|David Scott lives rather fabulously in the UN Plaza building, which as he himself says, still has a kind of 1960s ‘James Bond’ glamour to it. He is best known for his high end residential design work—or posh, as we like to call it—but he isn’t any kind of snob and is, in fact, straightforward, kind and unpretentious. There was no name-dropping at all, although he did have to answer our direct question about who else lives in this quintessential New York building.
Now what would you call this area? We’re not exactly sure – what kind of people live in this building?
It’s Midtown. And the building is actually full of really interesting people. You know if you look at the history of this building, Robert Kennedy lived here, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon. Dina Merrill still lives here with her husband, Ted Hartley. Si and Victoria Newhouse live here, and many, many others.
At the same time, we’re like a tiny little island over here. It was part of the original complex plan when they were building the United Nations.
My husband works for the UN. They can’t have been expecting UN employees to live here—they don’t earn enough money.
Well, there are ambassadors. There are 350 apartments in the whole building and some of them are huge, with private elevators, back and front staircases, all original.
You weren’t always an interior designer, were you? You started off in hotels and real estate – can you tell us about that?
When I graduated from college I first worked for Four Seasons Hotels in their management training program. I worked at the Pierre Hotel.
What did that teach you?
Service. And luxury to a level that, at the time in the early eighties … well it still is an incredible hotel.
|And at what point did you realize that you wanted to become an interior designer?
I had been drawing floor plans and been interested in architecture since I was a small child, since I was five years old.
That’s a slightly creepy thing for a small child to want to do. What did your parents think?
Um … well you know, they thought I liked houses—and stuff. I had a grandmother that had all these lovely things and I remember always asking ‘Where did that come from?’ and ‘How much did it cost?’ I was a good academic student so I ended up pursuing a regular liberal arts education. I ended up building a house in Westchester County with my then-partner. I had no formal training and I loved doing it so much that I decided I wanted to go back to school.
What is it that you love about the work?
I love the idea of learning all the time and being exposed to new things. I love taking something from a blank canvas and creating a home. I’ve really specialized in the high-end residential side.
|Yes, you do very posh things.
Yes … but even in those environments you still have to solve the same problems … you asked me what drew me to this. It’s because I want to make people happy. It’s really all about comfort.
Can you tell when you meet a potential client what’s going to interest that person?
It’s interesting. It starts at that moment when I look at them … but there have been surprises. One of the things I always do is go into their closet.
Okay, tell me what you would make of Sian based on what she looks like and what she’s wearing.
[He turns to face Sian] Well, I think you do like color. And you’re not afraid of mixing things but you still want it all to come together neatly. I think that there’s a certain kind of traditional sense but you definitely like a contemporary mix. You feel like a real New Yorker to me and you probably love reading books, the whole arts thing.
|That’s very good. I have a purple living room and a very good black-and-white photography collection but it’s mixed with traditional. But when I look around your apartment like this, I realize that neutral tones really work with this kind of apartment.
If you were to try to force traditionalism on this, it wouldn’t work. This was the original and first curtain-wall residential building – 1966 … James Bond. I love the lobby with the red carpet. There’s a glamour to the building.
What do you like in terms of movies or books?
What I think of [living] here, I think of Mame—Auntie Mame—because she [Lucille Ball] lived right there, if I look down from the window.
|What else would you say informs your aesthetic.
Texture … and art. I’m just passionate about art. I work a lot with art collectors.
Who or what do you like?
I can tell you that I’m more attracted to art that is beautiful in my sense, rather than provocative. I mean I get it and understand it, but I don’t want live with a urinal on the wall. I like pretty.
How would your employees describe you?
They would say I’m a perfectionist … kind. I get angry but I’m not a screamer.
|I’m actually missing the screamers – they can be wildly entertaining.
Of course. But you don’t really want to have a relationship with them.
What have you tried or done lately that’s a new thing for you?
Um … I was in Harbor Island in the Bahamas with some friends and I was with one of them on a Wave Runner.
What’s a Wave Runner?
It’s like a Jet Ski but more stable. Two people can be on it. They kept calling out: “Here comes Daredevil Dave!”
• Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge • Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch
Friday, June 18, 2010