Friday, July 24, 2015

Kyle Timothy Blood

By Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeff Hirsch


For a column about interiors, we don’t actually talk all that much about them. That’s often because the people we’re interviewing have aspects of themselves or their lives that interest us a lot more—to wit Kyle Timothy Blood who also happens to have the coolest name of any designer we’ve interviewed. We had to ask him about it. It turns out that all four of his grandparents were 'Mayflower' descendants, that his mother is a genealogist and, as we carried on not talking about interior design, that he was once Martha Stewart’s assistant. Also he recently lost 35 pounds. See? A lot more interesting than interior design.

What I want to start with is your cool name … it’s like a Native American name.

Well it’s all English … English, English, English. And I’m not saying this to pose but it’s just a fact. It goes back to The Mayflower – all four grandparents – which just means I’m terribly inbred [laughs] but I do have four Mayflower memberships.
In the front entryway of Kyle's West Chelsea studio a Japanese woodblock print hangs on a wall above a Korean chest that once belonged to Kyle's cousin, an avid traveler and antiques collector. The bright orange 'Beehive' lamp is by Charles Eames and the Japanese earthenware bowl came from a Hamptons estate sale. The 1960s smoked glass chandelier was purchased at auction.
It sounds like a club.

There is a Mayflower Society. My mother is a genealogist. For Christmas one year I said, “You know what I’d really like for you to do for me is to do all four grandparents.” It is a considerable amount of work. But back to your question, we have really great names. The Bloods are English; my middle name—I was named after my great-great grandfather who fought in the Civil War—twice—his name was Timothy Ford. My grandmother’s name was Nellie Maud Savage. I’m a mixture of Savage and Blood!

It seems as we get older we become more interested in our backgrounds—do you find all this more interesting now than when you were younger?

I do. I was in Fire Island last weekend and this gentleman was tending to his raised beds in his garden and I said, “My grandfathers would both be proud of you.” They both had huge gardens—they had to for subsistence and to feed their kids. My parents were the first to go to college and I was the first to go to an Ivy League school and I was the first to leave Maine, really. But I have to say all of what makes me, me, came from them, certainly that Yankee work ethic, that honesty, that directness.
In the main living space Kyle's Cavapoo, Tucker, poses to get's Jeff's attention. Nearby, an altar bench from Taipei stands atop a hand-woven wool carpet by Orley Shabahang.
A pair of mid-century chairs from Stellar Union covered in a Donghia mohair faces an acrylic and glass table purchased from Décor NYC.
Kyle transformed the sofa, purchased from a thrift shop by covering it in a neutral woven fabric from Lee Jofa and adding a pop of color with pillows pieced together from kilims purchased in Istanbul. The print hanging above the sofa, "Journey," is by Estaban Vincente. One of a pair of Danish modern lamps flanking the sofa stands atop a Danish modern table from a Hamptons estate sale. The orange ashtray is by Royal Haeger.
A rare Sputnik-Style walnut-and-brass ceiling fixture purchased on 1stDibs hangs above a lush arrangement of fresh flowers.
A "Pom Pom" sculpture by C. Jeré hangs next to a painting entitled "Village," by Raimonds Staprans. A modular storage cabinet from Design Within Reach is the perfect place to display a collection of West German pottery purchased on eBay.
Where did you study?

I studied French and Art History at Dartmouth. I went off to Paris for a Fulbright teaching assistantship for a year after that.

Well, tell us about that.

I was paired with French students who were studying English, my peers, who were studying to be English professors and the reciprocal part was that I thought I was going to be a French professor. But I was teaching from Fifth Grade to college prep. I loved Paris. If we’re seguing into interior design, I probably always had the coolest dorm room …
Kyle positioned a vintage Danish Modern desk to take advantage of the view from his West Chelsea studio apartment. The molded wood desk chair is also Danish; the Swedish mid-century desk lamp is from eBay.
Looking across the living room into the sleeping area. "Rock Spray" by Maine artist Avy Claire hangs above Kyle's bed made up in an Italian linen bedcover and European squares out of Holly Hunt 'Petit-point' fabric. Nearby a glass- and-walnut mid-century lamp stands on a tiered side table by Paul McCobb from Stellar Union antiques.
A pair of mid-century chairs covered in a Donghia mohair basketweave fabric divides the sitting area from the sleeping alcove. The wall sculpture, a mid-century Brutalist nail sculpture, is by an anonymous artist and was purchased at The Stamford Antiques Center.
Adorable Tucker.
But we’re not seguing into interior design … anyway, do you mean your dorm room in Paris or Dartmouth?

