In our series, Interior Lives, Avenue profiles the new guard of interior design icons redefining classics and bringing innovation — and beauty — to the industry.
Designing outdoor spaces is something of a catch-22: they should look and feel like a living room en plein air, but there are opposing rules for choosing furniture. It needs to match the general aesthetic of the rest of the house, yet still be its own thing. For Georgia Tapert Howe, who is based in LA, outdoor spaces aren’t an unusual ask — and she’s learned to tow a fine line.
“In a living room, you don’t want any matching other than a pair of chairs, but you don’t want it to feel like you bought a ‘set.’ [With] an exterior space, there does need to be more cohesion,” she explains. “So, maybe what we’ll do is we’ll buy a sofa and a pair of chairs, but then we’ll mix it up with a coffee table from a different company, a custom coffee table, or an old, found, beautiful wood table.” Sourcing vintage pieces and antiques is a frequent element of Tapert Howe’s work. Over the course of our conversation, she makes references to her style, which leans toward warmth, and skews on the classic side. She becomes more declarative when it comes to avoiding trends (“I try not to focus on them,” she says diplomatically) and, more importantly, repeating herself.
“I don’t want people to look at my website or see an image and say, ‘Oh, that’s got to be Georgia,’” she says. Even when clients use her own work as a reference point, Tapert Howe guides them to something unique. It may evoke the feel of the design they were drawn to, “but it’s going to be [their] version of that.”
Like many in her chosen career, Tapert Howe studied art history. But after working at Pace Gallery, she discovered her heart simply wasn’t in the art world. “I enjoyed it,” she explains. “I just knew I wasn’t going to have a career in it.” She did, however, enjoy interning for the famed architect and interior designer David Easton when she was in college. So, that’s where she returned. Stints at firms like Mica Ertegun and Haynes-Roberts followed, and by 2007 she opened Georgia Tapert Living, her first home accessories boutique, in Manhattan. Three years later — and a move across the country — Tapert Howe launched her eponymous design firm. But at her core, the designer is still an art lover. “Art is such an important part of the final product,” she says of her work. “A room can be beautiful — I can fill it with antiques and fabrics and all this stuff with a huge budget, but if there’s no art on the wall, it’s going to fall flat.”
These days, Tapert Howe is bicoastal, oscillating between two wildly different cities, unsure if she prefers one over the other. “LA is easier; there are less limitations,” she admits. Older New York buildings often have pipes in the walls restricting what can be done with the layout. And on a recent project, she had to find a way to transport sofas and tables to the top of a prewar building. But ultimately it was worth it. “You trade in the flexibility for really beautiful historical elements, which I love and gravitate toward.”