Issue link: http://www.cultureddigital.com/i/464494
92 CULTURED ART OF EXCESS A minimalist she is not. Interior designer Meg Sharpe imbues her projects with a textured blend of nostalgia, luxury and a bit of masculinity. BY JANELLE ZARA PORTRAIT BY JEREMY LIEBMAN The wood panels, warm leathers and taxidermic animal heads that line the interiors of Manhattan power restaurants like Bill's, The Lion and Crown exude the roaring old-school vibe of a vintage gentlemen's club: opulent, classic and robust—precisely the atmosphere that interior designer Meg Sharpe strives for. "I've always had a more masculine aesthetic," says the willowy and immaculately tailored Sharpe. "I'm not interested in just making things pretty." Sharpe's interior design firm is decidedly unlike that of her first employer, Kelly Wearstler, the West Hollywood glamour maven best known for an ultra-saturated approach to interiors. In contrast, Sharpe names her main contemporary influences as the more understated Joseph Dirand and Axel Vervoordt. "They both convey a masculine perspective, but do so in a way that's warm and inviting," she says. "It's monolithic," meaning a room has a single focal point instead of many competing ones. In residential spaces, for example, where she typically takes on the role of curator to edit and assemble clients' art collections, she will play down the furniture's presence in order to emphasize the art. "The eye has to rest," she explains. That is not to say, however, that Sharpe's body of work is entirely subdued. After her stint with Wearstler, the California native moved to New York to work for Ralph Lauren and subsequently Mark Cunningham before founding her own boutique firm in 2010. She's since taken on such high-profile projects as the lavish Diamond Horseshoe supper club in the basement of Time Square's Paramount Hotel and the newly reopened Shelborne hotel in Miami Beach. The recurring theme among her works in the hospitality realm seems to be the revival of a certain period extravagance. "For the Shelborne, the concept was modern nostalgia," says Sharpe. "We wanted to evoke the glamour of the 1940s Rat Pack with its iconic luxury, but interpret that for modern needs." Emulating the richness of the Art Deco period in which the Shelborne was originally built, Sharpe filled the hotel's communal spaces with rich woods, lustrous metals and terrazzo flooring. She chose art by Teresita Fernández and Lola Schnabel and spiked the ceiling, quite literally, with urchin-like chandeliers by Jean de Merry. "Texture is so important," says Sharpe, who gravitates toward the roughness of raw woods, marbles and concretes as a complement to more polished finishes or muted palettes. "I love seeing the hand of the artist in things." Her taste is informed partially by her deep knowledge of art history (as an undergrad at the University of York, she wrote a dissertation on 15th-century Dutch art and architecture) and a fondness for roving design showrooms such as Atelier Courbet, Gabriel Scott or Flair. Her tendency is to purchase rare finds—say, Art Deco table lamps shaped like cobras—regardless of whether she already has a client in mind. And, of course, there's perusing the addictive online resource, 1stdibs. "Literally," she says, "it's what keeps me up at night."