No, Dartmouth. I was the one who showed up with the trailer and the wall-to-wall rug and the armchair and the plant. I imposed this on my roommate. He didn’t know what to think about it. I brought matching duvets and he was like, “Whatever.” He was in the Outdoor Club and they chopped wood for fun. I was getting the hell out of Maine to stop cutting wood.

Could you live the rustic life now?

I could live a simpler life.
Looking towards the south-facing front window. A small painting by Avy Claire hangs above a vintage Louis Vuitton briefcase and a molded wooden chair found on London's Portobello Road is purported to be by British furniture designers Robin and Lucienne Day,
A painting by Raimonds Staprans, 'Boats', bought at auction from the annual 'Made in California Sale' at Bonhams, adds color and balance to the front corner.
A view across Kyle's perfectly outfitted West Chelsea studio apartment.
Kyle designed his small but efficient kitchen with walnut cabinetry from Euro Custom Woodworking. The backsplash is from Artistic Tile. Photo: Eric Striffler A vintage Russell Wright pitcher and serving platter by Eva Zeisel for Crate and Barrel stand in a nook designed within the walnut cabinetry that holds not only kitchen items but also files and samples for current design projects.
So you started off teaching and then what did you do?

I worked at Forbes for five years as a fact checker and researcher. Then I went to Martha Stewart for five years … I was her assistant.

Ooh, tell us about that!

Well I was between jobs and I went to a temp agency. I was in a suit and they had me do a typing test. Then they asked me if I could work that day. They said, “Martha Stewart needs somebody.” So I walked from 57th Street to 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue and her assistant showed me her call list and who the important people were. I started straightway taking her calls. She was on her Startac phone [one of the first cell phones] and she was saying, “Get me so-and so and get me so-and-so.” Then [eventually] she came through the door—she had her own private entrance—and she said, “Well, it’s good to see what you look like!” and I said, “Well, you too! Now, what do we have to do today?” She loved it. And that was the tenor of our relationship for the next five years. I [eventually] worked on the magazine—I was the managing editor of the book division.

What was she like to work for?

I knew her … like she hated bundt pans—do not ask me why. I remember the art department did this whole photo shoot and they shot this little girl blowing out the candles on a birthday cake that was a bundt cake and I said, “Don’t!” and they were like, “What do you know?” And the next day [imitates Martha Stewart screaming] it was, “Who authorized spending money on a bundt pan?!!”
Kitchen for a client in the Hamptons features four distinct work stations and includes: two side-by-side Sub-Zero refrigerators with four freezer drawers; separate Sub-Zero under-counter refrigerator drawers; four Fisher-Peykal dishwasher drawers and a dual-fuel 60" Wolf Range. Hand-made white cabinets contrast with Pietro Cardoso countertops. The custom ivory and grey tile backsplash is by Pratt & Larsen and the antique lighting fixtures are by Ann Morris. Photo: Eric Striffler
A 72" under-mount Waterworks tub with Waterworks fixtures is the focal point of this Hamptons bathroom. The tub deck and floor are Calacatta Gold; the tub surround is wooden bead-board painted with marine-grade paint to match the rest of the room. Café curtains made from Larsen fabric on custom Morgik Metal hardware provide just enough privacy when getting in and out of the bath. Photo: Eric Striffler
What would you say she had that made her such a powerhouse?

An unflinching vision.

And what did that vision represent?

I would say that Martha Stewart is the most successful branding story in the United States. If a person can look at a paint color and let’s just say it’s robin’s egg blue, and they can say, “That’s a Martha Stewart color.” If she can do that for something as subjective as a color … well, that to me that is the crux of branding.

What happened to the job?

