The interior and furniture designer Nancy Corzine has made a name for herself furnishing some of America’s finest homes, hotels and businesses. Her furniture and home goods are renowned for their classic glamour.
Add an air of relaxed elegance to your home by shopping some of our favorite Nancy Corzine pieces on Sotheby’s Home.
You are a woman of many talents. Who or what inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I never thought of becoming an entrepreneur. I was always going to be a lawyer…the dream was to go to Stanford. However, getting married and having a child derailed Stanford, but being a lawyer was still top priority until a very smart man named Henry J. Kaiser asked me when I was 16, “What do you want to do with your life?” My response was, as always, “I want to be a lawyer.” His response remained with me for years: “You don’t want to be a lawyer. I hire and fire lawyers every day. You want to be an entrepreneur, so while you’re out having fun experiencing life…people are making money for you!” I have to admit, I had no idea what “entrepreneur” meant, but it stuck with me like a ghost haunting me, pushing me. When faced with what I could do to be an entrepreneur, I turned to what I loved and was passionate about: designing. It all started with that little dollhouse; I just didn’t know it at the time, but that first foray into interior design would lay the foundation for what would become my entrepreneurial beginnings.
Your work is often described as timeless. How do you work to achieve a look that will look fresh today as well as 20 years from now?
It actually was not a conscious decision so much as a visualization of what I am drawn to, and I was always inspired by things that were beautiful and classic. Something that embodies beauty and classic design will always be timeless. I would love to say it is some deep mysterious talent I possess, however, it really didn’t happen that way. I design what I like and I like pieces that are timeless! I often think when I am designing a piece or a new textile collection, I could be creating the antiques of tomorrow.
How have your travels inspired your work? Is there a place in the world that keeps you coming back for more?
I love to travel; unfortunately I do not get to do it as often as I used to. In the ’80s and ’90s, I would travel over 200,000 miles a year, which afforded me the opportunity to see the world at its best. Europe, Asia and South America. I like to remember them as they were then, and they are still current inspirations of mine.
A penchant for glamour is evident in all of your projects. Where did you get your love of luxurious textiles and hand-finishing?
This is easy: I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother who loved beautiful things. We would often go to the library and look through dozens of old magazines that featured elegant interiors and beautiful furniture. My mother and I had a very strong relationship—she fascinated me. She was a weaver, kept a beautiful home, was garden club president and was an incredible mother, and all of her attributes lent themselves to her constantly creating and surrounding herself with beautiful, glamorous things.
Stick to neutrals? Always add color? What is your philosophy for using color in interiors?
I like simple, even in traditional design. Beige and whites are my eternal palette with a hint of my signature blue. Blues calm you; they are a serene addition to any room that has a neutral palette. I remember when I was young, my wild side came out, and I was determined to have a raspberry dining room with lacquered walls. The walls lasted a month before I painted cream over the raspberry. That is when I first realized pale and soft neutral colors were what I really liked.
There are many mirrored furniture pieces in your collection. What is it about mirrors that enchant you?
I always thought mirrored furniture was glamorous. Going back to my youth and those library days with Mother, I would always gravitate towards the Hollywood magazines, and they always featured these glamorous interiors with mirrored furniture and screens. When I designed my first mirrored piece, I harkened back to those days and designed the Harlow Vanity. When I had no sale for the first eight months, I thought I made a terrible mistake, but today it remains one of my top sellers.
Tell us about your collaboration with Yuroz and the concept of “jewelry for your home.”
I first met Yuri at his studio. I was fascinated by his magnificent art and beautiful sculptures. As our relationship progressed, he came to the factory and became intrigued with what could be created with different finishes and different techniques. It was a perfect fit and clients love the combination of art and furniture. They are amazed by Yuri’s techniques: he takes a piece of beautiful classic furniture and creates something unique and truly one of a kind. You are not going to find that in very many places.
As owner of a 99,000-square-foot factory, do you ever walk in and marvel at the size of the business you created?
Truthfully when I walk in my factory, I do not marvel at the size, I marvel at the people. This group of people I put together and all their many talents that help bring my visions and dreams to reality.
You are dedicated to raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s. Share more about how you became involved with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation.
My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and it was both my privilege and horror to take care of her, watching her slip away day by day. As Nancy Reagan said, “It is the long goodbye,” and having the personal perspective I have, it has always been near and dear to my heart. I first took up the mantle almost 20 years ago, dedicating much of my time and energy raising money to help the families understand and care for Alzheimer’s patients. Over a decade ago, I was asked by Leonard Lauder to join the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, so I shifted my focus to raising money for scientific research. We are coming close to discovering the mystery of Alzheimer’s which would give us the opportunity for early detection, bringing us closer to viable treatments and eventually a cure. The importance of the mission is critical as Alzheimer’s affects one out of every five people in the world today.
What are three pieces you’ve consigned with us that make your heart sing?
I would have to say the Curtain Vanity. It is a classic, beautiful piece of furniture that best represents a true work of art. The master craftmanship that goes into carving that piece is always inspirational to me; it requires such talent to produce such a piece, and I am always amazed at the outcome.
The Museum Dining Table with Rosewood Sunburst Top is a magnificent statement of beauty meeting function and nature. It lends itself to both traditional and contemporary interiors, and each one is completely unique as no two trees are the same. It is always exciting to see how the craftsmen make a miracle with these few pieces of wood.
The Rainwater Chest was an early original design of mine, clean, contemporary and timeless, as it has been very popular from first inception to today. Again, it can be used in a very contemporary interior or mixed correctly with traditional furniture.