The Palm Beach designer’s passion goes beyond completing her projects. Rotating a highly curated body of furniture and accessory finds, Hilary buys and sells pieces as her projects’ needs evolve (as well as her own residence). A former owner of 21 Federal Antiques, a 5,000-square-foot store in Nantucket, she knows the value of what to keep and what to consign.
Can you tell us a bit about the pieces you are consigning with Sotheby’s Home?
Yes, the pieces I have consigned with Sotheby’s Home are from my own private collection. My favorite pieces are the vintage pieces and anything at all from Christopher Guy. I have been collecting vintage light fixtures for over 30 years, and I rotate them throughout my own homes and projects. Some of my favorite pieces are currently on the site now. I used to have a 5,000-square-foot store in Nantucket called Federal Antiques at 20 Federal Street, but when the real estate became worth more than the business, it made sense to go virtual!
Please choose your five favorite pieces you are consigning, and why.
Featured: Carl Fagerlund Pendant Fixture
Both Carl Fagerlund fixtures are my favorite for ceiling-mounted pendants — they are elegant for a room that doesn’t have the ceiling height for a large drop, such as a powder room. I love the unique riveted glass and the amber glow it gives off.
Featured: GERMAN German Crystal Sconces
The highly faceted German décor sconces from the 1960s, originally from David Duncan Antiques in New York, are also a favorite. They don’t photograph well, but in person they are just fabulous!!! They look like jewelry on the wall and are perfect for an elegant powder room!
Featured: Modern Helix Spiral Stacked Side Tables
The helix spiral-stacked side tables circa 1975 are so radically cool, I can’t imagine how the designer conceived them. They remind me of the staircase from the Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce but in Lucite, not wood.
Featured: Christopher Guy Seraphina Chairs
The coolest chairs ever are the pair of Christopher Guy Seraphina chairs in gray velvet with the buttons and black lacquer legs. I love the shape of them and the Alice in Wonderland size. Everyone who sees them loves just to sit in them to see how small they feel!
You have a few Christopher Guy items on your list; what attracts you to that particular brand?
What attracts me to CG is the scale of his furniture. Everything is larger than life! I love that about him. He is a visionary in all that he does, and now with his battle with lung cancer. As a designer and as a person, I adore him. The furniture speaks to me on so many levels. The colors, the texture, the forms and the three-dimensional depth of his pieces are fabulous.
Featured: CHRISTOPHER GUY Dita Sofa
Sotheby’s Home is in love with your Jean Perzel pendant. It’s a beautiful piece, and we would love to hear more about its backstory — what made you buy and now sell it?
I purchased the Jean Perzel large Tambour pendant fixture because the modern version of the fixture looks exactly the same today! The design was so ahead of its time that today’s modern version hasn’t changed at all! It’s clean and gives off great lighting for a kitchen or bath. I purchased it a few years ago on Palm Beach Island, where I bought several Perzel pieces. I’m personally keeping some of them for my own collection, so selling one is not an indication I am done with Jean Perzel! I just love buying and selling!!!
How did you discover your passion for design?
Well, I have to credit Bennett Weinstock for helping me to discover my passion for design, and the generosity of my former husband Warren “Pete” Musser, who allowed us to travel the world together and purchase whatever we wanted for our homes. I had such fun with Bennett, and I found myself soaking up all of the details about every single item purchased; and as time went on, I became more and more involved in making the fabric choices and furniture designer choices as well as tile and fixture decisions. It became an obsession, and I would stay up all night laying out all the choices and going over photos and samples over and over again, until I could envision the room finished as I saw it. I wanted eventually to have my own vision, and then it became clear it was time to try things on my own. Bennett was an attorney turned designer and I was an entrepreneur with an MBA, and I thought, why not me? I can do it! So I started my own business in 1999 by doing a room at the Vassar Show House, and then opening up my antiques shop in Nantucket; and then I built and designed my first house by myself in Nantucket at 13 Squam Road. It was so much fun, I was hooked for life!
What is your favorite decorative object at home?
My favorite decorative object at home is definitely my Christopher Guy Le Lotus chair in my office — carved in the shape of a person, with brass feet and made from dark-stained walnut. I love the art form and the fact that you can actually sit in the chair, but it is a beautiful piece of sculpture with a useful purpose.
Is design an art or a science?
I would say design is an art form but also a science. The science comes into play with lighting and elevations and room layouts. The art is how it all comes together — the color and the mixture of forms and fabrics and textures, and different mediums and shapes. I’m not sure there is a perfect answer to this question — it is clearly every designer’s interpretation to make — but for me, it is a little science and a lot of art.
Do you have any go-to color or pattern combinations?
I’d say I’ve definitely evolved over time from a strong pattern-on-pattern designer to a much more simple, very modern designer. But I’m definitely a big fan of color. I love red and all shades of blue, but particularly vibrant blue! I love mixing vibrant blue with all different shades of gray. I also love mixing chartreuse with dark cream and shades of blue, as shown in my office.
When do you consider a completed project a success?
When the client is over the moon.
Share your biggest design secret.
My biggest design secret is starting each room with one fabulous piece or one fabulous piece of wall art, and working the entire room around it. The room takes on the personality of that most important element, and that is how each room develops its own personality — and when you enter the room, you can just feel it.
What is the most common design mistake you see?
The most common design mistake is to not have a plan when designing a room — to go out and just pick furniture from a floor plan with no imagination involved. To go off of a list of what is needed and check it off. You may as well be buying groceries — it will be as dull and look dull. To do what is safe and expected. If that is what the client wants, then I am the wrong designer!
How do you balance style, comfort and functionality?
Ah! The ten million dollar question. Most men want comfort and functionality, and most women want style. That’s a large generalization, but it is, for the most part, accurate. So the balance is to create a room that has both by making sure that almost every chair is comfortable to sit in — for every single chair, maybe not, but mostly yes. In the TV room, absolutely; in the office, absolutely; but in the living room, maybe a chair or two for style is the compromise. Sometimes the coolest chairs may not be the most comfy, but they look so great! So long as there are multiple places to sit that are comfortable, I know that I can make everyone happy!!! Dining table chairs must be comfortable — that is not negotiable, for sure!!! Bedroom furniture has to say, “Come lay on me, in me, over me.” But the living room and entranceway and hallways are where we can add some seating that may be more form than function.
Is there a specific item you typically use as a starting point (ex: rug, artwork, statement piece, furniture)?
I always use a statement piece as a starting point in each room. I want every room, even a powder room, to be fabulous. So every room in all my projects has a statement piece!
What do you think about Sotheby’s Home?
Sotheby’s Home is a brilliant way for designers and stores to showcase their items to buyers all over the world in a modern and affordable way that brings so many more choices to the end user than they ever had before. People are so much more educated than they used to be, and Sotheby’s Home gives them access to the items they would never be able to buy, at affordable prices, creating a market for both buyer and seller. I simply love it!!!!!