Designer Fawn Galli has a blog entry entitled “The Glory of Pom Poms” and that somehow captures her. She values charm. Her team of eight staff are asked, “Where’s the magic?” when designs are put forward. Fawn’s own Carroll Gardens brownstone, which she shares with her architect husband, Julio Salcedo and their two sons, manages to escape being self-consciously “Brooklyn bohemian”. Despite their visual appeal, she seemed interestingly un-bothered about the way the rooms have turned out. One gets the impression these rooms sort-of-happen to be the way they are because she sort-of-happened to put these things together, presumably relying on instinct and without much by way of meticulous forethought. Perhaps a charming interior is something that has to come about by itself.
I found, when I was looking at your interiors, that you seem to value charm – how do you define charm in an interior?
It’s interesting that you should ask that question because I look for a certain something that you cannot describe. It’s something unexpected. Charm is making something that’s ugly, actually beautiful … it’s kind of amazing that that was your first question because that’s exactly what I want for my interiors. I use the word “magic” when I’m in the office – I’m like, “Okay, this is all beautiful; nobody’s going to get hurt and everybody is going to happy. But where’s the magic?”
I particularly liked that you said one of your influences is “70s disco”. What’s your favorite disco track?
I can’t believe she died. I can accept that I’m mortal, but not her.
I know! I vaguely remember her concert in Central Park in the rain. I was born in 1969 so I was kid growing up in the 70s. I think [of the 70s] as decadent, glamorous.
What’s the definition of glamorous? I’m nailing you down on definitions today.
Okay! Um … [sighs] … glamorous is … you know … the fur and the silver. I think of, what was her name? The one married to Mick Jagger? Bianca Jagger … who got married in that white pantsuit, which was so unexpected.
When did you start your business?
I started my business ten years ago and my first job was with Robert Stern. I was a decorator and I did his apartment.
How did you end up doing that?
Shall I tell you the truth? So I graduated college, lived in Paris for two years, came back and was kind of lost. I had an interview with Robert A.M. Stern and I cut pictures from a magazine and made up my portfolio and they hired me. I was, like a professional pencil sharpener. After a few years, I ended being Bob Stern’s decorator at Yale.
You’re the last person I would have thought he would have wanted to decorate his apartment, given your style – I don’t mean that in a bad way.
No, no, no. It’s completely true. And that’s why it was perfect because I didn’t have any formal training. I didn’t even belong there but he was made dean of Yale architecture school and he had a lot of press about how he was not forward-thinking enough, not young enough in spirit … so I heard about this and I thought, I’m the perfect person to do a cool interior for Bob Stern. I just walked into his office and I said, “I think I should do your interior.” And he was like, if she thinks she has the bravado to think that she should do it, then she probably should do it.
So how did you decorate it?
Ultimately he wanted what people from his generation want, you know the Mies van der Rohe, the Eames … but then I was able to say let’s look at Norman Foster furniture or Prouvé.
What kind things did you suggest that you didn’t expect him to take but he did?
We did, like a black rubber rug. I did get him to include furniture that just had beautiful lines but wasn’t a name brand. He liked to be pushed. He believed in me.
I went on to decorate his apartment in New York City. That was more glamorous.
I was looking at your husband’s website and his work seems quite severe [Fawn’s husband, Julio Salcedo, is an architect]. It didn’t strike me that this was his look at all.
Um … how does that work? We don’t really work together. He’s more of a practical relationship and I’m more fantasy.
And we need to know what it was like working for Peter Marino.
Peter Marino is obviously a genius. Robert Stern is academic and intellectual. Peter Marino is more of a shrewd, surface genius. He’s … kind of this chameleon person. His just seems like his self is not fully integrated into his person, like he’s this splintered-off person.
I was in in Vientiane in Laos and while I was wandering around, I went into this silk place that was extraordinary. And they gave me a tour of the factory. I saw this beige and white ikat silk and they were making huge amounts of it. I asked who it was for and they said, “Oh that’s for Peter Marino. I mean how do they even find these people?
That’s Peter Marino. He has artisans all over the world working for him. He’s really keeping alive a kind of lost art. Not only does he find these people, he supports these people.
So you studied political science – why did you study that?
I studied in Israel and I was interested in politics and the world. It seems far away now. I started watching a lot of CNN and my shrink said you can’t watch CNN. It was like this ADD stimulation or obsession before I went to sleep. All I know is that I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton.
How was working as a babysitter in France?
It was for an old French aristocratic family and it was totally fascinating. [They were] really trapped in how they were expected to educate their children and such a focus on manners, very much an old money way of life. They could socialize with artists or people from their milieu, but not other kinds of people. They didn’t buy name brand stuff. The father was so posh but he was dying of AIDs.
You should write a novel about them.
It’s something I haven’t thought about in ten years. It was a very intimate view into a very different milieu.
How do you feel when people describe your home as bourgeois bohemian?
It’s true. My favorite thing in the whole entire world is a flea market.
Don’t you think that the internet has kind of ruined flea market shopping—there isn’t the same sense of the hunt or the find?
Yes and no. It is actually really wonderful for me as a designer considering that when I first started as a designer I was like, walking around the city in high heels take Polaroids of furniture. I have a very intimate relationship with vendors in the Paris flea market because of 1stdibs.
Do you still walk around the city in high heels?
No. I once hitchhiked through Sardinia in high heels.