No matter your design sensibility—whether you’re a modernist or a classicist, a globe-trotter, minimalist, or traditionalist—there’s something to be said for having a strong point of view. Perhaps no one knows this better than a designer, someone who helps clients hone their preferences into a coherent expression of personal style. But what defines each archetypal aesthetic? We reached out to AD100designers and architects for their takes on great design and how it can shape the spaces we inhabit. Kelly Wearstler’s definition of iconoclast dares you to try something new, while Alexa Hampton’s classicist makes you want to grab the nearest ruler and measure the proportions of everything you own. On the other hand, Vicente Wolf makes a wonderful case for using your passport and opening your eyes to inspiration—a hallmark of any true globe-trotter. Whichever style defines you, read on for great design wisdom from some of the best of the best.


“Whether spare or elaborate, harmonious moldings are the mark of a successful classical interior.”

— Peter Pennoyer

THE CLASSICIST“At heart, I’m a classicist: passionate about antiques, devoted to the principles of order, symmetry, and balance.” —Ellie Cullman

THE CLASSICIST“Proper proportions, grounded compositions, and identifiably correct details make me feel rooted in time, place, and culture, but they also free me up to dive into decorative flights of fancy.” —Alexa Hampton

THE CLASSICIST“There is a real sense of perfection of scale in the neoclassical period. When mastered, it becomes easy to adapt to any kind of style.” —Jean-Louis Deniot

THE CLASSICIST“Classicism is about remembering instead of forgetting. I’m interested in making the old new and seeing what is modern in historical things.” —Thomas O’Brien

THE TRADITIONALIST“I love creating rooms that are layered, cozy, and familiar—filled with deep overstuffed sofas, venerable brown furniture, a friendly mix of patterns, colors, collections, and paintings, and carpets that look better with age.” —Richard Keith Langham

THE TRADITIONALIST“It has to be a subtle, un-strident mix, and the key, of course, is getting the personality of both house and those living in it right.” —Nicky Haslam

THE TRADITIONALIST“The best traditional houses are anchored by a low-key sophistication—elegance and refinement balanced by understatement and an abundance of comfort.” —Gil Schafer

THE TRADITIONALIST“A combination of texture, soft patinas, warm woods, and old stone mixed with down-filled furniture, graphic textiles, and ceramics creates spaces that are easy, comfortable, and warm.” —Mark Cunningham

THE TRADITIONALIST“Integrating reclaimed materials into the architecture—among them, wood or stone flooring, rough-hewn beams, and parged walls—creates a very engaging and tactile environment.” —Darryl Carter

THE ICONOCLAST“Being an iconoclast is a state of mind and heart. It’s having a free spirit, finding inspiration everywhere, and not minding rules. It’s appreciating the raw and natural, finding beauty in anomalies.” —Kelly Wearstler

THE ICONOCLAST“In the case of not obeying the rules of design, something becomes incredibly personal. It becomes your own, and it becomes also something that nobody else shares because it’s your own eye.” —Robert Couturie
“Yves Saint Laurent’s fantastically eclectic rue de Babylone residence inspires me for all those überchic clients of ours today who follow their own paths and make their own rules.” —Jamie DrakeTHE ICONOCLAST
THE ICONOCLAST“An iconoclast has vision. They mix things up and make you see things in a fresh way. They also often have a wicked sense of humor, which makes them so fun to sit next to at dinner.” —Miles Redd

THE ICONOCLAST“It’s the antithesis of ‘decor’ and the opposite of ‘designed.’ It’s full of personality and comfort. It’s collecting and layering to create a style entirely one’s own.” —Roman Alonso

THE ICONOCLAST“Tonal and subtle color combinations allow us to mix furniture and pieces from different eras together to create a cohesive narrative.” —Rafael de Cárdenas

THE GLOBE-TROTTER“From the primitive crafts I discover to the changing colors of the sand dunes of Namibia as the day progresses, the constant awareness while traveling brings more depth and a broader color palette to design.” —Vicente Wolf

THE GLOBE-TROTTER“To design for a globe-trotting client is always an exciting adventure. I love to use vintage ikats from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. And exotic tiles always add an air of fantasy to a space.” —Martyn Lawrence Bullard

THE GLOBE-TROTTER“We’ve found that bringing back objects from travels can add an almost totemic resonance to a space, invoking a different perspective and recalling that nomadic state of mind.” —Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch

THE GLOBE-TROTTER“First and foremost, travel to exotic places informs me as a designer as to pattern, color, and texture usually expressed in local crafts. It’s wonderful to work with the traditional artisans to produce a design element, then use it in a modern way.” —Richard Mishaan

THE MINIMALIST“Another word for minimalism is ‘elegance.’ Elegance is beautifully resolving an issue with minimal means.” —Tom Kundig

THE MINIMALIST“Minimalist design is deceptively complicated. Those clean lines and unbroken planes don’t come easily. Cornices, moldings, trim, and the like were invented to hide construction imperfections.” —Russell S. Groves

THE MINIMALIST“Minimalists can answer the what, where, and why for everything they own. It’s designing to allow the art, the books, the view, the people—whatever matters most to the inhabitant—to be the soul of the space.” —Deborah Berke

THE MINIMALIST“I like to try to achieve a calm serenity in my work. I want to create interiors that allow furniture, art, and, of course, architecture space to breathe—but there must always be a warmth in the atmosphere.” —Rose Uniacke

THE MODERNIST“I think my unrelenting drive for order is what makes me a modernist. It’s about creating an atmosphere with an economy of means and allowing anything extra or unnecessary to fall by the wayside.” —Thad Hayes

THE MODERNIST“The basis of being a modernist and designing for one is clarity. Achieving the latter requires distilling an idea to its elements, and then carefully calibrating proportion, light, and materiality to most honestly reflect the way the client wants to live.” —Ron Radziner

THE MODERNIST“True modernism always appears effortless but can only truly be achieved by exercising the utmost discipline.” —Waldo Fernandez

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