Spotlight on Richard Rabel and his Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse Project

Interior designer Richard Rabel

This is a first for HEW. We were so taken by Sandra Nunnerley, and Richard Rabels recent projects for the 3rd Annual Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse and Auction, that we decided to interview them both. As was the case with Sandra Nunnerley, Richard Rabel also shown an exquisite, and particularly keen eye for art and design. No surprises there. The New York-based interior designer is well-known for filling his interiors with eclectic modern aesthetic of clean lines with a preference for infusing the design of his rooms with a tightly curated selection of antiques, 20th / 21st century masterworks and bespoke detailing. Richard also offers art advising services as part of his design practice.

High End Weekly©: Tell us about your inspiration for the room you designed at the 3rd annual Sotheby’s Designer Showhouse? How did it come about?

Richard Rabel: I’ve been fascinated with the late Italian Renaissance/early Baroque for a long time. Especially the interiors of palaces and churches – and particularly – the treatment of the walls and floors. The way marble, onyx, semi-precious stones, granite and faux treatments like marbelizing are combined and mixed to produce incredibly beautiful rooms astound me. How to bring that notion into the 21st century is what challenged me into doing what I did at the Sotheby’s Showhouse – combining cork, wool and linen in the walls and baseboards with a Renaissance patterned floor and a marbelized paper-wrapped pedestal in the center. Handsome, very chic, and completely modern.

Richard Rabel Gallery and Foyer. Photo credit Alan Barry Photography

High End Weekly©: 
Was this the first showhouse you got to participate in? If not, how was it different from the rest?

Richard Rabel: This is the first Showhouse I’ve participated in.

High End Weekly©: 
Sotheby’s requested that you selected works from an array of their departments to furnish your room, including 20th Century Design, English & Continental Furniture, Ceramics, Fine Arts, Prints, Silver, and Photographs. How was this experience different, if at all, from designing for your clients?

Richard Rabel: Selecting from a pool of pieces consigned to Sotheby’s was the process de rigeur at the Showhouse. Placing art for clients is a bit different. If you cannot tap one source, you tap another. Being that it IS the Sotheby’s Showhouse, it was not in the cards to tap art from other sources.

High End Weekly©: 
As a designer, no doubt that you’ve worked with a number of artists to curate exclusive collections. What sorts of art (or artist) catches your eye?

An Andy Warhol photograph takes center stage at Richard Rabel Gallery and Foyer. Photo credit Alan Barry Photography

Richard Rabel: I like working with artisans that are extremely detailed oriented. Mastery is in the details whether its bronze, ceramic or wood.

High End Weekly©: 
Are there any major design trends or ideas that influenced your design aesthetics?

Richard Rabel: Not really. I’m mostly influenced by my travel and the work of architects and other designers that I find compelling.

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Richard Rabel Gallery and Foyer. Photo credit Alan Barry Photography

The joy in my work comes from crafting modern spaces that achieve a stylish balance between function and form as a result of sifting a client’s wishes through my vision + experience. – Richard Rabel

High End Weekly©: 
Where do you look for inspiration?

Richard Rabel: Travels, interiors, gardens, architecture, fashion – in that order

High End Weekly©: 
Tell us, if you were to work on a high-end furniture line for young collectors, what would you call it, and what would be the inspiration?

Richard Rabel: I think I would call it The Modern Sybarite like the name of my blog. A Sybarite is one who enjoys and seeks luxury and the best of life, regardless of whether it’s expensive or inexpensive. It has nothing to do with money. It has to do with style, class and superb craftsmanship.

Details of Richard Rabel’s project for Sotheby’s 3rd Annual Designer Showhouse. Photo credit Alan Barry Photography

High End Weekly©:  What are a few of your more recent projects?

Richard Ravel: One fun recent project I finished recently was an adult “playpen” for a well-known New Yorker. Its sounds kinky, but it was actually an apartment for entertaining – pure unadulterated modern luxury and class. Currently I’m working on a gut-renovation penthouse in midtown New York with wonderful north, south and east views of the city and a wrap around terrace.

High End Weekly©: Where are your go-to museums and galleries?

Richard Rabel: It’s hard to say. I do love Museum Mile on 5th Avenue – the Museum of the City of New York, the Guggenheim, the MET, the Frick and the Neue Galerie. The Hispanic Society rocks. The MOMA is one of a kind. The New Museum in the Bowery sometimes has very good exhibitions. Then there is Chelsea and areas of the LES and Brooklyn for world-class galleries. It’s hard to miss museums and galleries in NYC. You really have to be living under a rock to miss them!

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