Ernest de la Torre doesn’t skimp when it comes to surfaces. Texture is the designer’s calling card, whether it’s in the form of cushy upholstery, sculptural walls or jewel-like lighting. The Elle Decor A-lister is now consigning some of his favorite, impeccably crafted pieces, ready to take on a new provenance in an interior that’s all your own.
Capture Ernest’s luxe design sense with his personally consigned pieces on Sotheby’s Home.
How did you discover your passion for design?
Looking back, I see all the signs. A fascination at 8 years old with a family trip to Paris had me reveling in everything I saw and berating my older siblings with a recounting of the art we saw that day. Wanting to decorate every room in the house with a Christmas tree at 11, and taking on renovating our weekend farm all by myself at 16. When I got my first paycheck from IBM, I convinced a fellow worker to eschew a joint rental for a fixer-upper house. Seven house renovations ensued in the next five years before I decided interior design needed to be my primary focus. It remains my sincere passion today.
What is your favorite decorative object at home?
A steel sculpture by Junko Mori at the center of a Sol LeWitt coffee table. This teams two of my favorite things: creating a tension of exuberant naturalism and strict minimalism.
Can you pick your five favorite items you are consigning and tell a little bit about what makes them special?
This Garouste and Bonetti chair—it’s from the 1990s, when Mattia Bonetti and Élisabeth Garouste were the toast of Paris design. The dynamic duo (who have separately continued to shape trends today) designed this chair with unrelenting curves; it embodies all their iconic design elements.
The two coffee tables by Roger Capron are favorites of mine because of their great tile work. Capron worked on incredible tile art commissions in mid-century France, and made these tiles in the same place Picasso made his works.
The large two-door armoire is close to my heart as it’s a piece I bought 20 years ago at a Sotheby’s sale of Leonard Lauder. I can see how it gained access to that prized collection with its meticulously made striped Rosewood, inset shagreen handles and an upholstered interior in a Wiener Werkstätte pattern fabric.
The folding screen — in a design by Eileen Gray with alternating colored cork — once stood in my home in a prominent spot in the living room. I enjoyed looking at it every day and wondering what kind of brilliant mind from 1920 could formulate such a masterpiece.
Is design an art or a science?
Both, and a whole lot of accounting! I feel like design can be learned like a science, but in order to excel, you must have a passion for the art form, the balance of color and light, form and function, human desire and human need. At the end of the day, you need to be a psychologist because an interior is only successful if it meets your client’s every wish, even if it wasn’t spoken and only inferred.
Do you have any go-to color or pattern combinations?
Every interior is suited to the client, and I love using their color and pattern interests as a springboard.
When do you consider a completed project a success?
When the client thinks they did it all.
Share your biggest design secret.
Hire a good bookkeeper. The business is full of talent that can’t make it because of the proverbial “open purse.”
What is the most common design mistake you see?
Not editing enough. More can be more, but take one item away and it can be great. And go with your gut and let the client know; they want to see you’re confident and feel strongly.
How do you balance style, comfort and functionality?
It comes via the “blink factor” of having seen thousands and thousands of interiors, and shaping hundreds of elements for your clients, so that it becomes part of your second nature.
Is there a specific item you typically use as a starting point? (ex: rug, artwork, statement piece, furniture)
Many of my clients have art collections, so looking at that not only tells me a lot about the client, but also lets me envision a home for them. More than once, the first piece we buy is a great piece of furniture at auction that gets the ball rolling. The last one I recall was a fabulous Campana Brothers cabinet from Sotheby’s London.
What do you think about Sotheby’s Home?
I love the immediacy of Sotheby’s Home when I want that special item that completes a room. Lately though, I have found anchor pieces at the outset there, too.