In our International Issue that launched yesterday(!), we shared with you an Upper East Side apartment of a young creative family that was light, airy and beautifully composed. Designer Will Saks worked with the couple who had already purchased a few of the major pieces on completing the project, curating their awesome collection of artwork and coming up with a floor plan that maximized their entertaining needs. We loved this space for exactly that reason: although extremely sophisticated, with gorgeous key pieces like the silk rug and sofa, it also had a playfulness to it that toned down the seriousness. The result looks effortless but we know that there’s a lot more put into it that meets the eye. That’s why we sat down with Will to find out how he brings a youthful feel to a sophisticated space.

You work at Homepolish, so you clearly are on board with bringing interior design into the 21st century. How do you feel like you stand out as a designer?

As a designer, I am adamant about contrast in a space.  The mix of vintage and modern, the layering of patterns and textures, the use of different materials…the juxtaposition of things is what makes a space feel unique and personal.  Your home should feel collected and be a reflection of you and your needs.  I’m not afraid of the mix…I embrace it in every project I work on.  No one wants to live in a catalogue.  The best way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to think eclectic.  

What is your philosophy on design? Why have you become passionate about it and what have you seen it do for your clients?

Interior design needs to make a statement and still reflect your client’s needs.  Keep it fun and personal and don’t get caught up in the “rules” of good design.  I love to create spaces that people want to be in.  Pushing a client to go outside of their comfort zone and then having them absolutely love the results is the best part of my job.  The excitement I feel when I walk into a space I am hired to design really pushes me to the finished product and when that energy transfers to a client the results can be beautiful.

What would you consider to be sophisticated design?

I think sophisticated design has a sense of timelessness to it…ideas that have withstood the test of time but still feel simultaneously fresh and classic.  Spaces that are too trendy or garish or rely on topical design tricks tend not to age well and end up looking dated very quickly.  A dated space never feels sophisticated to me.      

How do you bring a youthful point of view to sophistication?

Mix things up.  Pair a Moroccan brass tray table with a traditional Chesterfield sofa.  Upholster a French settee in a geometric Mud Cloth.  Put a pair of Art Deco arm chairs on a graphic vintage Kilim rug.    

Why do you think these two characteristics in design aren’t always seen as compatible?

I think the biggest misconception is that sophisticated is stuffy.  This is not true in the least.  Have fun with your space…I promise it can still feel sophisticated.

How did you bring sophistication to this young family’s apartment? Were there any pieces that particularly work well to bring these two worlds together?

I think what really makes this space feel sophisticated is the color pallet we used.  Most of the pieces are soft, neutral tones that really allow the accessories to pop.  Nothing in the space feels too heavy and I think that lightness translates into a sophisticated design.  The bookshelves are a perfect example of a youthful sophistication.  The way they are styled and curated  feels very sophisticated but the mix of fun and unique accessories and artwork brings a youthful element to the room.  The shelves make just as much of an impact as the fireplace and create a beautiful focal point in the space.

What tips can you share with our readers to achieve a youthful but sophisticated space?

Don’t let sophisticated turn stuffy.  Mix styles and aesthetics but in a way that doesn’t feel garish or haphazard.  Keep the contrasts balanced and work with a cohesive color pallet.  Bring in personal items that make the space feel unique and curated.  The right artwork and accessories can do wonders for a room and add dimension to a design.  They are also great for adding color and texture into a space.

What is one major retailer and one hidden gem that you love?

For me, nothing gets better than ABC Home.  Their inventory feels unique and curated as if every piece was personally selected for you.  From rugs to furniture to table top design, they have everything you could possibly need to design a complete space.  I also love to use vintage and antique pieces in my designs.  There is a town about two hours north of the city called Millerton that has some fantastic antique stores.  I love going up there for a weekend to get inspired and shop.  You’re also in estate sale country up there…just drive around and you’re sure to hit a few of them and the insides of some of these old homes are beautiful. 

What is your favorite sophisticated and cool place in the world?

There is a bar in Carroll Gardens called the Brooklyn Social.  It’s one of my favorite places in the world.  It’s designed very simply but still feels hip and sophisticated.  What I love about it is it’s sense of timelessness…the bar feels just as fresh today as it did 70 years ago when it was a private Italian men’s club.  The walls are lined with sports trophies and vintage photographs of men in suits.  In the back room is a pool table across from a little nook upholstered in a large print floral wallpaper.  It’s the perfect balance of sophisticated and cool.    

You’ve done shop windows for the Gap, worked on designing offices, residential design. What’s your dream project?

My dream project would probably be an old farmhouse upstate.  I love the idea of refinishing something with a sense of history.  I would keep the original architectural details wherever possible and selectively bring in modern upgrades and touches but in a way that works with the classical bones of the home.  I would love to create a Bohemian escape in the country layered with patterns and textures with a touch of 70’s California.