“I’m inspired by anything that shows the mark of time.” Fernando Santangelo
Mr. Santangelo moved to New York City in 1982, and continued his art studies. He also began work for restaurateur and night-life impresario, Eric Goode. Through the eighties, Mr. Santangelo created a remarkable series of ever-more-elaborate art installations and temporary decors for Mr. Goode’s popular clubs, such as FEZ and M.K. The exuberant wit of these strangely evocative interiors caught the eye of Andre Balazs, who hired Mr. Santangelo to give a historically-sensitive modernization to the Chateau Marmont Hotel, a 1920’s landmark and Loire Valley fantasy on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The renovated “Chateau” enjoyed tremendous acclaim, thereby creating a new vogue for smaller, boutique hotels, and emboldening Mr. Santangelo to open his own interior design firm in 1995.
Since then, Fernando Santangelo Interiors has done commercial real estate jobs such as The Raleigh Hotel in Miami’s South Beach, and the Lehmann-Maupin Art Gallery in New York City. Residential projects include the interiors for Mr. Balazs’s loft apartment in Manhattan, as well as his weekend houses in upstate New York, and Shelter Island. Mr. Santangelo painstakingly updated a 1940 Manhattan townhouse originally designed by William Edmond Lescaze (a pioneer of American modernism) for socialite and philanthropist Sandy Hill, as well as her other houses in Los Olivos, California, St. Thomas, and Alamos, Mexico. Most recently, he’s completed the New York City apartment and weekend home of Bette Midler, as well as a transformative renovation of McCarren Hotel & Pool.
THC: What inspires you and why?
Fernando: I’m inspired by anything that shows the “mark of time”. Like the wear on a step, or a spot on the floor where somebody worked often, a repair to a wall, or an addition on a building. This transports me in time to the moment when it happened. It is the one thing that keeps me interested in all things human made.
THC: How did you get into your business?
Fernando: I was making art when I met Andre Balazs. I had just visited the Chateau Marmont and showed Andre an old book of the interiors of gentlemen rooms from Germany in the 1920’s. I thought it would be perfect, but was not really pitching to get a job. Then Andre gave me a great break asking me to start decorating the lobby of the hotel.
THC: What are you working on right now?
Fernando: The apartment that belonged to Bette Davis in Hollywood, a hotel expansion in Costa Rica of the Harmony Hotel, a townhouse in Brooklyn, a line of lighting and a line of decorative grills.
THC: How do you see your space evolving?
Fernando: I will be moving to a new office and just moved to a new apartment. I see them as time pieces of the old New York I saw when I came here in the 80’s. It was a more poetic time.
THC: Who’s your hero or icon?
Fernando: Carlo Scarpa and I equally admire Eileen Gray.
THC: Where’s your favourite spot around the world?
Fernando: Rome because they haven’t ruined it with ugly towers.
THC: What’s your favourite injection of culture into a brand?
Fernando: The right group of creative people on board.