Tim Gunn, America’s favorite fashion mentor, is best known for his work on Project Runway alongside Heidi Klum. Through his subtle wit and attention to detail, Gunn redefined the understanding and appreciation of modern fashion as we know it. On meeting him a few weeks back when he was getting ready for the Command x Gilt Pop Up Shop in New York City, I was gratified to realize that in-person, Gunn is gracious, wickedly sharp and incredibly kind. In other words, Tim Gunn personifies his catchphrase and seems to always “Make it work.”
In addition to his keen knowledge of fashion, Gunn has an almost encyclopedic knowledge of design history. He spouted architecture tidbits and design history and proudly referenced his past at Parsons School of Design where he served as associate dean before becoming Fashion Design Department chair. I’m certain I blushed fiercely when I mentioned teaching a class I developed in partnership with French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. Gunn asked me the name of the course, and when I told him, A Short History of Beauty Culture from Cleopatra to the Kardashians, he drolly responded “Well, at least I like the first part, let’s just skip the ending.”
Gunn shared some of his thoughts on how to update your personal look and your home without breaking the bank.
Flowers everywhere: Floral patterns tend to pop up frequently during the spring, with this year being a flowery fashion bonanza. In case you’re wondering, florals go in and out of fashion for clothes, but they can be really tricky when used in home decor. “I think with interiors it’s different,” Gunn said, “because you’re living it and not just wearing it.” He referenced hyper-feminine and florally infused designer Betsey Johnson saying, “I don’t know how Betsey Johnson lives, but I would imagine it’s like her clothes. That’s got to be hard.” If you’re a die-hard floral fan, Gunn suggests using it in limited quantities and spread throughout your home instead of in high concentration in certain spots. Bedrooms and sofas could work, dining rooms—not so much.
With all this talk of florals and royal wedding mania, I was sure that the chintz and cabbage roses traditionally favored by the royal family would set off a craze on our own shores. Not so, according to Gunn. And though he covered the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton for ABC News back in 2011, he’s not really planning on binging the upcoming nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It’s a style thing he said, and he isn’t really expecting much of a “celebration of fashion there.”
Your home vs. your personal style: Gunn said even in the fashion industry, one can grow tired of looking at eye-catching items all day. “You’re surrounded by beauty all day and sometimes you just want to shut it off,” he said. For that reason, his own home is decorated in muted shades and neutrals. “I feel like our homes truly are like a nest, the one place where you have to feel comfortable. I have a very neutral palette to my apartment inspired by the colors of limestone. Color is having a moment, but if that’s not your thing you can achieve the same effect with artwork. And keep moving everything around your home- the furniture, the artwork, the rug that doesn’t serve you, the upholstery you never liked. Just because something has been in your family for generations doesn’t mean it will work for you. I use artwork to really bring in more palpable color.”
Get Moving: Gunn grew animated when talking about his partnership with Command, the brand better known for their sticky strips and hooks. As he explained it, you can update your home all the time by switching things around regularly. “I think color can revive you and your home,” Gunn said. “In my home it’s all the colors of my book collection. I think people don’t realize how you can change the look of things by repositioning them. I move things around as opposed to trading things out, so it always feels new.” The new invisible or decorative items in the line allow you to hang your art temporarily and keep moving it around. Gunn also artfully arranged small gold hooks that can be used as decorative in and of themselves, or more glam when hanging favorite pieces of jewelry. “I like that you can move something 3 inches to the right, or change an arrangement in a room and change everything,” he said. “But don’t just change one part of a room, because moving pictures or furniture changes the proportions of the room and the visual relationships between what’s on the wall and what’s around it.”
Decorating battles: Meanwhile, what do you do if you live with someone who has terrible taste? Do you have to let them add their zebra printed metallic table to your living room? “You pick your battles,” Gunn said. “I’m not sure there’s one right way to solve it,” he said gesturing to an extremely shiny rhinestone and metallic pillow. “Maybe you add a pillow. No, not even a pillow. Maybe you add a border–a very thin border– and leave it at that.”
P.S. I tried some of Tim’s tricks for quick spring home updates. After struggling to arrange some hooks in a vee shaped design I kind of gave up, but my walls overall look so much better!