I got fired. That was in 2003. Basically my entire salary was allotted to [the] Martha Stewart Signature [line] … they were waiting to see if it would sell and it didn’t sell. And as we know everything changed after 2003 [due to the insider trading scandal]. I had a little package and I went and sat on the beach and thought, “What am I going to do with myself?”
A silver travertine fireplace surround sets the tone for this large living room in a client's Cape Cod home. Greys, taupes, creams, whites, and blues with a splash of pink span the room in various patterns and textures. A wet bar with a Dornbracht faucet flanks the left side of the mantel while a card table occupies the area to the right. With five entrances to the room, the furniture plan had to maximize flow and provide space for large-scale entertaining. The white bronze fireplace screen is by John Lyle; Polished Nickel sconces by Jonathan Browning; both through Holly Hunt. Generously sized Christian Liagre swivel chairs covered in a Lee Jofa fabric flank a round coffee table by Joseph Jeup, and a Holly Hunt sofa is covered in a Donghia chenille. Photo: Eric Striffler
For a new construction, the husband, inspired by a memorable high-school trip to Fez, requested a colorful Moroccan bathroom. Kyle utilized the tiles, made in Morocco by Mosaic House, to divide the bathroom into various "rooms": the tub, the shower, the vanity, and the WC. The vanity, made by Euro Custom Woodworking, includes Mosharabi panels from Morocco. All the fittings and fixtures are by Waterworks; the sconces by Urban Archeology. Photo: Eric Striffler
Were you despairing?

I was shocked. My identity was really wrapped up in being part of something. It was my whole life. Then I said, “I’m going to pick myself up and get this company going.”

How did you do that?

Well, like I said I was always the guy with the best room and people were always asking me to do their guest room or whatever. I formed a company, I got a resale number and I started taking classes at The New York School of Interior Design. I learned what I didn’t know. I interviewed with Charles Klein. Somewhere along the way, while I was still at Martha Stewart, I had gotten a little job in Amagansett for $25 an hour. I did it myself, all the painting and everything. That was like my first project so I had something of a portfolio to show him. Nine months later, he called and hired me.

Your designs are very light and airy.

I love complex neutrals. Shall I show you some of the designs? [shows us photos]
For a West Village townhouse living room, a high-backed Holly Hunt sofa takes advantage of the bay window's floor space, creating two distinct seating areas, both of which can view the large-screen TV hidden behind a sliding panel in the rift-oak cabinetry. Low modular glass coffee tables by Cassina have been raised to a more comfortable height with the addition of custom-made bases from Morgik Metal, offering a better view of the Fort Street Studio silk rug beneath. Photo: Eric Striffler For a Westchester home, a young couple wanted a formal living room in which they could entertain, but they didn't want a "stuffy" space. Kyle chose chandeliers by Ochre as well as an area rug by Stark keep the look contemporary. Tone-on-tone damask covers the Anthony Lawrence Belfair sofas. The gold-leaf and glass cocktail table is by Formations, and the marble and gold-leaf end tables are from Lewis Mittman. Photo: Eric Striffler
A large work by Miró inspired this client's living room on Lower Fifth Avenue. The tuxedo sofa is covered in a Christopher Hyland Velvet. The Art-Deco rug, custom-colored, is by Orley Shabahang. The vintage chairs are upholstered in a Stark mohair. Vintage Lucite lamps sit atop antique side tables. A series of three graphite-on-paper works by Picasso hang to the left. A vintage Lucite-and-glass coffee table ensures the rug's medallion remains visible. Throw pillows are from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Photo: Eric Striffler
A dilapidated barn was taken down and replaced with a new structure built to create a family gym and yoga studio. To take advantage of the view, a series of screen and French doors back the classic red barn sliding doors. Photo: Eric Striffler
Inside, maple floors, a wall of mirrors, and a ballet barre were incorporated for one daughter who dances; cardio machines were added for another college-age daughter; free weights, benches, and a cable machine suit the father; and ample floor space and a bountiful supply of mats serve the mother and her friends for group yoga classes. A steel staircase leads to a meditation loft. Beams from the original barn now serve as floating shelves. A bathroom featuring a wall of wooden planks from the original barn sits in the corner under the loft. Photo: Eric Striffler
Oh, there’s that kitchen again—we call it the Nancy Meyers kitchen after that movie she directed, the one with Diane Keaton. [Something’s Gotta Give].

Right! [The client] took that movie to the architect and said, “This is what I want.”

Along with a hundred thousand other women.

I don’t think it will ever go out of style.

So what do you do when you’re not turning houses into homes?

Well, I’ve just gotten into this whole new fitness lifestyle. I’ve just lost 35 pounds… I went to an amazing nutritionist. I’m eating a lot of kale. I am lifting weights for the first time … really heavy weights! I’m like in shock! I can lift that much? I was like, typical gay … don’t throw a ball at me … um … aren’t we going to be talking about interior design at all?