Alexander Doherty is a New York City-based interior designer with a global palette and workrooms in Paris. His interiors exude a classicist’s touch with an eclectic eye born from a worldly upbringing and a love for travel. We were so taken with his wide and diverse range of projects that we convinced him to sit down with us and give us a glimpse into his world of interiors.
Downtown: Tell us about your worldly upbringing! How did it influence your design style?
Alexander Doherty: I was born in the United Kingdom and educated in England, France, and Italy. Often I travel to Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Paris and Amsterdam are where I especially enjoy sourcing my collections of decorative art and finding inspiration in various galleries. Many of these artworks find their way into my designs as standout pieces. I also have a wonderful curated roster of dealers and reliable craftsman in Paris that I often use for my projects—everything from stone fireplace mantels to Danish rosewood cabinets. Through my upbringing and my travels, my love of art has evolved, bringing both elegant additions to my client’s homes and a historical point of view.
Downtown: How did you fall into interior design? Was it a lifelong dream or a path that became open to you?
AD: Prior to launching my interior design firm in 2007, I was national sales manager for a leading American fabric company and was responsible for expanding their business throughout the US and Europe. Through this position I was introduced to many design professionals and creatives throughout the industry. I was inspired to pursue my own interior design career despite no formal training. I saw a gap in the interior design world for an aesthetic that encompassed traditional, elegant, and immaculately detailed homes but with a simple and modern day touch. I found one of the things people mistakenly think is that anything original must be wonderful. Which it’s not. There were as many horrible things made in the 1900s as there were even three years in 2015. I began decorating several friend’s homes and from there my work expanded through word of mouth.
Downtown: How would you describe your aesthetic and approach to design in general?
AD: My aesthetic is modern traditional—I love creating timelessly elegant interiors while always employing harmony and restraint. Built on the traditions of classic design, each of my projects are tailored to reflect and enhance the client’s style of living. Through editing, refining and distilling the elements of each room, the result is an understated, luxurious, and sophisticated interior.
Downtown: Do you think historical knowledge should play into design? If so, how and why?
AD: My work always incorporates solid historical perspective. It is key to be able to give a nod to the past while utilizing modern elements. It is the mixture of what is old and new that gives a space character.
Downtown: What are a couple of the most beautiful projects you have worked on? Can you describe them to us?
AD: For 150 Charles Street, I imagined a very subdued series of rooms, which brought strong uptown architecture from ages gone by to a contemporary downtown location. Getting the proportions right made everything feel organic and authentic. We used a lot of very luxurious fabrics from England and France, so to contrast with the softness, I wanted to introduce stone and metal. I rely heavily on strong architecture, which allows me to go very eclectic in my choices for art and furniture.
We spent six months converting The Ardsley from a dark, poorly laid out apartment into a light, calming sanctuary. The previous owner had stripped the original 1920s features, instating an ’80s vocabulary that just didn’t make sense here. There was also some very weird use of space, including wasted corners and massive columns. We restored the architectural integrity of the apartment and transformed the apartment into a serene, pale space off set by beautiful woodgrain.
Downtown: Why do you think travel is so important for a designer?
AD: Traveling provides an authentic opportunity to learn about and observe different cultures, environments, styles, and trends that can influence a designer’s work. New sights and sounds will revitalize your creative process and open your mind to new and fresh ways of thought.
Downtown: We love your approach to color. Do you have a certain philosophy when it comes to color?
AD: If a space is too harmonious, it becomes snoozeville. There is no better way to add character and personality into a space than with color. I like what are referred to as ‘dirty’ colors. Using muddled-up reds, grays, and blues, it allows art to jump off the walls.
Downtown: What is your absolute favorite project you have ever worked on and why?
AD: Obviously there are aspects of all of my projects that I absolutely love. Sometimes it’s just one room and sometimes it’s even just one view within a room. However, if I were to say which project I categorically love from start to finish, I think it would probably be my most recent project in The Eldorado.
The building is from an era I’m extremely fond of and the volumes within the apartment are architecturally extremely harmonious. I jokingly told the client that I was designing the apartment for myself. We created many of the pieces in our workshop in Paris and sourced remaining items in galleries both in New York and overseas. I’m very passionate about art and so to work in an apartment with so much wall space was extremely gratifying. The mechanical challenges were numerous and yet I feel we overcame them creating a flawless home.
Downtown: We unexpectedly fell in love with Classic Eight. Considering that color combination is usually too much in many cases, how did you achieve such an alluring, inviting space with primary colors?
AD: The space itself is extremely neutral. The walls and rug are both a soft grey and the upholstery moved from navy to various shades of blue and grey. I do not believe that art should be color coordinated with the furniture but, in this particular space the vibrancy of the three colors in the painting added a somewhat necessary jolt of energy to the otherwise tranquil environment.
Downtown: We love how and where you integrate art. Where do you source it and how do you feel about living with art?
AD: I source all of the art I use from Paris because the quality is unparalleled. Art brings life into a room and is an expression of self. It is a beautiful way to reflect your personality into your space. Also, surrounding yourself with beautiful works from others is inspiring and reminds us of what is possible.
Downtown: What are you working on now?
AD: Among several projects, we are working on a glass tower with 360-degree-views of NYC— all glass—a very challenging project that is lots of fun.
Downtown: If you could build and decorate your own home wherever you wanted, where would it be and what would it look like?
AD: There are two places I dream of buying a home. One in the Luberon in the South of France and one in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan. In the South of France, I can imagine owning a bastide surrounded by boxwood topiaries and many pea gravel courtyards. In India, I would love to restore an Havali using many of the wonderful trades still to be found in northwestern India. One would use all the rich tonal colors from that region of France whilst the other a riot of Hindustani colors.