics. I mean of course, we hope the taste is there too, but I’m tellin’ ya, in the end, it’s a business. And there’s something I’ve said all along: The wives hire ya. The husbands keep ya.
In Carey’s bedroom an Oceanic mask from New Guinea hangs above the requisite flat screen TV. The leopard carpet is from Stark.
Above, l. to r.: Pancho surrounded by bedtime reading; Above the bed, a carving from India of the goddess Shiva on a horse. In the corner hangs a painting of Carey by artist, Joan Steinman. Below: A portrait of Carey by Joan Steinman hangs in the corner of the bedroom. Wallpaper From Brunschwig & Fils covers the walls.
‘Necessities’ fill a parchment bedside table designed by Carey.
The 1950s three-dimensional promotions for movie theaters are from California.
A close up of the TV wall. The parrot painting is from the estate of Robert Woolley. The miniature painting on ivory of the Taj Mahal came from Sotheby’s.
A 1960s fabric from Jim Thompson drapes over an Anglo Indian dressing stand.
A painting of a parrot from the estate of Robert Woolley hangs above a painting on ivory of the Taj Mahal.   One of a set of twenty-four prints displaying Mexican folklore costumes rests on a bedroom sidecar next to chest of drawers by Paul Frankl.
What sorts of things make you mad?

It’s funny, I was just listening to the radio and there was this bit on “What’s the most irritating phrase in the English language?” and the guy said “No problem”. Well, my flag went up too – it implies that I wouldn’t be doing it if it were a problem.

Now where does your partner (Hermes Mallea) live?

Two blocks away.

Why do you have that arrangement? You work together as well?


This apartment isn’t big enough for both of us, whereas in the country, we have a house with two kitchens, three bathrooms …
A statue Carey purchased in Hudson. A beaded shrimp keychain hangs from the study door.
More views of the study.
The ‘bulletin board.'
A corner of the study. Family photos, among other things.
Right: A framed photo of Pancho.

Below: A photograph by Jean Pagliuso hangs on the cork-lined walls of Carey’s study.
Carey’s watch and cufflinks surround the feet of a statue purchased in Hudson.
A photograph by John Hall from Feigen Contemporary hangs above a desk by Harvey Probber in the study.
A gilt starburst hangs above more family photos. Detail of the Harvey Probber desk.
More views of the study.
Close ups of Carey’s bulletin board in the study.
Why do you have two kitchens? Different eating habits?

[He shrugs] I think this situation works perfectly for us. In the gay world, this is perfectly normal and good.

This is what I wonder about gay marriage – I mean I think they have exactly the same right to being as miserable as everyone else, but I thought they had sort of liberated a few ideas about ways of ‘being together’

Years ago I said to Hermes, the minute it’s legal in Massachusetts, we’re going to be on the list. It’s a political statement. His response was: I don’t want to get married. And I was like, Oh my God! After 25 years you don’t want to get married?! And he said, no, I don’t care. But over time, literally, when people started telling us that we couldn’t have it, then it became more of a statement … We don’t even understand why we’re the most reviled group, and it’s still not terribly politically incorrect to revile us. We’re the last group you can still make jokes about. And I’m not being paranoid. And especially, internationally, 99 percent of gay people live in the closet.
A plaster cast of a leg leans against the bathroom wall. A model from biology class.
Above: Peeking into Cary’s study from the hallway.
Details of photos and objects--including a stuffed guinea pig—sit among the books in the bedroom hallway.
Yes, if you think of it internationally, you see the extent of it.

Yes, take the Arab Emirates, where they literally execute people. I won’t go there. But we firmly believe that until women get their rights, we don’t have a prayer. So I’m a huge feminist. The fact that 50 per cent of this world is ‘chattel’ means that we’re not going nowhere until they get somewhere.

So what do you do when you’re not working?

Well, our New York Public Library project, which we started two years ago, takes up a huge amount of time. But this is our thing. The library has the world’s biggest collection of gay literature, we were told and we looked at each other and said what are the library’s gay collections like? And they said, well the best in the world and we said: well why don’t we know that? If we don’t know about it, then how are other people going to know about it? There were 7000 feet, so a mile and a half of boxes of gay material, and each box contained 3000 pieces … an incredible amount of stuff. So we had to categorize it, digitize it, get it online … you know boring stuff upfront, glamour on the website!
Peeking into the living room from the foyer. In the living room a coffee table designed by M Group sits atop a French Art Deco rug from Doris Leslie Blau. A photo by Diane Kornberg hangs on the far wall.
A bold Tula coverlet from Turkey covers the living room sofa.
In the living room African masks stand atop an antique Syrian table purchased in Hudson. A side table designed by M Group is filled with some favorite objects including a crab purchased in Paris and a torso made by a friend.
A captivating iron snake was purchased on a trip to Venice.
An Aztec carving of a cactus is from Throckmorton Fine Art. A mosaic from a studio in Ravenna hangs above by a French chair covered in Donghia fabric. The bronze statue of an Indian dancer was a gift from Carey’s neighbor.
What are you reading?

I just finished something great called ‘Arthur and George’, about Arthur Conan Doyle – a great novel.

Do you watch TV? What do you watch?

I’m a complete addict for BBC America News. Then I do Jon Stewart, then I do Colbert, then it’s 11 o’clock! I’m a complete news junkie.

by Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge • photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch