Design Interview with the Iconic Editor CYNTHIA FRANK of Elle Decor

Cynthia Frank ELLE Decor Portrait

Elle Decor Lisa Pomerantz

To quote the indelible Diana Vreeland, a GREAT Design Editor is one who has a “…clear view of what is possible for the public.  GIVE ‘EM WHAT THEY NEVER KNEW THEY WANTED!”  This excerpt has always vividly reminded me of the brilliant and progressive Design Editor Cynthia Frank, whose illustrious career in a plethora of the best Design magazines (including the Designer ESSENTIAL Elle Decor, Town and Country, and the now shuttered but spectacular House & Garden Magazine) spans over 5 decades.  Cynthia has always had the unique ability of finding, nurturing and spotlighting the most unique and beautiful spaces, products and Designers from around the World.  So to say I was BEYOND excited when I got a chance to interview Cynthia is an understatement.  Happily for me, the experience was even more delightful, insightful and inspiring then I had even hoped.  Besides being intensely talented, Cynthia has had her finger directly on the pulse of the cultural Zeitgeist for decades and has no intentions of slowing.

Cynthia Frank-ELLE Decor Dining Room

Cynthia’s weekend home in Southampton was recently featured in ELLE DÉCOR as well as one of her latest Editorial features (another Hamptons home) Designed by her friends Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts .  In Cynthia’s Southampton home we experience a beautiful and moving blend of historic elements with refined taste, mixed with a modern sensibility and a keen editor’s eye.  Despite the exceptional nature of many of the elements, the home does NOT feel “showy” or roped off, but is a wonderfully tactile, conceptual and sexy space that is mentally uplifting.  Our interview begins with Cynthia’s home:

Cynthia Frank-ELLE Decor Loggia

Q. How important to achieve your fresh and calming interior was your decision of creating an all-white architectural envelope of space that you offset with pops of brilliant colour through your Artwork?

C.F. When the colour envelope is a completely white palate it creates a quiet and modern space that is easy to visually manipulate and to be within.  However, to avoid a “white box” effect I had rich architectural details layered throughout and then painted out in my singular colour, giving the walls a subtle play of texture, interest and light.  This is a HUGE change from my NYC home where it’s the polar opposite.

(See the Elle Décor feature produced by Cynthia on Lisa Pomerantz that corresponds to this modern white envelope concept)

Elle Decor Lisa Pomerantz 2

Q. Obviously your collections (Antique furniture, Artwork) are important to you. Can you talk about how you find, source and select your pieces? Do you hunt them down yourself?

C.F. I am a strong believer in Impulse… finding the perfect chair/piece/Artwork is an impulsive act that naturally happens.  You can’t hunt for that piece, it will find you.  As well, I love lighting and am always captivated by new designs.  Local artisans are always a great place to start looking for unique pieces.  I love to find new and upcoming Artists and Craftspeople and support them to my best abilities.

(See the ELLE Décor feature produced by Cynthia on the home of Designer Alidad’s London home showing a robust display of Art/Collections)

Elle Decor Ivanka-trump

Q. I love that you collaborated with Interior Designers for your home rather than simply tackling it yourself.  Can you explain why you worked with the Timothy Haynes & Kevin Roberts on this project?

C.F. They (Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts) were a joy to bounce ideas off and I adore their work process.  I give Tim and Kevin a huge amount of credit for the re-imaging of the physical space and the creation of the architectural envelope… the doors and the additional moulding that was so necessary in giving the space depth and a Parisian sensibility. They are geniuses to put it simply. I also love that they are Francophiles and understand the importance of functionality married with style.  Being a dog lover it was important to have a space that cold properly function AS a cottage/getaway.

(See the Elle Décor feature produced by Cynthia on a Hamptons home designed by Timothy Haynes and Kevin Roberts)   ALSO featured on our website HERE.

ELLE DECOR Haynes-Roberts design Living Room

Q. What three elements do you think are critical regarding the envelope of the interior space a homeowner needs to address/take into consideration before you style a room?

C.F.  I LOVE to incorporate elements that play up the best features of a space but at the same time add a visual tension.  Often it is the opposite of a space that is required within it, but most of all how do you add Passion to your home.  Passion for life spills over into your home (or at least it should).

Elle Decor Claiborne-swanson-frank

Q.  What interior design elements are a MUST have when you furnish a room?

C.F.  First off… comfort is essential.  As well, usability… you can have the most gorgeous elements, antiques or Art, but they can NOT be roped off.  Everything must be livable, tactile and approachable.   Your home should be chic and sexy (I could NOT agree more about this point) but always with a basis of comfort.   Lamps and lighting are VERY important to me in a space.  I love to use lighting that makes a visual statement.

Elle Decor Puech

Q.  Out of your myriad of Elle Décor features you’ve produced, which ones are your absolute favourite and why?

C.F.  To be honest, I have enjoyed and loved all the homes I have produced for Elle Décor equally, just for different reasons.  If I HAD to pick only 3 I would choose the brilliant Clairborne Swanson Frank, Aerin Lauder (who utterly impressed me with her eye for details and singular vision ) and the stunning home of Laurent and Renaud Momméja.

Elle Decor Aeron LAUDER

We asked Cynthia Frank for some of her styling and designing tips when it comes to using patterns, fabrics, colours and textures:

  • Stripes, toiles and chinoiserie patterns all lend themselves to multiple uses, without overwhelming a room.  By layering them you make a traditional item more modern and fresh.
  • Stacks of books and woven baskets filled with magazines/books provide additional layers of colour and life.
  • A ticking stripe has a classic, vintage feel that’s easy to coordinate, doesn’t overwhelm a room and subtly highlights the verticality of a space.
  • The repetition of a geometric pattern in the rub can be complemented with
  • A single wall decorated with an embossed or vivid wallpaper stands out much more dramatically than an entire room decorated with the same wallpaper.  Use it as a feature or focus.
  • ALWAYS consider the symmetry and balance of your room and the visual weight your colours and patterns create.

To see the full range of Cynthia’s finds visit Elle Decor.