Ancient, Meet Modern: Tastemaker Thomas Jayne

Interior Designer Thomas Jayne - Trinity-by-the-Cove Archangel Fund - Fine Art of Living Series luncheonWho: Thomas Jayne, award-winning interior designer

Cornerstone: A connection to history and place as well as objects linked with them incorporated in modern spaces

Background: Degrees in architecture, art history, and American Material Culture, fellowships in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and J. Paul Getty Museum, among others

The Write Stuff: Author of books and blogs on historical themes in art, architecture and decoration

Meet Thomas Jayne at the Trinity-by-the-Cove Archangel Fund’s Fine Art of Living Series luncheon March 5 at a private club in Port Royal. The designer’s presentation will focus on the making of houses and rooms with stories, how they show personality, and how they relate to the community. Jayne will also sign books at the event, the proceeds of which will benefit several Collier County charities focusing on physical health and development.

  • The Fine Art of Design luncheon will run from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. on March 5. Tickets cost $175 per person. For more information, call 239-262-0353 or visit


NI: Explain your slogan “Decoration—Ancient and Modern.”

Jayne: For a room to be successful it has to have a sense of history, but also be part of the present. Many times we incorporate things that are established, or classic ideas, with things that are progressive and modern. I think that makes for dynamic tension and an interesting space.

Interior Design by Thomas Jayne - Jaybe Design Studio


Do you have any connections to the Naples area? If so, do you visit often?

I have been there a lot over the years. I’ve decorated three or four houses there. I work in Florida, also on the east coast. I’m about to start a project in Miami and my clients occasionally call me for things in Naples still.

   I purposely scheduled my talk in March because it is particularly grisly in New York. You think it’s going to be spring and then it snows.


What do you prize most in your own homes?
I have a very beautiful drawing of my mother by artist Philip Guston, and that would be hard to replicate. I also have a very ugly bed that belonged to my great-grandparents that I’ve used all my life.


Interior Design by award-winning designer Thomas JayneGiven your love of history and place, what project would you like to take on?
I’m always interested in the White House. Especially the public areas. They don’t reflect the way people live or how that house might be used. It would be interesting to, while maintaining its sense of history, bring it into the twenty-first century. I would add some works of art that were painted after 1920. There is very little art in the White House that is after that date. America has added so much to the history of art in that period. And I would add more comfortable furniture because right now it’s very upright and old-fashioned.


What projects are under way?
I’m starting a new book. My publisher doesn’t like the title, which right now is Decorating Advice. The publication date is 2016.


What is some of that advice?
Hire a decorator! More important than that is to make sure you take into account your own personality. There’s an existential honesty about being true to yourself that really carries through in interior decoration.


What inspirations are fueling your current projects?

The thing that inspires us most is our clients and their interests. I think it is interesting to think about them and what they would respond to. We have a whole history of decorative arts in mind but it’s also the application and what would suit them. Most of our work is client driven. I’m deeply interested in the idea that houses reflect the people who live in them and also help them to have … I like the idea of houses reflecting the people who own them and working to make their live better.


Do your clients ever disagree with your picks?

They always like everything I suggest all the time. We always have another option. We have more than one idea. Sometimes we suggest things that are pretty adventuresome and might be too much for a client to take on. But we always suggest our best thinking, and if we think it’s challenging we’ll have an alternative choice. We never get to the point where it’s a major showdown. I warn clients that if something is really important to me, I’ll ask them to think about it overnight.


What design approach do you apply to homes in Southwest Florida?

I’m always conscious of comfort, because most people, by the time they get to South Florida are not interested in living in a formal way. Also, the light is very beautiful, and that predicates using—not bright colors—but color. So comfort and color, and also the indoor-outdoor nature of the decoration. It’s really important in Florida to instill a sense of personality and/or history because so much of the construction is new and a lot of people arrive and they fall into the tropical archetype and there’s risk of rooms becoming similar to everybody else’s. So I try to make the room special, I still want to use a subtropical or tropical vocabulary, but we try to make it unique to the clients.

   So it might be using something like antique wicker and unusual art, or a color you might expect but looks nice in Florida.

   Often times we try to combine family things if they have them, but don’t want to have them overtake the interior. It’s a discussion. But I like it when you arrive at someone’s home and it looks like their house, not just a generic house. That communication of personality, family and community in your house is the best thing.

   Sometimes people move there because the don’t want a sense of history so you have to balance that too, they want a fresh clean start, but that can still have personality.

   I’m sure you’ve seen it where people just go and buy a whole room of rattan and paint it white and have pink cushions, and then what do you do?


Interior Deisgn by THomas JayneWhat are your ideal projects?

I never thought about what I wanted to do, I just took what people offered me. There are these neat buildings in Manhattan called sliver buildings and they are very tall and slender. I want to decorate an apartment in a sliver building. And I’ve always wanted to make a private chapel. So anyone that wants me to decorate their high-rise apartment that’s above the clouds in Manhattan or a private chapel, they should call.


Is there any one particular period in time that fascinates you most? (If so, why is that?)

I like them all, but I think the period that’s most adaptable right now to how we live right now is the early nineteenth century and neoclassicism because the antique furniture is very clean and modern. The scale is very useful so it mixes very well with contemporary things. Neoclassicism a long run, but I think when you have a classic framework you can put contemporary furniture in and it works very well for today. I think people are taking a break from Chippendale and Rococo and Baroque things. The desire is for cleaner lines.


I enjoyed the slides of your places in SoHo and New Orleans and their unique, beautiful elements. Is there a special piece that you prize above all the others?

No! What happens is, we might add something, but we don’t really do major redecoration. Part of my thinking is, if you decorate a room well, you don’t have to change it. And it’s disruptive and takes time. I really like the way New Orleans looks, and the loft functions really well so I just do other stuff. Both the spaces have a lot of light and so they change a lot when you’re there.

   You don’t want to live pretentiously, because your clients will be suspect, but you want to take risks, because it’s your only chance. So we took a lot of risks in decorating the rooms, but they’ve worn well.

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