We all know the fashion world and the interiors world have major points of overlap. So we jumped at the chance to see Benz’s creative process firsthand. From the moment we walked into his NYC work space, it was abundantly clear that Benz brings the same carefree and unexpected vision to his decor stylings that he does to his incredible collections (no wonder fans include everyone from Michelle Obama to Elettra Wiedemann). Benz was sweet enough to let us pepper him with questions and spend the afternoon snooping around his inspiring space.
Find out why he decided to put a living room right in the middle of his studio and what the home of the ultimate Chris Benz woman looks like.
Your showroom has a total living room thing going on. Why did you decide to set it up that way?
“I really wanted the space to feel like my apartment, since I’ve never understood the separation of ‘life’ and ‘work.’ We use this space for meetings, if one of the girls needs to take a disco nap, or just as a new place in the office to set up with your laptop.”
Any favorite spots for sourcing furniture and accessories for the office?
“I’m always on the lookout, whether it’s online or in my international travels. I always have my eyes wide open.”
We couldn’t help but notice the Social Registers. Are those a nod to your preppy side?
“I am my mother’s son… ha! Of course it speaks to my propensity to add a Brooks Brothers navy blazer into everyone’s wardrobe, but it’s the order and legacy of it, I suppose, that fascinates me the most. Plus, I like to see what the names of people’s boats are.”
Was the yellow vignette sourced by design, or was it just a happy accident?
“Nothing is an accident. In the collection we are particularly fond of a ‘dyed to match’ look, and this sort of breeds itself naturally into my interior aesthetic as well.”
Is there a story behind the huge display of antique tools?
“They are in fact dies (molds) from the turn of the century for fabric flowers. Although somewhat antiquated in terms of what’s available now technologically, they make for quite a unique interiors statement piece.”
What types of books do you like to keep on hand in your office? Any favorites you find yourself turning to again and again?
“I’ve recently been on a tear for all of the 1970s Architectural Digest books featuring everything from contemporary apartments to country houses. And, as always, Slim Aarons’s books are always top of the stack.”
Your wall of inspiration is incredible. How does that factor into your design process?
“It’s the first chapter in the process and evolves in real-time with the collection. Some items we’ll love one week and rip off the next. It’s essentially our design cardinal point.”
What have you been tacking up lately?
“Our most recent additions have been some notes taken from Edith Beale’s journal, 1920s woodblock wallpaper, and a picture of a banged-up, banana-yellow Mercedes-Benz.”
How did you decide what made it onto the gallery wall?
“It’s really the story of the brand and our relationships over time—from the photograph of my father in the ’70s in front of his Corvette to paintings from friends to some of our favorite leading ladies in CB, punctuated by vintage prints.”
How would you describe the overall vibe of your showroom?
“Vintage, eclectic, and collaborative in design. For instance, if one of the Team CB members wants to put up a painting on the great wall, somehow it inevitably just works. We all share a bit of the same brain and organic aesthetic.”
How does the look of your showroom compare with that of your home?
“They are essentially one and the same, give or take two pattern-making tables and the claw-foot tub.”
What would the home of the ultimate Chris Benz girl look like?
“The Chris Benz girl has always been that artsy, carefree girl with effortless style. I would imagine her home would look a lot like mine, but maybe with some unpaid bills stashed under the bed and a smaller television.”
(Photography by Jennifer Causey)