I’m a huge fan of Miles Redd‘s cheeky chic aesthetic–think Old Hollywood meets the South, with healthy splashes of color, sparkle and whimsy thrown in–so when my lovely aunt met Miles’s sister by chance on vacation, she kindly offered to introduce me to the designer himself. He couldn’t have been more gracious and charming. Read on for his thoughts on everything from set design to southern hospitality to the City’s best shopping spots.
JM: I’ve read a good bit about you over the years, but one thing I missed is that you came to New York for film school. I had no idea.
MR: Well, like all stories do, that one’s gotten a bit condensed over the years. It’s actually a little longer than that. I started out at Parsons studying fashion. Eventually, I transferred and graduated from NYU with a film degree. I sort of always excelled at set design, so that’s what I ended up pursuing in the beginning. I did a very brief stint with Francine LeFrak, who was a TV/movie producer for networks like Lifetime. She did The Pamela Harriman Story and other similar things. I moved on from there, but I’m very grateful for the time I spent there because it really taught me what I wanted.
JM: Any interest in returning to set design and breaking into movies a lá Tom Ford?
MR: The short answer is yes. That’s definitely a fantasy.
JM: What was the experience of being southern in New York like when you first moved up?
MR: The Parsons dorms were in a YMCA on West 14th Street, which was a pretty grim area in 1987. But youth is sort of blind ignorance and if I hadn’t been so naive, I might not have done it. I was just 17 years old when I came here. The early years were definitely tough but good, too. There’s a certain speed here that you have to get used to, but New York helps you figure out so much about yourself. I came from a very sheltered environment. I’d pretty much gone to the same school from kindergarten through 12th grade. It was a very homogenious community, so it was like taking a small guppy and dumping him into the Pacific Ocean.
JM: Where do you go when you want a dose of the South? Somewhere in the City or do you just head back to Atlanta?
MR: You know, the landscape of the South is very beautiful, but for me, it’s always been the people I miss the most–their manners, their gentility, their hospitality, their generosity, just their way. Consequently, it’s the people I tend to gravitate toward, rather than the actual place so much. So many of my friends are southern so that helps. We’ve created a little hub here. Having said that, everyone I’ve met over the years in New York City has been so nice. But there’s just an ease to southerners that I really appreciate.
JM: How many of your projects are based outside of the City?
MR: My projects are usually in New York or with people who at least have a foot in New York, but I’ve done work in Atlanta, Houston, other southern places, too.
JM: What’s your criteria for choosing clients?
MR: Personality, mostly, and making sure we’re on the same page. When one decorates, one needs to have a certain budget, but it’s definitely a sliding scale. You’d be surprised. We do big projects and we do small projects. It just depends. I’m trying to develop lasting work that will endure over a lifetime so I’d rather move slowly with a client I really click with than rush into something big just for the sake of doing it.
JM: What were your biggest sources of inspiration growing up?
MR: Your own family is always a big source of inspiration. My father and my mother have always inspired me–especially for how they live their lives. My mother’s decorator was a woman named Susan Wilcox, and I’ve always looked to her work for inspiration. Dotty Travis is another Atlanta decorator who’s always on point. Her kids were around my age so I grew up being impressed by her style. And then there are all the amazing homes in Atlanta. Neel Reid and Philip Shutze built these beautiful homes in the 1920s and 1930s.
JM: What are the must-visit design shops in the City? Where do you send people who visit?
MR: Well, I work with John Rosselli so I definitely recommend going there. Niall Smith is also fantastic. Alan Moss for a little more glamour. Gerald Bland has a snappy mix of modern and antique pieces and employs a great sense of color. But I also tell people to see everything. Scour the city. Go to auctions and sales, even if you can’t afford to buy anything. Visit museums. It’s the reason we live in New York City. See the Jane Wrightsman Galleries. Visit Phillips and William Doyle, Christies and Sothebys. It’s about the experience. You’ll learn, you’ll see pieces collected over a lifetime, things you may see only once and never come across again.
JM: I’d love to see pictures of your office.
MR: My office is very much a functioning office. It’s a library of samples, a laboratory for putting things together
JM: What are you working on right now?
MR: We’re doing a house in San Francisco, a couple of apartments in the City. We’re really busy pulling all of that together right now.
JM: Where would you like to be in 35 years?
MR: In 35 years, ideally I would love to have one amazing project each year that I could pick, develop and get inspired by with clients I have a great relationship with. That’s the fantasy, at least.