Designer of the Month - November - Alexia Kondylis Leuschen & Brian Callahan

1 November 2007

Alexia Kondylis Leuschen and Brian Callahan

Alexia Kondylis Leuschen & Brian Callahan, the award-winning partners of Kondylis Design, have spearheaded a range of design projects for private residences, residential buildings, hotels, boutiques and private clubs. Both partners graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and are inspired by their extensive collection of rare books, paintings, antiques and treasures brought back from travels to faraway lands.

The work of Kondylis Design is also featured in model apartments for some of the most prominent luxury condominium residential developments in New York City such as the Grand Beekman and 200 Chambers Street in Tribeca, some created by Leuschen's celebrated architect father, Costas Kondylis. Unique projects include converting a historical barn into a residence and gallery for a sportscar enthusiast in Southampton, New York, and remodeling and customizing vintage trailers such as a 1971 Silver Streak.

Kondylis Design's work spans a range of design vocabularies from the classically traditional to the cutting-edge contemporary. Their objective is a unified space highlighting objects that form a collection that speaks of the resident. Projects include much custom designed furniture and rigorous attention to color and textiles. Prominent clients include Frédéric Fekkai and Zac Posen.

Frette Q&A with Alexia Kondylis Leuschen & Brian Callahan

1. You are very accomplished for a young designer. How do your clients come to find you and decide to work with you?

We started our firm the year that we graduated from university. We were fortunate to have a group of fantastic clients who went on to refer us to their friends. Great people know great people and word of mouth has continued to work for us. We love that personal approach and recently took down our website because we prefer meeting one on one with people in our office to show our portfolio and discuss their needs.

2 . Your room designs range from the ultra-modern to ultra-classic. Do you have a signature look or style that you try to convey in your environments?

We meld the clients’ interests and personal style with ours and then polish it to perfection. For this reason our clients' homes look like them and express their preferences with our touch visible throughout all the while. We like to think that our signature is that the client looks good in their home when we are complete with a project.

3 . Who or what is the biggest influence in your aesthetic?

Our aesthetic is informed by artists. I love the elegant, tactile and symbolic way that Lucio Fontana’s works in clay have about them. The lightness and humor in the Fraggonard painting in the Frick Collection. The way Dagobert Peche’s designs stylize natural and imbue it with a touch of fantasy. The best place to start for inspiration is a painting, a sculpture or sometimes something as everyday as a striking display of pastries in a shop window.

4. Which are the top 3 most beautiful homes you have seen or visited and why?

One of the most beautiful homes that come to mind immediately are my Aunt’s summer cottage on the island of Sylt in the North Sea of Germany. It had a thatched roof and swing out windows with convex glass over looking the dunes and the heather. I also love The Hameau at Versailles because it is whimsical…a play farm for a Queen who needed to escape the pressures of a very confined life at court. The grotto in the dairy there was a big trend in the 18th century and continues to amuse & inspire today. The third home is a friend's apartment in a hotel. It has been entirely decorated with antiques and things she found while traveling that struck her as uncommonly beautiful, without a thought about how they would work together. She has violet velvet drapes from the fabric supplier to the Pope, a Napoleon III magic chest built for a child & Weiener Werkstatte mirror found at auction. Of course, since everything is chosen for its beauty---it all works perfectly together.

5 . What is the most common design mistake you have seen in people's homes?

Emptiness. I would suggest that inviting new things into your home is fun and that anything eventually finds its place. Someone once said every room needs something red & something a little ugly. I feel sometimes that people resist acquiring things that really appeal to them on a visceral level because they worry too much about whether it’s the right thing.

6 . Which of these factors is most important in providing design direction? Color, texture, proportion, or atmosphere. If not any of these what would you suggest?

I think atmosphere is a good word. I think the most important thing is to think about what you would like to do in your rooms. Many people think a living room should have a sofa and two club chairs. That’s not necessarily right for everyone. If the only thing you do in the living room is serve tea, six club chairs might work & look better. If you use the living room for quiet reading, a pair of oversized chaise lounges with feather down pillows and soft cashmere blankets would be perfect.

7 . In your elegant Central Park West bedroom overlooking the park, our design team was pleasantly surprised to find a Frette bedcover and linens from several seasons ago. How important is it to select key pieces for your home which stand the test of time?

It is important to select things that involve true craftsmanship. These items were made by a person, not a machine, and thoughtfulness was put into making them beautiful, useful and lasting. Luxury items are wonderful because they age gracefully, the Frette bedcover you mention, looks marvelous still as does the gilded Morocco leather desk top as it mellows with age and use.