Cultured Magazine

Fall 2015

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142 CULTURED UNDERTHE INFLUENCE At his multifaceted design practice, weaves together disparate personalities to form a singular vision. BY RON BROADHURST "My practice is not celebrity-driven. There are some well-known artists, but my clients' privacy is extremely important to me." — L ooking over Billy Cotton's oeuvre—which spans interior, furniture, lighting and product design—it's not surprising to learn that he was heavily influenced by his Northeastern upbringing. "I was raised in the Kennedy's New England with a certain portrait of what being American means, and as much as I try to distance myself from my work, it is deeply personal," he says. His upbringing is revealed in the distinct personalities of his product lines and interior design: an all-American sunniness in his tableware, severe European high modernism in furniture he developed as a student at Pratt Institute and a looser, Bohemian character that emerges in his interior design. "All three categories reflect important touchstones in my inspiration. They all reflect this idea, that as humans we are all collections of different parts of our lives. And thus our homes should mirror this complexity or alternatively be a respite from it," says Cotton, who refers to his own home in Manhattan as "a white cube." Cotton regards his recent project for artist Cindy Sherman and their collaboration as a seminal point in his career. "It included the restoration and rebuilding of the original farmhouse, the ground-up construction of the pool and garden complex, and the construction of her studio," a program that introduced architecture into Cotton's repertoire. "I would say the end result is the reflection of her taste, which is at times challenging, at times beautiful." Regarding clients, Cotton is scrupulously discreet. "My practice is not celebrity driven. There are some well-known artists, but my clients' privacy is extremely important to me," he says. "If I could spend the rest of my life just making work, I would without recognition." He's also quick to credit the support of clients and early adopters who have contributed to his success, including Sherman and Nicholas Manville, at the time vice president of home at Bergdorf Goodman, who brought his tabletop collection to the New York institution "and persuaded me to put my name on it." Furniture dealer Charlie Ferrer was also a seminal figure in Cotton's development. "Billy had done a lot of custom furniture, but he hadn't really refined it," says Ferrer. Pointing to an early credenza he designed, Cotton says, "Charlie allowed me to make it in the way that I wanted, with a veneer that was inspired by Biedermeier and classical elements." From the perspective of that awakening, Cotton says his next objective is to further integrate his practice's multiple personalities. And looking at his wholesomely curvaceous blue glass goblets, the minimalist glamour of his Stick Pick Up chandeliers, and his sumptuous interiors, one can sense that a new American master of design is on the horizon. The designer's Elements dining table, 2013 PHOTO COURTESY OF BILLY COTTON

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