Victoria's Principles

Simple, tailored, cool, and sophisticated

With her slim-fitting trouser suits and free-flowing blond hair, tall and rangy Victoria Hagan invites the same set of adjectives—simple, tailored, cool, and sophisticated—that describe the rooms she has designed during her 15-year career. And now those phrases can be applied equally well to Victoria Hagan Home, a handsome new 26-piece line of furniture that includes club, wing, and side chairs, sofas, dining tables, desks, cabinets, and an enormous coffee table.

"This collection comprises my all-time favorites," says the Manhattan-based decorator. "These are pieces I've designed and used time and time again." They aren't reproductions exactly but inventive riffs on classic predecessors that over the years have had their proportions reconsidered, their scale recalibrated, and their silhouettes redrawn. As Hagan points out, "This line comes out of every interior project I've ever done."

Those projects, commissioned by such clients as novelist John Irving, businessman Ronald Perelman, and director Barry Sonnenfeld, are a free and confident mix of different styles, traditions, and periods. Take a typical vignette from the living room of Hagan's own serene Park Avenue apartment: An ample 19th-century wing chair, slip-covered in putty-and-cream patterned cotton, is drawn up to an angular 1920s French gunmetal-lacquer reading table; a small, spindly brass side chair with a shiny black patent-leather seat by Gio Ponti completes the grouping. Behind it all, on the moody gray wall, hangs a subtle, minimalist painting by Donald Kaufman. What gives this disparate assemblage coherence is Hagan's unifying way with color, texture, pattern, and form. "Putting the different elements together," she says, "is like creating a collage." It's this enviable ability that she refers to as "my point of view."

The 40-year-old designer began developing her point of view as a child in Westchester, New York. "All my early memories are visual," she says, crediting a youthful visit to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello with alerting her to the powerful effect of artfully manipulated mass and space, and particularly to the architectural possibilities of furniture. "That's why I tend to think of furniture sculpturally," she says. In creating her new collection, Hagan has certainly followed this tenet. Most of the pieces in her new line are decidedly sculptural, with strong, clean lines and bold, unfussy shapes that carry sturdy spatial directives. For example, the vast expanse of the coffee table mandates large gatherings, but the club chairs are robust enough to establish a conversational zone in the midst of any hubbub.

"I'm offering the architectural components for creating an interior," Hagan explains, which is not to imply a dictatorial attitude. She intends her "architectural components" to be thoroughly versatile. "I want a lot of different types of people in a lot of different types of homes to be able to use pieces from the line," she says. "And they should work as well in the country as in the city." One way she achieves such versatility is by varying materials and finishes: A side table in mahogany with nickel fittings looks sleekly urban; when made of limed oak with brass fittings, it's exactly right for a rural retreat. And Hagan gives the collection additional layers of flexibility by drawing its design inspiration from a variety of epochs and milieus: With its plain functional lines and barn-door-red lacquer, the little Huxley writing desk is modern and purely American; although similarly clean-limned, the Blake side table, upholstered in velvet and studded with bronze nailheads, is quattrocento and decidedly Venetian. Like the rest of the line, "these pieces have the potential to create completely different environments," she says, "a chameleonlike quality of becoming whatever it is they need to become."

Perhaps it's this insistence on adaptability more than anything that marks Hagan as an American designer. "American culture comes from different parts of the world," she says, "and I think there are influences in my furniture from all of them—France, England, Italy, wherever. But they've been interpreted—made livable and comfortable, like sportswear—and that's very American."


Five Easy Pieces

The Hudson The doors on this multifunctional oak-frame cabinet have faux suede inserts.
The Parker With a 72" diameter, this round dining table will comfortably accommodate up to 12 people.
The Capri The use of nailheads, as in this maple-frame footstool, is a Hagan signature.
The Duplex Redolent of the 1930s, this mahogany-frame side table comes with a lucite or mahogany top.
The Philips Hagan tested extensively to arrive at the optimum seat height—18.5 inches—for this dining chair.

Victoria Hagan Home is at Holly Hunt showrooms nationwide. For information: 800-229-8559; www.hollyhunt.com.