|How touching to interview Dick Ridge and Rod Denault, designers both, known, amongst many other design projects, for their rooms at Kips Bay. There is a gentleness to their devotion to each other that left us feeling quite moved. Their apartment, though formal and filled with good antiques and paintings, is also full of images of the animals, dogs, cats and horses that they have loved over all their twenty-eight years together.
You’re not on the Web anywhere—you’re hidden! Is that something you’re happy not to be part of?
Rod: Um … I think we have to be more up-to-date. [laughs] It’s not intentional. We should have something.
How do you feel about the way the world is changing in general—the whole online thing, the way we make our worlds now?
Dick: From a design standpoint, I think it’s just awful. It’s all the same colors, all boring … there’s nothing chic about it. It’s just banal. This [indicating the room and the objects within it] is not boring. It’s collected and it’s a lifetime of achievement.
Not many people have that confidence though.
Rod: That’s right. You look at the photos of these apartments now and it’s like Decorating 1, 2, 3. The patterned rug, the beige sofa, the quirky lamp.
Dick: I hate this hard-edged stuff, nothing personal, no personality.
Is it because people are not educated in the same way about things, about interiors?
Dick: I have no education in design at all. I came from a very nice family, very well-travelled and my family bought beautiful silver and antiques—so I knew scale and everything. Exposure! If I had gone to school, it would have intimidated me. All my experience comes from inside.
How long have you two been together?
Rod: Oh, twenty-eight years. I don’t know how it works but we have exactly the same taste.
Dick: It’s unbelievable.
Rod: I was out one day shopping. The next day he comes home and says, “I saw a fabulous pair of lamps for Julia.” I said, “They’re much too dark.” I knew what they were.
|So what did you first see in each other?
Dick: We met at a party and that was it.
What did you talk about at the party?
Rod: [laughs] God, I don’t know! It was so long ago!
So let’s talk about your involvement with Kips Bay—is it still as important as it once was?
Rod: Oh yes! It’s like the Oscars for interior designers.
How would you describe one of the rooms you have done for Kips Bay?
Dick: For one room I did an emerald-green and white drawing room. I had borrowed everything except the draperies. The vendors just die for you to use their stuff.
Rod: Our last Kips Bay, two years ago, we got big business for every vendor. And for that room we got clients instantly and that doesn’t usually happen. What usually happens is that a year later someone will call.
|What are you known for?
Rod: Color and comfort
Dick: And clarity.
How do you define clarity?
Rod: No muddy colors. Very sharp.
Dick: It’s like those vases on the windowsill over there, when you come in that makes an instant impression.
The two of you look absolutely fabulous—you’re wearing gorgeous clothes. Do you dress like this every day?
Rod: Twenty-four hours a day! No … no
Dick: I’ll wear blue jeans and a Ralph Lauren sweater—or Brooks Brothers.
|Some people might think there is a formality to this apartment that has now had its day. What would you say to that?
Rod: Well, I’ll tell you one thing we don’t do, okay? Our clients always become friends at the end, they always do …
Dick: It’s a very personal thing.
Rod: It’s a very personal thing, a journey to go through. After it’s all over, we’re friends. We go to dinner, cocktails … but we never show them this apartment until the projects are done.
Rod: Because we decorated this for us. The formality of it is for us. We entertain a lot …
Dick: …we entertain a lot. Dinner parties.
Do you cook for your own guests?
Rod: I graduated from the Culinary Institute. We’re both good cooks. We can have twelve people at the dining table.
Tell us about your horses.
Dick: I started out with American Saddlebreds, in Missouri, Kansas City, when I was seven years old.
What does it take to be good with horses?
Dick: Well in the first place you’ve got to be a natural. I’ve got fabulous hands and a fabulous seat. It’s like design, you’ve got to have some natural ability. All very relaxed …
Rod: … but very controlled.
|What would you say that horses and ponies have taught you about life?
Dick: Oh, I’m just full of love for animals.
Rod: We love our animals.
Dick: Oh we love our animals. We had two miniature schnauzers and we lost five animals in seven months.
Rod: We had two dogs and three kitties …
Dick: I can hardly talk about it.
What happened to the horses … I mean ponies? [We keep making this mistake.]
Rod: We had eight.
Dick: And what happened was we won everything and so we couldn’t go any further. And it’s very expensive …
Rod: It’s like a living carousel.
Dick: So we gave them all away to good homes.
|So what do you do at the weekends now?
Rod: Er … watch old horse films.
Dick: We love to drive.
Rod: Dick and I are famous for: “What do you want to do?” – “I don’t know.” And that can go on for ... but now I don’t even ask him. I just make make plans.
Do you have a drink in the evenings?
Dick: If I don’t get my vodka martini at 5:30, I get very grumpy.
Do you watch TV at all?
Rod: Even though there’s nothing on, yeah, we do--and we actually have dinner on trays in front of the TV.
Dick: We do. We watch the six o’clock news. We watch Jeopardy at seven.
|If you had to pick a single quality in each other that you most admire and respect, what would it be?
Dick: About him? I totally respect his fineness and integrity. He’s really a fine person. He stands for everything I love.
Rod: I love the fact that Dick Ridge is always Dick Ridge. He’s the same person, never different, not like Jekyll and Hyde. He wakes up as Dick Ridge and goes to bed as Dick Ridge. You always know what to expect.
Dick: I’m not boring though! [laughs]
Rod: I didn’t say that. We’re together seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. We’re never, ever apart.
|• Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
• Photographs by Jeff Hirsch
Friday, October 15, 2010