David Rockwell talks personal taste: Part One

The architect and designer counts Nobu restaurants, Edition hotels and London’s iconic Battersea Power Station among his clients. He is also a Tony Award-nominated set designer

David Rockwell at his New York Office
David Rockwell at his New York Office | Image: Circe Hamilton

My personal style signifiers are casual James Perse T-shirts in charcoal, black and light grey, Levi’s and suede New Balance trainers. For smarter occasions, I’ll wear slim-cut, dark-blue Prada shirts and a grey Prada sports coat that works well for meetings with clients. www.jamesperse.com. www.levi.co.uk. www.newbalance.co.uk. www.prada.com.

The last thing I bought and loved was a black nylon field jacket by Burberry. I was recently in Paris for a design show and needed a warm, waterproof layer. It is tailored and practical and I love the way this traditional brand is forever finding ways to stay relevant. £795; www.burberry.com.

A Steinway & Sons grand piano
A Steinway & Sons grand piano | Image: Jo van den Berg

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a Steinway Hamburg grand piano. Every home I have ever lived in has had a piano, including my current flat in Tribeca, where we have an upright Steinway. I love to play and think having music in the house is important for my children. Steinway has an app that lets you visualise a particular piano in your home and the Hamburg Grand would look terrific in our space, though it will require some negotiating with my family. From £31,000; eu.steinway.com. Steinway Augmented Reality ViewAR app; www.itunes.com

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. The sculptural Frank Gehry-designed building is extraordinary – the way it sits on the water, its wonderful mix of glass and steel and beautiful gardens. The Olafur Eliasson exhibition I saw there was reflected in the surrounding pools and made a huge impression. www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr.


A recent “find” is Second Hand Rose, a store in the Flatiron District of Manhattan that specialises in vintage wallpaper. It has  an incredible selection, from florals to geometric patterns and damasks, but it was the papers from the 1930s that really caught my eye. 230 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010 (+1212-393 9002; www.secondhandrose.com).

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Joseph Cornell. I have always been fascinated by his art and find his mini worlds inspirational. I love the density of his pieces, their backstory, and how, when you zoom in, the complexity and architectural qualities just get richer and richer. I’d love to own the Medici Slot Machine and Magic Soap Bubble Set but could happily live with anything by him.

David Rockwell’s Burberry field jacket, £795
David Rockwell’s Burberry field jacket, £795 | Image: Circe Hamilton

The people I rely on for wellness are Peter Anthony, who has been my personal trainer for almost 20 years, and the massage therapists at Mohonk Mountain House near my weekend home in New Paltz. Peter is a trainer-turned-gallerist and we meet five days a week to do cardio, lift weights and talk about art. Mohonk’s massages include Swedish techniques, Thai stretches, even power naps; my week’s stress disappears after a 90-minute session. Mohonk Mountain House, 1000 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz, NY 12561 (+1855-883 3798; www.mohonk.com). Peter Anthony Fitness, 89 Franklin Street, New York, NY 10013 (+1212-274 9003; www.peteranthonyfitness.com).   

The best gift I’ve given recently was a midcentury bronze candelabra that I bought for a friend who works in lighting design. It’s a slightly brutalist, sculptural piece that holds the candles at varying heights so each casts a beautiful glow. Weinberg Modern, New York Design Center, 200 Lexington Avenue, Suite 407, New York, NY 10016 (+1646-291 2059; www.weinbergmodern.com).

David Rockwell’s photograph of his mother as a vaudeville dancer
David Rockwell’s photograph of his mother as a vaudeville dancer | Image: Circe Hamilton

And the best ones I’ve received were a fabulous ikat bolster pillow from Suzanne and Christopher Sharp of The Rug Company, who I worked with recently, and a kaleidoscope that contains beautiful little prisms suspended in oil. It’s like a Busby Berkeley movie in a tube.

An object I would never part with is a photograph of my mother as a vaudeville dancer. She died when I was 15, but her love of the theatre has always inspired me.

The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris
The Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris | Image: Iwan Baan

My favourite websites include Food52 for recipes and chic tableware, and The Architect’s Newspaper to keep an eye on new buildings. www.archpaper.com. www.food52.com.


See also