French 18th-century Rococo, Sixties Space Age Modern, all the way to the decorative poetics of the Memphis group in the 1980s, are all combined in perfect harmony by the daring creativity of Sasha Bikoff. In a stylistic and aesthetic outburst of multiple creations – from her debut as an interior designer in an exclusive apartment in The Dakota in New York City to the orchestration of eclectic oases for affluent clients and the recent installation at Palazzo Versace during the latest Design Week in Milan – the young New Yorker reveals in-depth knowledge of design through striking patterns and bright tones that ‘dress up’ every detail. A dreamy, emotional world driven by haute couture opulence. Sasha talks it over with IFDM magazine.
Sasha, how did you get interested in design?
I have always been interested in design from a young age. I used to watch my grandmother decorate her homes, make flower arrangements, garden, cook beautiful meals, host elaborate parties. She was a true tastemaker. I always admired interiors but it was only until I moved to Paris in College that I became obsessed. I lived in a famous interior designers home on Rue de Lille behind the Musée d’Orsay where all the famous French antique dealers were that Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé, and Karl Lagerfeld used to shop at. I would go to the marché aux puces on the weekends teaching myself all about design. I had a British boyfriend at the time who’s mom was a famous decorator to all the London rock star scene and she got me into design in London. I would take pictures of all the furnishings and design I loved and make folders on my computer. Fast forward a few years later I started working in the Chelsea contemporary gallery world in NYC. I was a gallerist in the art world and everyone envied my job however for me it was all about the sale and the business and it inhibited my sense of creativity. It taught me a great deal, how to work with clients and how to have a regimented work lifestyle but ultimately I am a creative and I had to venture off and follow my real passion which was interior design. I got my first job and the rest was history. I never learnt design or studied it in school nor did I ever work for an interior designer so my approach towards design is different. I think I was born with this gift and I think because my background is a-typical it gives me my edge.
How would you define your creative vision?
My creative vision comes from so many different inspirations. I foremost revert to nature as my main inspiration. Often times people ask me where my sense of color comes from and I say that all of the colors work in nature therefore they work the same way in a room. I don’t allow myself to play by the rules of design. My creativity is driven by emotions such as happiness love maybe sometimes darkness and fun. I believe that spaces should before anything set a vibe and that they should be transformative. My creative vision also comes from fashion, film, art, architecture, and travel. I am constantly seeking inspiration to come up with fresh and new ideas. Sometimes as a project comes a long ideas come to me. I treat a space as if i were painting a canvas. I work with the background color and I build up on the paint adding more colors, patterns, and textures. That is my method to the madness.
Your aesthetic mixes French Rococo with Sixties Pop, French modernism of the Seventies and eclecticism of the 80’s Memphis. What fascinates you about these creative universes?
I love to evoke a certain lifestyle in my interiors. French Rococo demonstrates this idea of opulence and femininity. I love the carved gilding of florals and the pastel tones and the idea of Marie Antoinette with her ladies in waiting brushing her hair bathing her and eating french pasties. To me that’s the ultimate vibe mixed in with this french space age of furnishings from the future this era in the 60’s was all about exploration and the unknown. Anything that has to do with space, the planet, and the stars fascinates me and also there is a sense of Romanticism in this era too. I love the plastic materials the rounded bubble and egg shapes furnishings. Its the ultimate creativity. Lastly I am deeply connected to the late 70’s and 80’s Memphis Milano movement. The disco era was another age of opulence and fun colors and shapes were incorporated into the interiors at this time. I love the lifestyle of all these eras and the design that accompanied these periods sheds light on to the glamorous way people lived and to me that’s fascinating.
How can you combine these very different stylistic currents?
As a designer you have to be able to mix different time periods and styles. The way that I mix furnishings together is that there has to be a balanced connection with each piece so that your eye wonders through a space an exciting but very natural way. Its almost like playing connect the dots. No matter what the furniture is through color and material you can make the connections through out the room.
The melting pot you “breathe” in New York City is an element that inspires your creations. How can you interpret it in the interior decorator?
