Emily Ward and Louisa Pierce—the self-taught design duo behind Pierce & Ward, which has created lustworthy interiors for A-listers ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Hudson to Emma Roberts and Dakota Johnson—first met in the basement of a now defunct East Village bar in 2012 and instantly bonded over their shared love of whimsical design and, of course, cocktails.
Fast forward to 2020 and the introduction of their debut interior design tome A Tale of Interiors, out September 22 from Rizzoli, reads, “Little did they know that soon their last names would be connected with an elegant ampersand and on the lips of superstars and supermodels, printed on crisp card stock and in glossy magazines, and stitched onto fringed down pillows of their own design.”
Their book is a peek into the process behind creating the whimsical-yet-comfortable interiors that have captivated their A-List clients. Think thoughtful advice with actionable tips, a peek behind the curtain—velvet, no doubt—at their design process, and an abundance of inspirational imagery.
The book lead readers through a fairytale of well-lit interiors with powder rooms lined in moody floral wallpaper, cozy corners featuring sunken sectionals hidden beneath mounds of pillows covered in vintage textiles and entryway tabletops covered in trinkets and books with favorite pages earmarked. In fact, the tome has aptly been described as an “ode to the art of more.”
Pierce & Ward’s livable and layered spaces aim to feel, Pierce says, “like someone with really impeccable taste lives there but not like they hired a designer to achieve that effect.”
So, how do they create their signature collected and curated aesthetic? The pair rely on what they have dubbed “treasure hunting,” a process of sourcing unique items in unexpected places like thrift shops, estate sales and discount stores.
Here, the duo shares some of their favorite treasure hunting tricks of the trade.
Favorite places to shop?
Pierce: I love the brass swan-shaped faucets we found for Karen Elson. They were $175 on eBay.
Ward: My best-ever is a late-1800s antique carved-lion chair that Louisa found for me. It is still to this day my favorite thing in my house.
What to look for?
Pierce: Look for sturdy craftsmanship, drawers that slide easily, chairs and tables whose joints hold strong even when you give them a wiggle.
Ward: Seek out interesting lines and small details that make things special.
What’s not worth buying vintage?
Ward: If a dining chair is wonky, it’s not worth it. Trust me, I just bought one, and I want to light it on fire. Vintage dining chairs are the hardest to source.
How can you make something old feel new again?
Pierce: We have taken antique lace curtains from Spain and turned them into Roman Shades and have also dipped a gothic black wrought-iron banister in unlacquered brass to add glamour.
Ward: We love painting old dressers and side tables a creamy olive or a warm coral or gold to turn them into statement pieces. And you can always get a vintage lamp rewired. A beautiful, well-made shade can make a ten-dollar brass lamp look high class.
Things you always look for?
Ward: Anything looks instantly better when you put an antique rug in the room. We worked with a client whose home had Gothic-style, dark Spanish furniture, and we wanted to make sure the space still felt light and airy. We bridged the gap through rugs, which tied everything together.
Pierce: Keep an eye out for things made of earthy materials, like woven wooden baskets, homemade clay pottery, brass candlesticks, and carved ivory figurines. They bring warmth and ground a space.
Easiest way to update a room?
Pierce: Switch out the hardware.
Ward: Dye curtains another color or paint.
Top paint colors?
Retreat by Sherwin-Williams
Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore
Manchester Tan by Benjamin Moore
Nutmeg by Benjamin Moore
Your best design advice?
Ward: Think of interior design as a process but never overthink it. The reason a home ends up looking good is because people buy what they love.
Pierce: Buy what you are drawn to, and the rest will fall into place.
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