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How Travel Inspires Top Interior Designer Joy Moyler

As she tells it, a trip to Spain at the age of 14 ignited her passion for design.


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In the hills of Los Angeles, two designers inhabit a modern bohemia.

“I don’t have a true design style,” Joy Moyler, founder of the eponymous design firm Joy Moyler Interiors, told me during our recent transcontinental Zoom call. “It’s ever-changing, because why do one thing? I don’t want to be known for doing one thing. Because I believe if you’re a designer, you don’t stay stuck in one world.”

Clearly, Moyler is onto something. As one of America’s leading interior designers, she has collected awards and accolades and worked with high-profile clients like Leonardo DiCaprio, John Mayer, and Adrian Brody, jet setting to her ultra-wealthy clients’ residences, and visiting artisan ateliers in Europe. At least, she did before the pandemic. “I’m itching like crazy to jump on a plane and go somewhere,” she said. “Design is my passion wherever that takes me.”

As Moyler tells is, her passion for design was born on a trip to Spain at the age of 14, where she was blown away by the country’s architecture—especially that of Antoni Gaudí—and realized architecture and design was her calling. “I knew that it was something I needed to do with my life, to be surrounded by that degree of beauty,” she recalled. A native New Yorker, Moyler had a culturally rich upbringing. Growing up, weekend rituals included sampling world cuisines, visiting the Natural History Museum, and listening to jazz at home when her parents’ musician friends would stop by and play.

She studied architecture at the New York Institute of Technology and worked on the Home section of the New York Times during her last two years of college. But it wasn’t until she started working at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill that she had the opportunity to work on interior design projects and realized that was her path. “Originally when I went to SOM, I was purely just architecturally minded, but when financial disaster struck and the architectural projects were put on hold, I was asked if I wanted to participate in some of the interiors projects,” she explained. “I loved that because I always loved textiles and decorative arts, so it was a wonderful opportunity to enter that world.”

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After leaving SOM, Moyler worked for a number of big-name firms, but two of her most formative experiences were Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani. She spent seven years designing flagship stores for Ralph Lauren, an experience she describes as “exhilarating,” but ultimately she wanted to work on more residential projects. She got that opportunity at Armani, where she was U.S. head designer of the Giorgio Armani Interior Design Studio. That’s when she met Leonardo DiCaprio, who brought her to the premiere of Shutter Island and had her design his residences in New York and Los Angeles.

“I love the juxtaposition of working with architecture, interior design, and fashion because they’re my three big loves, other than my husband of course,” Moyler gushed. “To me one doesn’t exist without the other. Fashion is a lifestyle, your home is your lifestyle, architecture is your lifestyle. They all essentially represent who you are at your best self, visually anyway.”

She might very well have stayed at Armani if it wasn’t for her client Angelo Moratti, scion of one of Italy’s biggest oil companies, who encouraged her to start her own firm. Her design for his English country house was the star of a big, splashy feature in the January 2021 issue of Architectural Digest, which just inducted her into its AD100 list of the top 100 designers in the world. She’s currently working on Moratti’s Portofino residence, which will be much more contemporary in style.

“I think my clients come to me because they know I’m not married to one style,” she said. “If I’m working on something in London, it’s going to have references to London, but all my clients are so exceptionally well-traveled, there will always be elements from their travels in the project.”

Moyler approaches each new project from the architecture and asks her clients what pieces they want to display in their home. Her clients know that she appreciates the pieces they’ve collected, whether they’re family heirlooms or newly acquired from a recent trip. “I always listen to them—that’s the most important thing. I’m not dogmatic in my approach,” she said.

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Worldly and gregarious, Moyler enjoys educating her clients and often takes them on shopping trips to meet antiques dealers, shopkeepers, and artisans. One of her favorite places to take clients is Zuber, which makes exquisite hand-blocked wallpapers. “I think it’s important that they understand the face behind a particular brand, that they have an opportunity to talk to the shopkeepers, so they know where their money is going and they understand that their money is supporting a family somewhere,” she explained. “It isn’t just, oh let’s buy this chair for the heck of it. It’s because there’s quality involved.”

Lately, despite not being able to travel, Moyler has been busier than ever. In addition to her ongoing interior design projects, she offers 25- or 55-minute consultations on the Expert, a new platform that lets people book one-on-one consultations with in-demand designers, writes a monthly column for Veranda, and hosts ‘High Tea with Joy’ videos on her Instagram account. She also launched Joy Moyler Atelier, a collection of bone china tableware with designs inspired by the architecture surrounding Central Park. “I’m doing my best to say yes now to more things,” Moyler said. “I just don’t want to be stopped by any limitations.”

She needn’t worry—if her current trajectory is any indication, Moyler is unstoppable.


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