Victoria Hagan moves to limelight Home: The popular young decorator is known for creating dreamy, white-washed rooms.

June 02, 1996|By Sharon Overton | Sharon Overton,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

First, let's get the JFK Jr. question out of the way.

No, Victoria Hagan did not decorate his apartment -- even though her husband is Kennedy's business partner in the much-publicized new political magazine, George. Kennedy didn't hire anyone to do his decorating, Hagan says. "He did his own. He's got great taste."

Furthermore, don't expect any other tell-all celebrity decorating tales from this up-and-coming young designer. Her dreamy, white-washed rooms appear often on the pages of Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home and Vogue, but she isn't into dishing on her clients.

"I have lots of very interesting, talented clients who really prefer to keep their privacy," she says. "I like to respect that."

But while her customers want to keep a low profile, Hagan is increasingly in the limelight. She has appeared on Architectural Digest's "AD 100" roster of top architects and designers and in New York magazine's list of "New York's Hottest Interior Designers."

At 34, Hagan has the sort of slim, blond good looks that get her photographed almost as much as her furniture. Her recent marriage to Michael Berman, George executive publisher and co-founder, apparently hasn't hurt her popularity ratings either. An eight-page layout of the couple's stylish Park Avenue apartment recently was featured in House Beautiful.

Hagan and Berman seem to be pitching to a similar demographic. If Mark Hampton and Mario Buatta defined traditional decor for the Reagan/Bush era, Hagan reinterprets the classics for a younger generation accustomed to seeing its political leaders interviewed on MTV and communicating via the Internet.

She mixes furniture and objects from a range of periods against spare, white backgrounds to create rooms that manage to feel much more modern than the sum of their parts.

"Her work is traditional, but it's very light in feeling," says Paige Rense, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest. "It's not heavy cake."

Hagan began refining her sense of style at an early age. Raised in Westchester, N.Y., she learned to sketch by copying the drawings in her mother's fashion-illustration books. Her first decorating project was her baby sister's nursery. Her first furniture purchase, at age 16, was a set of 1940s blond wood dining chairs bought by the side of the road.

Those chairs, upholstered in blue-green vinyl, now sit in her dining room along with a Niermann Weeks painted table and a crystal chandelier with beaded shades in chartreuse green, one of the few colors that consistently creep into her repertoire.

After graduating from the Parsons School of Design in New York, Hagan formed a partnership with Simone Feldman, a close friend and mentor. Feldman died in 1991. Since then, Hagan has had her own practice, Victoria Hagan Interiors, which has completed projects ranging from a 20,000-square-foot beach house in Nantucket to a Tuscan-style estate in Palm Beach.

She recently moved her 10-person staff from a cozy Manhattan townhouse to a penthouse suite with panoramic views of the city. Her office, like many of her projects, is furnished in a mixture of contemporary and period pieces, including a Florence Knoll mid-century conference table and modern metal stacking chairs.

In interviews, Hagan sometimes comes off as tentative and a bit elusive, a quality one magazine editor described as "a certain well-mannered reticence."

There's something hard to pin down about her work, as well. Writers have used words like "ethereal" and "magical" to describe her interiors, which frequently feature white slipcovered upholstery and diaphanous linen curtains punctuated by jewel-like accessories in crystal and Lucite, silver and gold.

Even when she's grounded in a specific moment in history, such as a recent temporary installation at Mount Vernon, George Washington's 250-year-old Virginia house, Hagan's work has a sense of timelessness. Eighteenth-century chairs mix with 1930s coffee tables and recent reproductions. Antique damasks blend with contemporary cotton duck. Her ability to mine from different historical periods is perhaps not surprising.

"If I wasn't an interior designer," she says, "I would have been an archaeologist."

In addition to various shades of white, her palette encompasses silvery grays and greens that aren't readily identifiable with any design trends. Hagan says it's a mistake to peg her as a designer who works only in white.

"It's more about light than it is white," she says, explaining that period pieces need good light and breathing room to be properly appreciated. "We do rooms with lots of color. But the colors we use, you can't quite put your finger on. You don't walk in and say, 'Oh, this is a red room. This is a blue room.' There is a lot of color there, but it is more natural in feeling and less studied."

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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