New York City is home for me and although I love my city I get inspired by older cities in Europe and by beach towns and places with more nature. However it is New York City that gives my look a cool urban edge. Its being the city girl that really makes my interiors feel fashionable and trendy.
What sensations should the living evoke in your project idea?
I want to create an out of body experience and a mix of emotions. I want people to feel happy and joyous but also at the same time a certain mystery and sexiness. I want to transport people to different places. I like the idea of having a worldly quality to a space it gives an intellectual and well traveled vibe. Its also important to me that a space tells a story about who is living in it and that that story portrays a persons dreams, aspirations, inspirations, and passions in life.
What do you think the main interior design trends of today are?
I think that we are coming out of an age of beige, whites, creams, and greys. I think that people are becoming more open to color and being eclectic with design. I also think that people are getting over the idea of having to design symmetrically and buying the full look from the showroom rather mixing different materials, textures, and brands. I also think antiques and vintage are coming back into style.
Among your passions, re-imagine the vintage pieces in couture fashion fabrics. Are you giving us examples of brands or fashion designers?
I love the idea of creating unique one of a kind pieces. I started to collect rare antiques and vintage design pieces. When it was time to recover them with fabric, I wanted to keep with this idea of them being rare so I started buying remnant fashion fabrics. This was my way of bridging the gap between fashion and design but also to create furnishings that felt like they were right off the runway. Sometimes I would find fabric of clothing that I already owned which was really fun because I would sit in a chair with the matching dress. I love the idea of being playful with design and the way I dress.
Where do you looking for vintage pieces that “dress” your interior design?
I look all over the world for vintage pieces. Anytime I travel I take time off to go to flea markets, bazaars, or antique stores. I find that my best pieces are the once I get when I am traveling.
Your projects include restaurant interiors. Can you tell us about that?
I just started getting involved with going restaurants and I really enjoy it. Chefs are artists too and the idea of creating plating design that coincides with dishes is really fun for me. Once a chef made fois gras cannolis and I designed Murano glass pink cake stands with ruffles on the edge for this dish. The whole restaurant culture is really fun because you become part of a team and the decor is mainly based off of the menu and ingredients but also the overall eating experience. I think my interiors are meant to be enjoyed in public spaces and a restaurant is where friends and family gather together eat great food and drink which is perfect for the happy and fun atmospheres I create.
What are the design icons that fascinate you the most?
I am mostly fascinated with female design icons like Elsie de Wolfe, Nancy Lancaster, Madeleine Castaing, and Dorothy Draper. I think all of these women were way beyond there time and created such a personal style. A lot of designers tend to do the same thing and my goal as a designer is to create a brand identity that is truly my own. When I decided to become a designer I looked towards these women and saw that they all had one thing in common and that was a strong sense of aesthetic identity.
One of your creations that you are particularly attached to is…?
I am particularly attached to the Dakota. That was my first project and it was for my mother. She had two decorators prior to me non of which were able to capture my mothers vision or the environment correctly. I worked so hard on this job teaching myself everything as I went along. To this day she will always be my most challenging client which set me up for all my clients that came after. It also taught me how I decorate which is that I first have to really get to know the client. I need to see how they dress, what they are passionate about, where there favorite places are, and what they are connected too. Only after you really understand who you are dealing with can you create a space that will really captivate your client.
Can you describe your home in Manhattan?
My home in Manhattan is constantly changing but in general my friends say it looks like a bungalow from Palm Beach in the 1980’s. My kitchen is apple green and my living room is a light calamine pink. Its a mix of antiques, vintage, and contemporary furniture. All my pieces are very whimsical and what I call statement pieces.
And your dream home is…
My dream home would Pierre Cardins Palais Bulles in the South of France.
What big projects or collaborations are you following right now?
I have a fabric line coming out with fabricut. I created three original prints and two solids. I am really excited about them. I often times create things that i cant find so they are super unique and very on brand for me.
Where do you see Sasha Bikoff in the future?
I would like to see myself with an empire like Donatella Versace, Tory Burch, and Diane von Furstenberg creating pieces that encompass a total lifestyle from fashion to home.