With another awards season done-and-dusted, Christian Siriano is finessing a variety of interior design projects and building upon his signature fashion company.
In the year ahead, Siriano has commercial and residential interior projects on the docket ranging from a hotel in California to “just beautiful homes,” by his own account. The London West Hollywood hotel is expected to be finished early next year, and the designer and his team are also working on the interiors for a new restaurant in New York City. Siriano has also redesigned the Inn of Chagrin Falls in Ohio that will be unveiled this spring. Last year his company debuted some furniture to see if people would like it and wound up with a few thousand orders for such items as the $795 Lily stool and a $1,795 dining chair. It is currently sold exclusively at 1stDibs.com and via Siriano’s signature and interiors websites. This summer more styles, including larger ones like a custom sofa, will be introduced.
In an interview Wednesday, the designer said of juggling interiors and fashion design: ”I love the balance. I like the same [approach] in fashion. We dress the most fabulous celebrities on the red carpets of the world and we have royalty and first ladies. But we also have just great, regular women, who want to buy a cool dress. That’s what I’ve always loved about my business and my world. And that’s what has always been important to me.”
Having designed the interiors for his more than 6,000-square-foot Connecticut house, Siriano recently bought another house in the state that he is redesigning. Expansion into other licensed home products is in the works, including a paint collaboration that is coming up. The designer’s apparel business is also growing with an eco-loungewear collaboration due out soon.
As for the differences in his company’s businesses in apparel and interiors, Siriano said, “One of the nice things and the biggest change in [working in] the interior design business is that we don’t spend any of our own money. We don’t upfront anything. It’s a big deal. It’s a big difference. People don’t realize that. When I talk to people in interiors, they say, ‘We don’t purchase a single item until the client pays.’”
That is unlike fashion, where “we’re upfronting everything — every single retailer, every partner, every dress we make,” Siriano said. “I still have invoices from retailers from four years ago that haven’t been paid. We do no wholesale anymore at all. I never will ever do it again. It just isn’t the business to grow and to build and to survive — especially for a young brand. I tell so many people now, ‘It’s direct-to-consumer. You’re not going to make it otherwise.’”
Regarding favorite architects and interior designers, Siriano singled out his friend Kelly Wearstler. The Downtown L.A. Proper hotel, The Westfield Century City, Compartes chocolate flagship in L.A., Bergdorf Goodman’s restaurant and the Four Seasons Anguilla are among the properties that she has worked on. Siriano said, “I’ve admired her work for so long. What I’ve admired is that she really went from being a residential designer to being quite a big commercial designer doing hotels all over the world. She definitely inspires my business opportunities here of doing both things.”
The Connecticut-based artist Meighan Morrison is another favorite, as are Gigi Collins and his Pop Art-leaning friend Ashley Longshore. “I have a list that I try to shop from for clients all the time,” he said.
As much as he enjoys being busy, Siriano said that delving into the interior world, designing furniture and buying art for himself and clients provides “a great release” from the pressure of the fashion industry. “There are so many eyeballs on you. Everyone is judging a dress at all times. So interior design is actually my break,” he said.
The 36-year-old Maryland native’s interdisciplinary approach to design stems from being interested in different worlds. Before he broke out as the youngest winner on season four of “Project Runway,” Siriano studied at the American InterContinental University in London and later worked for Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen. Fine art was his focus before fashion. Still intrigued by art, he sees himself as “a curious person who likes to try new things. And sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. What I’ve found is that when I really like something like interiors, I really go all in and give it as much as I can. That is usually when it becomes successful.”
With Christian Siriano Interiors, the designer has seen a lot of crossover with fashion, in terms of colors, textures and art. All of the elements that inspire his fashion business also inspire his interiors. Now “kind of in the furniture manufacturing business,” Siriano said he wasn’t really ready for that. “But we love a challenge and it’s been great,” he added.
“A big antiques shopper,” Siriano said he is also into auctions and loves buying vintage furniture with a predilection for 1940s and 1950s French and Italian design. Those purchases can be sources of inspiration or modification. “Then we’ll take the leg from one chair and the shape of an arm from another chair,” he said, adding that imagination is always a factor. “There’s trial and error. Sometimes I will just sketch on a piece of paper and we will try to make it.”
Some of his signature furniture can be found in the designer’s boutique and in the redesign of the Inn at Chagrin Falls. “It’s kind of nice because then we don’t have to shop with other people. I can create it myself,” he said.
The project in Chagrin Falls involved professional and personal connections. One of his employees has a tie to the 15-room inn and Siriano’s boyfriend and many friends hail from Ohio. “I felt that it was a fun idea. But when they presented it to me, I thought, ‘Wow, this is such a great opportunity to design such a beautiful, historic inn that really services this town. They are booked every single day and it needed a facelift and a revamp,” Siriano said. “I was excited for the challenge. It’s really been a blast.”
Having handled all of the redesign remotely via Zoom, Siriano plans to travel to Ohio the week before the grand reopening for “a massive install.” He and his team did a lot of the furniture including custom pieces, art, tapestries and pillows — all imagined for the space. “What’s also cool is that people will stay there and they will be in this custom designed Christian Siriano space. Hopefully, they will feel inspired.” he said. While some hotels offer guests the option of buying select items like the Four Seasons with its signature mattress, that isn’t in the cards at the Inn at Chagrin Falls. “Listen, if we get requests to buy, fabulous. But we really did this to be a bit more classic. You just come in and stay at a beautiful place,” he said.
The inn’s managing partner, Molly Gebler, noted how Chagrin Falls dates back to 1844 and has such produced such talents as Pixar’s Lee Unkrich, “Riverdale” actor Casey Cott, actor Tim Conway and cartoonist Bill Waterson. Gebler said of working with Siriano: “It’s an iconic place and I just spilled my guts out in my email to him. I sent tons of pictures of the inn and Chagrin, and he said ‘yes.’ I was blown away.”
Siriano has spruced up the burgundy and hunter green late 1980s interiors with lighting, lighter paint colors, cool art and furniture. “I’ve been so amazed at his talent to keep a desk that we have had for 40 years and complement it with a new desk chair, whereas someone else would have said, ‘We need a new desk,’” Gebler said. “He’s sent all the paint, the fixtures, the lighting — all that stuff. They’ve been great working with our budget. We’re not millionaires. They’ve respected that and that’s wonderful. It’s so exciting for our inn and restaurant group, and the village.”
The inn’s phones have already been ringing off the hook, Gebler said. Siriano is expected to be on hand at the block party that is planned for the inn’s May 13 open house. For a village that is the size of three football fields end-to-end, she said, “We’re humbled, to be honest with you. We are small town USA. All day yesterday we were saying, ‘We’re just so lucky.’ And he’s a great designer. We’re excited to be able to show everybody what he can do.”