While attending the New York School of Interior Design, designer Chris Coggins embarked on an independent project: review 40 famous houses in 40 days. “I visited significant homes all along the East Coast,” says Coggins, “so I experienced a full range of styles.” But it was Biltmore, the Gilded Age estate in Asheville, North Carolina, that had the most lasting effect on him—with its dark furniture, hunting trophies and a sense of elegance and comfort.
It’s a style that’s inspired his own store, Linden Lane Interiors, which he opened in early 2016 on West Main Street.
We asked him to tell us about his house, other ways he finds inspiration and his favorite finds.
Resides in: Madison, Virginia, and Southampton, New York
Antique or modern? I have a deep affection for the artisanship of antiques, particularly English and French. But I do enjoy an eclectic mix of transitional, while showcasing one or two fine pieces of antique furniture or art.
Which colors do you gravitate toward? Each project is unique. For clients, I enjoy using neutrals for versatility with punches of color in the accent pieces. By doing so, in the future we can give a room a new personality with just a few changes.
Does your home look like the one you grew up in? No, but I have been fortunate to live in a variety of styles of homes. Whether it was a D.C. brownstone, a Federal rowhouse, ranch, modern, a New York City apartment or, like this, an 1850s farmhouse. Each one has its own character.
What’s one thing that can really transform a room? Nothing can change the feel of a room as quickly (and inexpensively) as a fresh coat of paint—and if the client’s budget allows, spring for a textured wallpaper. It really can add warmth to the walls.
Favorite designer? Jamie Drake for his affectionate use of color; Alexa Hampton for her sense of balance; and, probably the most impactful, Charlotte Moss. I remember once having a conversation with her [at the New York School of Interior Design] where I was complimenting her for a small detail from a showhouse a year or two before. She said, “Ah, you remembered the detail—and it’s always about the details!”
Which design blog, website, TV show or magazine do you peruse religiously? Ever since I was young, I have subscribed to Architectural Digest. I love leafing through the pages, seeing designs that are timeless and inspirational.
Design rule you like to break? I think the first rule of design is: There are no rules. I love layering with lighting, textures, color, whatever it may be. It enriches a room by adding depth.
What is your favorite room in the house? I really enjoy creating warm and inviting family spaces, be they living rooms or great rooms that bring people together with comfortable seating, intimate lighting, sophisticated drapery and enough surfaces to hold books and drinks.
What is your most treasured possession? I would have to say the host chairs in my farmhouse dining room, which I found in an antique store in New York. They were tucked away in a corner, but the tag stated that they had the original paperwork from a 1965 estate sale at Hyde Park, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s estate. The preservationist in me leapt into action. I hope someday to return them to the president’s home to be enjoyed by others.
What do you wish you could do without? I have a personal love-hate relationship with technology. The various computer programs that designers use today are great, but often clients don’t understand why it takes so long to create design presentations. I fear it has also removed the artistry and creativity that we should be proud to experiment with. I still love to do hand-renderings.
Have you ever had a change of heart about an object or a style? It’s so funny…I have gone between styles in each home I have lived in. Our D.C. house was traditional; NYC apartment: Asian modern; and the beach house: an eclectic mix of modern and antiques. The farmhouse I have done more traditionally with antiques and vintage pieces.
On what movie set would you like to live? From the soundtrack to the fashion and design, I absolutely love the Baz Luhrmann remake of The Great Gatsby.
City or country? Can I say both? We’ve had our feet in both places, with a home here and in New York.
Which materials or textures do you frequently use in your own home? I love the sophistication, elegance and cleanliness of marble in the bath and kitchen—nothing compares to that classic black and white. But I also love wool fabrics, particularly in plaids for a sense of coziness, especially around the holidays.
What is your favorite interior design-related word? Versatility. I love changing things up.
Décor-wise, what should a homeowner never scrimp on? Window treatments.