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Miles Redd’s Small-Space Design Trick? Kiss the Ceiling

Words by Morgan Goldberg
a bedroom with a canopy bed and a green bench

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

Miles Redd knows there’s nothing new under the sun.

That’s why the New York City-based interior designer is constantly sifting through history for inspiration—and putting his spin on it. “I'm always looking to the greats from the past, taking their ideas and lessons, then pushing them through my own lens,” he explains. “I often look backward to look forward.”

The Expert doesn’t have to look past his personal resume to find legendary names. He worked for antiques dealer John Rosselli and decorator Bunny Williams before spending a decade as the creative director for Oscar de la Renta Home, from 2003 to 2013. “Those were all pinch-me moments because I knew I would learn so much,” he remembers.

In the ten years following his departure from the famed fashion house, Miles has developed his signature more-is-more aesthetic through his interior design studio, Redd Kaihoi. His eye-catching work has graced the pages of Vogue, Elle Décor, and Architectural Digest (where he appears on the illustrious AD100 list), to name a few. Here, he shares some of the secrets behind his success, from his best small-space design trick to the no-fail piece everyone needs.

a bedroom with a bed, desk, and chair in it

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

The first thing I do when I design a room

I figure out the floors and the walls. They are the roadmap for everything else. If you get the floors and walls right—if they flow together and relate—you have the outline of the bigger puzzle. Then, it gets easier to fill in the rest of the pieces.

If my design style was a fashion icon, it would be

I very much respond to the rooms of Coco Chanel. I love nothing more than an elegant lady in a rigorously cut black or ivory bouclé suit standing in a very elaborate room. But at the end of the day, I am probably Zara, which I love because they imitate high fashion for everyone and I like to spread the chic around.

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

I’m dying for a client to request

A stylish, minimalist room in white. While I love color and mixing patterns and textures, I've done it for years and years, so there is this part of me that's longing for white minimalism. White is one of my favorite colors in the whole world.

The architectural era that inspires me most

The 1930s for the streamlined elan and the 18th century for the madness and quality.

a four poster bed in a bedroom with a table and chairs

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

My best small-space design trick

Something that kisses the ceiling. In small spaces, people think they've got to go small, but something large within the room will really expand the space. I always think of this tiny bedroom by Valentino that had a canopy bed one inch from the ceiling. It could barely fit and it made the room so much bigger. I also like to put in something of scale, like a large piece of artwork or a tall sculpture.

What makes a room feel cozy every time

Plants. Every room needs a living thing in it to make it sing. It just is a game changer. It could literally be a leaf in a bottle or a fern from Whole Foods, but it just brings life and breathes freshness into any space.

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

The most underrated material I love to use

Formica. It’s one of those sixties or seventies materials that comes in a million beautiful colors. It’s shiny, it’s hard, it’s resistant to wear and tear. I use it a lot in bars and kitchens. My own kitchen in my office is all pale blue Formica. I trim it out in metal so that you don't see any of the seams. With a little nickel or brass edge, it suddenly becomes this almost lacquer-like surface. It's just taking an old material and making it snappy and new for today.

A no-fail piece that everyone needs

A large rush basket. I love high-low. I go high a lot of the time, but high can be intimidating. It can make people feel not relaxed. A straw basket takes the edge off of the gilt, if you will. It's the contrast of disparate elements, that tension that makes decorating exciting. Even if you have a more casual interior, straw baskets work for firewood, towels, or tennis shoes. They’re inexpensive and they add a lot of style.

a living room filled with lots of furniture

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

What I always buy vintage

Art. I like art that's being sold at auctions and estate sales and places where people are just getting rid of stuff. You get treasures for reasonable amounts of money. That’s always thrilling.

My biggest architectural pet peeve

Overdone mailboxes and bad garage doors. I like a discreet mailbox myself. Big elaborate mailboxes always look sort of tacky. Whereas garage doors are an opportunity to make something cool. I often see people opting for something ugly and utilitarian, but why do that when you can create something interesting?

a bedroom with a bed and a painting on the wall

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

The colors I’m loving right now

Black and white; pale pink and pale blue; chocolate brown; peony pink, daffodil yellow, and lettuce green.

Where I splurge versus where I save

I love value engineering everything. I like to save on fabric costs because there are so many beautiful inexpensive fabrics, but I do love a very expensive fabric on a small pillow in the same room, so there is always a bit of push and pull. Desire is the biggest splurge propeller for me. Sometimes I see something—a rock crystal clock, a bronze head, or a charcoal drawing—and I just must go for it.

a bedroom with a four poster bed and a couch

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

The last thing I bought for my home

A modernist bronze bull. It looks vaguely Picasso, vaguely Giacometti. It spoke to me. I'm a little bit bullheaded when it comes to seeing a vision through. There are a lot of obstacles in decorating. It can be cost, labor, timing... You have to always be thinking on your feet to get everything to come together. A big part of the job is problem-solving efficiently. So the bull is representative of me in a way, but I also loved it for its lines and references.

The hotel that represents ultimate luxury to me

The Ritz in Paris. It’s the name more than anything. It just sounds luxurious and it is: the history, the Place Vendôme, the awnings... Chanel lived there. Winston Churchill lived there during the war. Pamela Harriman died swimming in the pool. Kate Moss had her 40th birthday party there. The breakfast is delicious. They pipe music underground in the pool. There's something iconic about it. I don't like too much fuss with my luxury. The Ritz does that very well.

a living room filled with furniture next to a window

Photography by Noe Dewitt; Design by Miles Redd

At home, you’ll most often find me

In the bath, luxuriating.

What’s next

Personally, it’s time for an edit and refresh, to sell most everything and start anew, which is so good for the creative juices, but hard to do if you are sentimental.

a man in a blue shirt and khaki pants standing in a doorway

Photography by Peter Murdock

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