Midway through his month at Kips Bay in Palm Beach, we caught up with designer Kevin Isbell to talk trimmings and the role they play in his work; particularly in his installation in the sunnier, southern iteration of the iconic Show House. Walls wrapped in a custom hand-painted paper, a pagoda-style bed complete with carved classical motifs, and a white ceramic tiger that’s taking Instagram by storm are but a few of the elements that bring a worldly sensibility to his lively space deemed The Writer’s Retreat.
A retreat in every sense of the word, your space is part bedroom, part dressing room, complete with an en suite bath. Tell us more about your design and what inspired your first ever Kips Bay Show House.
KI: The Writers Retreat was inspired by Ernest Hemingway, his time in Florida and his nomadic lifestyle. My room is right off of the entry, so visitors come through my space first and then tend to come back again later to absorb it in detail. When they return they usually see something they hadn’t seen before.
There’s such a delight in the discovery of carefully considered details—like a series of tiny revelations as we move through the space. Tell us how you’ve incorporated trimmings throughout the Retreat.
KI: I’m a very detailed designer. Like the Miten Shell Fringe on a lampshade—this is something that makes the eye linger longer in a space. Playing off of the aubergine wall, the color reappears on the banding of the lampshade and on the French Piping.
When recently asked by House Beautiful about your favorite place to use trim, you replied, “Um, is EVERYWHERE an option?” We can assure you that it is an option. And one that we wholeheartedly support and encourage. Can you talk more about your philosophy with regard to trimmings and when they typically enter into your design process?
KI: There are certainties. A curtain isn’t complete without trim on the leading edge. A sofa skirt gets trim at the bottom.
When I begin, typically bigger blocks in the room come together first—the selection of sofas and chairs. And then I consider how I can move color around the room. Trim allows me to do this. It has the ability to take color to different locations throughout a space.
Being exposed to so much throughout your career, be it in person, in print or on social media, is there a particular trim or application that you’ve kept in the back of your mind and are just waiting for the right client or home to present itself?
KI: Yes. And it’s firmly implanted in my memory bank. In classic English country homes, you sometimes see bullion fringe on the leading edge of curtains. I have my eye on it and I want to work it into a project in a fresh way that doesn’t feel stodgy or static.
When looking back on your years as a designer, how do you think the attitude toward and the use of trimmings has evolved, not only in the industry but for you personally.
KI: I think that people are coming around to trim more and more each day. When I first started, I was younger and more modern leaning, so I wouldn’t have considered trim. It wasn’t until I became a design director in New York with Jeffrey Bilhuber that I began to use it. I really learned to master the use of trim in my tenure with him and the way I use it has evolved as I’ve evolved as a designer wanting to create more details.
ABOUT KEVIN ISBELL
A decade after launching his eponymous New York City-based interior design business, Kevin Isbell has departed for Los Angeles, where he and his firm currently reside. Despite his new California roots, Isbell maintains a clientele between both coasts and retains his signature East Coast aesthetic, which is clean, layered and highly nuanced.
Follow Kevin on Instagram for more detail-driven design inspiration and insight into his Show House space.
Cushions are trimmed with French Piping in Eggplant.
Our Miten Shell Fringe trims a custom lampshade.
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