Five Questions For: P. Gaye Tapp

John and I are crazy about interior designer and blogger P. Gaye Tapp’s incredible new book How They Decorated, a must-have design Bible from Rizzoli ($55) that chronicles the highly individual, incredible decors of the likes of Bunny Mellon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Fleur Cowles, and Mona von Bismarck, among many others, paired with stunning visuals.

Interior Designer and Blogger P. Gaye Tapp

Says John, “The book shows how real people live. It’s not decorators flaunting their homes. These are real people with real taste and a real sense of style. It’s about personality. Everything doesn’t have to match or be perfect, furnish your home with pieces that you love. Have a point of view. How They Decorated captures this sensibility that is too often lost in today’s beige world.”

Last week, John and I were lucky enough to have been invited to dine with the charming Ms. Tapp in Winston-Salem, NC, and we decided to get inside her head, if just a tad.

But first, a little bit more about Ms. Tapp in her own words:

“I have been an interior designer for more than 30 years and have an abiding passion for the original in design, fashion, and history. My blog, Little Augury, was born on New Year’s Eve 2008. It began as a way of continuing a conversation with a beloved mentor Sandford Peele and the promise to keep just a bit of his wit and wisdom alive by sharing it whenever possible. As a born-and-bred Southerner, I am passionate about things that have been passed down to me, and also to clients that I work with. It’s the backbone of beautiful rooms in the South. Traditions are important to me, with an eye always looking back to the past, in the hope of understanding what is authentic and what will endure in the future. My favorite quote is by 16th-century philosopher and author Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St. Alban who said: ‘There is no Excellent Beauty that hath not Strangeness in the proportion.’

Perhaps I was born in the wrong era, but I make the best of it by living a bit in the past. From an early age I’ve loved reading, and in elementary school began reading biographies. Little has changed. Reading is like a lullaby—I cannot go to sleep without reading for an hour or so. My reading interests range from mysteries to British novels to history. I profess to being a bit of an Anglophile.”

So here we go with the Madcap Cottage queries…

  1. Madcap Cottage (MC): How do you define great style?
    • Gaye Tapp (PGT): Great style is personal style. To a large degree, it’s undefinable. My niece Liz is so self-aware and free from ‘fashion rules.’ She dresses to please herself and always exudes confidence! In rooms, as Gloria Vanderbilt says, ‘Decorating is autobiography.’ That says it all! Gloria Vanderbilt is the essence of authentic personal style. The word ‘authenticity’ is bantered about so much on social media, but to have great style it’s a must.
  2. MC: What is the most magical room you have ever seen, and why?
    • PGT: As magical rooms go—any room with books would apply. The most magical rooms are the rooms I’ve seen photographed by Horst—meaning rooms past. I find seeing rooms captured when they are ‘lived in’ fascinating. Pauline de Rothschild, who I write about in my book, had a small Paris retreat where the walls of her salon and bedroom were covered with old Chinese panels. Her bedroom at Mouton was her sanctuary—it might be the most beautiful room ever as observed through Horst’s lens.
  3. MC: Who is someone today who inspires you on the design front and why?
    • PGT: It would be hard not to include two great design—and life—forces, Charlotte Moss and Nicky Haslam. Charlotte’s passion for design is contagious. Her at-home library is filled with pieces of design history and photographs of women who have inspired her. Nicky Haslam’s joie de vivre resonates in everything he does, from his country house to his London flat to his passion for fashion and song. Both continue to be inspired and therefore can’t help but inspire.
  4. MC: We have been awash in beige and gray for years, do you see design moving into a more personal realm?
    1. PGT: I do hope rooms are moving to embrace personal style. It’s the job of designers to inspire clients to participate in the process. How They Decorated is all about personal decorating, even when the women I profile called decorators in to do their rooms.
  5. MC: What’s your favorite destination, cocktail, and hotel? Well, that’s three questions in one, but why not?
    • PGT: I love London, I don’t drink, and I’m not a hotel aficionado… Once you get there, does it really matter?

How They Decorated, with Mona and Harrison Williams in their Palm beach living room

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