Few designers have married purpose and passion as successfully as James “Ford” Huniford. In 2004, the New York–based decorator founded Design on a Dime, the hugely popular annual fundraiser for Housing Works, the nonprofit fighting AIDS and homelessness. As an ELLE Decor A-List designer, he is known for mixing found objects with antique and contemporary pieces as well as for his emphasis on sustainability—a sensibility that is captured in his new book James Huniford: At Home, published by the Monacelli Press.
The book, Huniford’s first, takes a thematic approach. Huniford presents his work by examining such topics as how to approach a room and achieve scale and proportion, all while showcasing homes that range from city to country, from East Coast to West.
“I hope the book will help people look at an interior and think about mixing and matching,” Huniford tells ELLE Decor. “Or evaluating what they might think are their problems with a room and being able to resolve that.”
One theme that stretches across all of Huniford’s work is his surprising use of materials. Like the factory molds that are mounted on the wall of Huniford’s own Bridgehampton, New York, kitchen, his focus on reuse and rediscovery creates delight and disruption in equal measure. Huniford says he is inspired by the work of artists like Richard Serra, who force the viewer to appreciate shape, color, and texture in new ways. A Huniford room might display wooden rings that were meant for hoopskirts as art; might turn tree trunks into tables, as in the Westchester County, New York, cottage of Josh Lehrer and Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller; or might feature a ship’s ladder as a design element.
The trick to making found objects work as decor? Using color as a unifying canvas. Huniford is drawn to warm whites with a hint of celery or a shade of blue in them.
By finding new uses for old things, Huniford says he is creating an opportunity for conversation. “When you work with objects that are reinvented, there’s just a lot more freedom,” Huniford says. “There’s a playfulness and also a point of dialogue.”
At Home is a testament to Huniford’s vision—one that reveals his creativity and imagination, and one that pushes both his clients and his readers to rethink the possibilities of what design can be.
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