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Meet the interior design power couple who defined chic for Anna Wintour

With clients like Jessica Chastain, Jason Wu and Anna Wintour, Carrier and Company have a solid claim to Defining Chic – the title of their new book. We met up with the founders to discuss eclecticism, the design process, and what it’s really like working with celebrities.

When we speak to Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller from their home in New York, the couple are in the process of packing up the office they have worked from for the last 10 years to relocate to a bigger space down on 59th Street. “It has served us really well for the last decade, but our team has grown over the past couple of years and we simply don’t have enough space anymore,” Carrier tells us. It comes as no surprise – as one of today’s most celebrated and influential design firms, Carrier and Company is thriving, with a team of loyal employees and a client list that spans some of the world’s most influential celebrities, businesspeople and tastemakers.

Before launching their eponymous interiors brand in 2005, the husband-and-wife design duo, who began dating while studying interior design at Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology, found themselves working with several different – yet equally prestigious – studios, which today they attribute for honing their ability to work across a whole myriad of design aesthetics. “I just loved working with different people who had different distinct interests,” explains Miller. “Stephen Sills, for example, champions continental eclecticism and his work is very sophisticated, while Marcy Masterson’s projects are more straightforward with an amazing level of quality. And then there was Sara Begur who is all about vibrancy and textiles. I just loved them all.”

Carrier and Company transformed this Brooklyn Brownstone house into a vibrant family house - Effect Magazine
Carrier and Company transformed this Brooklyn Brownstone house into a vibrant family house. The living room includes a velvet-covered Bridgewater sofa and vintage Eero Saarinen stools, re-covered with remnants of antique carpets (Photo: Sam Frost)

This innate flexibility has served Carrier and Miller well, and today they count some of the world’s biggest names, including fashion designer Jason Wu, actor Jessica Chastain and perhaps the most influential figure in fashion, Anna Wintour, among their exclusive client base. In fact, so close are the pair with the American Vogue editor-in-chief that she penned the foreword for the designers’ first coffee table book, Carrier and Company: Positively Chic Interiors. “Anna was really the first client we had, and the cornerstone of our company,” enthuses Carrier. “She’s very masterful at what she does on every level and has a very clear and understood aesthetic. That’s part of why we’ve worked so well together for so long. We’ve really learned to understand her ethos, and we’re able to deliver on that.”

Carrier and Company Interiors’ latest book, Defining Chic, is a celebration of the designers’ eclectic scope, highlighting an impressive selection of projects spanning the style spectrum, from a historic, art-filled New York duplex replete with period vestiges, to a Mediterranean-style Southern California home with an Art Deco core. “This adaptability is important to our aesthetic and our process,” says Carrier. “We often work with creative people who have very distinct points of view, and they aren’t necessarily looking for a one-size-fits-all approach. We tailor our work specifically to each client, whether they are minimalist and contemporary-leaning, or are maximalists who like to work with lots of texture and antiques. That’s what keeps it interesting for us.”

Carrier and Company interior designed a bucolic country compound on Long Island’s East End for Vogue editor Anna Wintour (Photo: Sam Frost)
Carrier and Company interior designed a bucolic country compound on Long Island’s East End for Vogue editor Anna Wintour (Photo: Sam Frost)

Flip through the new tome and you’ll be greeted with a showcase of stunning homes where no two properties look the same. “You’ll see, for example, the Bronxville project, which is this beautiful Tudor-style home in the suburbs of New York – which is completely different to what we have done for Anna Wintour,” explains Carrier. The former married the traditional dark, wood-panelled Tudor aesthetic loved by the husband with colour and vitality favoured by the wife to create a vibrant, family-friendly home, while the latter is a country compound on Long Island’s East End that is rustic, hand-hewn and full of vibrant colour, pattern, and texture. “It’s very bucolic,” adds Carrier. “As Americans, we think of it as reminiscent of the English countryside. There are lots of florals, colour and charm. It’s exciting working with Anna because she embraces lots of patterns and hues which other clients can be too shy to.”

Fans of the big-screen will also be able to glimpse inside Jessica Chastain’s landmark 19th-century home near Central Park, which originally enamoured the actor with the surviving vestiges of its original architecture, including mahogany panelling, elaborately carved doorways and windows, plaster crown mouldings and oak parquet floors. “It was an old apartment that hadn’t been decorated in decades, so it was an opportunity to go in and do a refresh,” says Carrier. “We were introduced through the team at Ralph Lauren, and she really loves the brand’s aesthetic, so we used plenty of their pieces throughout. There was a real romance about the whole project.”

Actor Jessica Chastain’s 19th-century home near Central Park
Actor Jessica Chastain’s 19th-century home near Central Park combines original panelling and old-world glamour with a contemporary aesthetic (Photo: Douglass Friedman)

The result is a stylish apartment defined by old world glamour. It includes a parlour which, complete with stained glass windows and mahogany casings, was wrapped in tea-stained floral linen; an adjacent living room that took on more saturation with decoratively painted dark green sueded walls, an antique mirror and a little chintz chair that once belonged to Lauren Bacall; and a primary suite with an in-room bathtub inspired by London’s Dean Street Townhouse, one of Chastain’s favourite places. For the library, the team went ultra-luxe with cashmere on the sofa, velvet on the chairs and silk on the walls, while they designed custom millwork to conceal an eighty-inch screen above the fireplace, meaning the room doubles as Jessica’s private screening room. “It’s a home designed to be passed down to the next generation,” says Miller.

Adaptability is important to our aesthetic and our process. We often work with creative people who have very distinct points of view, and they aren’t looking for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Jesse Carrier, Carrier and Company

Elsewhere, you’ll find a seven-story Beaux-Arts townhouse dubbed Manhattan Glamour and designed to be decidedly urban and glamorous. The home’s contemporary architectural elements, including the sweeping carved stone and glass staircase, was elevated by the design duo refinishing its many walls with quietly lavish materials including polished plaster, onyx, alabaster, walnut, and shagreen. The living room is a subtle play of luxe textiles, velvets and silks.

A de Gournay wallpaper in Carrier and Company's Brooklyn Brownstone project - Effect Magazine
A de Gournay wallpaper in Carrier and Company’s Brooklyn Brownstone project echoes the vegetation outside to transform the dining room into an interior garden (Photo: Sam Frost)

“When we started the project, the interior had been gutted and it was just a shell with white stone, floating stairs, glass bannisters – it was very minimal,” explains Miller. “We were brought in to warm it up as much as possible without reinventing the wheel with the existing architecture. I think it’s a fantastic example of what we do well – understanding what the client needs, understanding what we are working with, and how to bring it all together appropriately.”

While every project has a distinct identity, the common threads you’ll find across each one of Carrier and Company’s projects are high-quality furnishings, inspired design and a sense of timelessness. “We try to avoid a lot of trends,” says Carrier. “We do incorporate some so the projects are timely, but we are very careful to ensure all our designs will look as current in 10 years from now as they do today.”

Carrier and Company designed a 1920s Mediterranean-style house in Southern California (pictured above and at article head) for a longstanding client. The terrace serves as the family’s primary dining room (Photo: Lisa Romerein)

Function is important too, with uncluttered spaces that have a clarity and a liveable quality about them. “We like to say we’re ‘masters of the mix’, and that our eclecticism isn’t just about bringing different pieces together in the same room,” concludes Miller. “Everything is harmonised, but there is also a tension between all design aspects which helps each item express itself more. I personally find that really exciting.”

Defining Chic is available now on Rizzoli

Read more: Interior Designers I Interiors |  Design | New York | Rizzoli