The “Happy” Color Zoë Feldman Was Never Into… Until NowWords by Morgan Goldberg
For Zoë Feldman, taste is like a perfect pitch—either you naturally have it or you don’t.
And while both talents can—and should—be practiced and improved, there’s something about them that can’t be taught. “My dream is to walk on a stage and kill with my voice—but that’s never going to happen,” the D.C.-based interior designer admits. “Style is similar to that. If you are born with this innate sense, you understand its cadence and rhythm.”
Zoë’s intuitive aesthetic, like her ability to balance bold colors and patterns with supporting neutral elements, is why she attracts clients from all over the country. The demand for her incredible eye is so high that she just opened a second office in New York and created a digital Showroom that’s full of her favorite items for everyone to shop. Here, she shares just how she handpicked the selection, what makes a room feel cozy to her, and more.
How I curated my Showroom
Color is a big part of who I am, so I wanted to make sure that I had enough color-forward moments that would feel authentic to me and what I would actually select. But I actually also can be quite simple and neutral, so the collection has that tension between bold pieces and more subdued ones—the canvas pieces that can be participants in the room, but not necessarily the star. I hope it feels timeless. And it was pretty easy to put together because all of The Expert Showroom pieces are so well edited already. You're curating onto curation.
The colors I’m loving right now
I was never really into greens until recently. I think it's because there's a real freshness to them, but they can also feel deep and moody. They have that organic feeling because they reference trees, flowers, and plants. I don't know if it's because we're coming out of COVID and it was such a sad, sad experience, but now I want my spaces to feel a little brighter and happier. Green is this very happy moment for me. I'm also leaning into chocolate browns more.
What makes a room feel cozy
A cozy space has really decadent, fluffy, cushy, somewhat-oversized upholstery. There are not too many hard surfaces or harsh lighting. It has more textures and soft fabrics, but fewer shifts in color. It's got a bit of a jewel box feeling to it, so the walls, the trim, and the ceiling have a similar hue, as well as the upholstery. To me, it’s a more monochromatic experience.
How I mix textures
I try to create a cadence and a rhythm, so that the textures aren't all flat like a cotton velvet. I like to mix boucle, linen, and mohair so that you're getting variation. It’s mostly about having enough flat fabrics with woven or nubby textiles in the same space.
The first thing I do when I design a room
I’m in collaboration with the clients from day one, so I have to get to know them. I give them this really extensive and fun questionnaire where they look at imagery and give me feedback on it. Then, I move into concept development, where I begin to translate their responses, figuring out who they are and how I infuse my style into it. I create a lookbook and hopefully they get excited about certain moments, and then we just begin to develop from there.
My go-to brands
I’m very loyal to brands. I use VanCollier a lot. They do beautiful small tables that I use often because I mostly work in townhouses and apartments that don’t have quite enough space for, say, Restoration Hardware-size pieces. I need these little, small-scale accents. I use a lot of In Common With. I’m really loving their Murano glass lights in different colors. I really like Lawson-Fenning. They do beautiful, classic-but-modern staple pieces. I also love Schumacher because they will paper-back any of their fabrics. They have beautiful stripes and patterns and they make it really easy. I love Nordic Knots. They're very affordable and even their solid rugs have this great undulation and texture.
How my Showroom helps my consultations
I don't do a ton of shopping anymore. I do a lot more editing in my own firm because I'm lucky to have all these beautiful, wonderful designers who help me. I generally know what's going on, but I don't always have my finger on the pulse, so having a space where I know everything is beautiful and could potentially work will help with the time management of the entire experience and allow me to provide better products. Even if an item isn’t an exact fit, the clients can get an idea of what I’m going for.
What I love to recommend to clients
I found this really cool patent leather trim from Holly Hunt that I’ve started using and I’m pretty stoked about it. I haven't used a lot of patent leather in my designs, but I think it’s the new move. I love leather, I love vegan leather. So patent leather is next. It gives furniture a high gloss moment.
A no-fail element that every space needs
I typically like to have a mid-century modern moment. It helps to make spaces feel more relevant. Even if I’m working in a more traditional world, there's a cool vintage piece that makes it feel a little more chic and modern. Vintage items always give a little bit of soul.
What I buy vintage versus what I specify new
I go hard on vintage. If someone were to challenge me to design an entire house in all vintage, I would have no problem. But when it comes to seating—especially well-used pieces like your favorite sofa in your television room—I typically have to replace the fill and reupholster. Sometimes it just doesn't make quite as much sense to buy vintage because you have to put a lot of money into the product. Big upholstery pieces would be my first and simplest move towards something new.
Why I love The Expert Vintage
I’m very committed to trying to help keep the earth as healthy as possible. And one of the ways I do that is through vintage pieces. The Expert Vintage is just such a highly curated experience. It's fairly similar to how I approach vintage, where the pieces tend to have these exceptional moments about them, whether they've been reupholstered in an interesting color, or their form is sculptural, or they have an applique that makes it unique and soulful.
I feel that The Expert does this very well, both in how they edit and select vintage pieces that are just naturally interesting, like a Danish chair, and then reupholster it in something unique, whether it's a bold color or a pattern or a fun piping detail.
My secrets for a well-layered room
All good design is incredibly edited and curated. Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” As you're layering, each time you add something, you should lean back and remove another so it never gets too cluttered. For every shelf or surface, you want to find your star and then build around that.
My go-to finishing touches
I have a major problem with matching art to rooms. I won't do it. I come from an art background and it was just drilled into me that you should never do that. So unless the clients have existing art, I tend to do art last so that the room feels a little bit less built around the art. I always style last, too. I want to leave room for unexpected moments with both art and decorative objects. I don't want it to be so thought through that it feels forced. I always want my spaces to feel lived-in, personal, evolved, and collected. I don't want them to feel like they can't be touched.
I just opened an office in New York City and I’m launching a line of lighting in January.