In her first book, Magical Rooms, designer Fawn Galli showcases eight of her colorful and whimsical projects, ranging from a Greenwich Village Classic Six to a Connecticut country house, all transformed by her unique mix of the unexpected and the utterly classic. Supplemented with pointers and practical advice on everything from textiles to lighting, to how she mixes her signature clashing colors, the book reveals her inspirations, the rules she breaks, and why she loves pale gray as much as sparkle and shine. Here, she shares some of her design wisdom.
Flowers prevail in a dining room with a Danish wallpaper, vintage chandelier, and rose-tattooed chairs. Photo: Jonny Valiant.
Nobody is chicer than nature when it comes to mixing texture, pattern, and style. Animals, butterflies, birds, and trees—the more peacock feathers, the better. I would love nothing more than a real bird’s nest embedded in a plaster molding, or walls papered in actual flowers. Lucky for my clients there are other ways to bring nature in.
The library of a Manhattan apartment, with a painting by Frohawk Two Feathers. Photo: Costas Picadas.
I look for unexpected moments in the rooms I design. I play with notions of what’s appropriate, both respecting and subverting the rules at once. What really excites me is when formality and tradition are infused with something irreverent and fun. It’s important never to take yourself or your rooms too seriously. When combined unexpectedly—using composition, scale, and juxtaposition—the components of a room come to life.
A table by Hudson Furniture and a 1960s Italian chandelier in a Manhattan dining room. Photo: Costas Picadas
The sparkle in a room is the place where the light catches your eye, and dazzles. It’s a moment of wildness, with a decidedly glamorous edge. It’s fireworks and disco balls, glistening dewdrops at dawn, and starry nights. Sparkle doesn’t have to mean bright. Natural sunlight is a gift, but not every room is so lucky to have it. A light-challenged room can still have sparkle by way of reflective, mirrored, or translucent surfaces. Lucite, polished metal, lacquer—even silks and velvets—can pick up light and hold it in a room.
One of the designer’s inspirational vignettes. Photo: Addie Juell
Clashing is about more than just whether two colors match or not. It’s about the combined effect of all the colors, patterns, and textures—not to mention all of the references, eras, and sensibilities—in a room. As far as I’m concerned, no combination is off-limits; but to say that any mix thrown together can work is to miss the point. There’s a subtlety to it, but it’s a talent that anyone can master. Clashing doesn’t have to mean loud. To me it means unexpected, carefree, daring. I use surprising combinations of colors, patterns, and textures to wake up a room and push the imagination in the same way that the sounds of punk rock push the boundaries of music. I relish walking that line of tension.
Photo: Jonny Valiant
The cover of the designer’s new book, Magical Rooms, published by Rizzoli.