Haute Secrets: Design Star Phillip Thomas

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Phillip Thomas

Phillip Thomas, admired in interior design circles for his modern-classic aesthetic, had a breakout moment last spring when his “Lady Lair” room at the 2016 Kips Bay Decorator Show House drew raves and kudos from peers, press, and the public. Designed as an homage to his mother, the multi-purpose room was designed to be part refuge, part office, and part private entertaining space for friends (see below).  Founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. Thomas and his team have completed numerous projects in many top New York buildings including 15 Central Park West, River House, and One Madison. Currently he is designing a project for a client in the Dakota building on the Upper West Side. He also has projects underway in Miami, Chile, London, and Paris.

Where were you born?

In the heart of New York City.

How long have you been in New York?

All my life. I love to travel but I always come back to New York. It is an essential part of me.

Favorite New York neighborhood:

While I grew up on the Upper East Side in New York, I enjoy having adventures anywhere in the city. Each neighborhood offers differing and inspiring settings.

Phillip Thomas’s “Lady Lair” room for the Kips Bay Showhouse 2016

Favorite restaurant:

I am always up for trying new restaurants for both the gastronomic experience but also for design inspiration. Nevertheless, I always go to Le Charlot on 69th between Park and Madison Avenue. My friends tease me that it is my home away from home. I enjoy the atmosphere and the people. I usually bump into people I know and love.

Best French restaurant:

Outside of Le Charlot, I adore Keith McNally’s latest boîte, Augustine. It’s the type of restaurant where you can linger for hours like in Paris, while Stephen Starr and Daniel Rose’s Le Coucou is a study in modern, refined dining both in decor and the food!

Best Italian restaurant:

I Sodi is one of my go-tos for great Italian food. I have never had a bad meal and the Negroni cocktail menu is truly special.

Favorite New York dessert spot:

When I’m with my nieces and nephews, it’s Serendipity without a doubt. When I am with my friends who act like they’re the same age as my nieces and nephews, it’s Momofuku Milk Bar. It’s yummy and who doesn’t want a birthday cake truffle?

Favorite spot for cocktails:

If I’m uptown, there are so many great places like Bemelman’s at the Carlyle or the bar at the Plaza Athenee. If we’re doing a big night out, then it’s all about the Boom Boom Room. The view, the crowd, and the cocktails are divine.

Best spot for Sunday brunch:

I have a few go-to’s like Le Charlot, but my friends live all over town so I’m always open. Cookshop in Chelsea is great for farm-to-table cuisine but I adore the pancakes at Upland.

The wine you like to order most:

Being half Chilean, I am partial to a great Chilean Carmenere. I am particularly fond of the wines from Vina Vik in Millahue, Chile where I have spent some time. While it is hard to find in the US, I always say “where there is a will, there is a way.”

Best place for a power business lunch:

Ha! Who has time for lunch? However, when I do, I always seem to go to the Regency on Park Avenue. The setting is quiet and the food portions are just the right size.

If you have out of town guests, which hotel would you recommend?

It really depends on the guest and what they are looking to accomplish with their visit. I am always partial to the Carlyle. It is a classic New York Hotel. I am also quite fond of the newly restored Beekman Hotel. It is quite a breathtaking space.

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A soft palette for a master bedroom. Photo: Peter Murdock

Favorite retail store or showrooms for design items:

Much like no two projects of mine are alike, so goes my approach to shopping in New York for design-related items. I shop according to the project and the client. To that end, I visit a host of stores to pull together the best selection of items for my clients. Each store has a distinctive voice and story to tell.

Favorite antiques stores:

Oooh! Too many to choose just one! I think, again, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Favorite stores/resources for lighting:

Lighting is pivotal to transforming a space. While I love vintage lighting, I often turn to contemporary showrooms, like Roll and Hill, to create one-of-a-kind fixtures that ignite a space.

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A living space for a project on East 77th Street. Photo: Michael Mundy

Favorite store/resources for rugs:

The rug industry offers too much in design, talent, and price point to narrow the playing field. I am always on the hunt for new rug vendors with distinct points of view and talented mills to execute those designs.

Favorite stores/individual tailors for clothing shopping:

It might sound cliched, but Bergdorf Goodman’s men’s store is an invaluable resource for someone on the go like myself. When I do have a moment, I find that there is a broad selection of the best clothes by a myriad of designers from cool and casual to slightly more formal.

Best gym/athletic facility:

When I am not working out with my talented trainer, Andrei Moreno, my favorite gym is Central Park. I have always loved the Park from a design perspective and have studied it in many courses while I was in design school. It is an inspiring place for me to start the day and watch the city come alive around me.

Favorite art gallery:

I am a fan of wandering and coming across incredible art and talent. Nevertheless, one of my go to galleries for art and fresh perspectives on art is Friedman Benda in Chelsea.

Best museum:

I could get lost in the Metropolitan Museum anytime. It is a place that houses such a vast and varied collection of art and artifacts that it appeals to my mood at any time.

Best museums for design:

I love the Museum of Arts and Design on Columbus Circle. I always get inspired by the details of the pieces being displayed and the exhibitions are constantly changing.

Favorite historic houses in New York:

Now home to the Frick Collection, the home of Henry Clay Frick is one of my favorite historic homes in New York. It reflects an era of great design and opulence at the end of the 19th/early 20th century. I sat on the Young Fellows Board at the Frick and had the privilege of getting to see many spaces closed to the public. A fascinating place.

Favorite historic/legendary New York place to see or explore:

There is not one square inch of New York that is not steeped in history. One is always coming across new and fascinating things.

What book or books are you reading now?

It’s so funny, I was at dinner with two friends and we decided to start a book club. First up, the novel The Swans of Fifth Avenue. It’s inspiring to read about a bygone era of elegance.

Describe New York in three words:

Energizing, inspiring, evolving

What is the secret to your success?

Success is very different for every individual. However, I find that I am fulfilled by waking up every morning and being able to say that, while the day may hold its challenges, I love what I do. The key to loving your craft is to constantly evolve and challenge oneself. You are never done learning. That is success to me.