by Saxon Henry
In her introduction to THAD HAYES: The Tailored Interior, Evelyn Lauder says of Hayes’ skill, “Thad Hayes can make a home fit into its own skin, not into his skin.” A perusal of the 21 interiors in the book proves Hayes’ long-standing client’s point, as the string of residences and retreats range from a pied-à-terre at the Pierre Hotel in New York to the Lauder’s Georgian vacation home in Palm Beach and a Tudor Revival in Texas.
Whether the designer is creating a backdrop for a contemporary art collector in New York City or Leonard Lauder’s collection of art deco posters in Palm Beach, his dexterity in working across styles and periods is apparent. His own Greenwich Village townhouse is among my favorites, as the interiors have a breathless quality to them. This is owed in part, perhaps, to the fact that Hayes had modernist architect Mies van der Rohe in mind when he introduced certain elements, or possibly to his affection for Japanese architecture. “I wanted our house to embrace and fulfill all the romantic notions we have around the idea of ‘home’: the welcoming of friends, cooking, children’s chatter, sitting around a hearth,” Hayes explains. “That was really my expectation.”
For his client’s interiors, he envisions environments that are equally personal, and it’s likely a result of his attentiveness during a project, as described in the introduction by critic Charles Gandee in which he quotes Hayes as saying, “I don’t delegate. I direct everything. I’m in every meeting with every client; I go to every job site. I go to the upholsterer. I know every pillow fabric…every detail.” This attention to detail leads to rooms that reflect “repose, clarity, and restraint,” says one client, but Hayes’ restraint is anything but spare.
One of the strengths of the beautifully photographed book is that it shows the designer’s dexterity and range: a New Jersey Craftsman, a modernist summerhouse in the Hamptons and a gentile home in Baton Rouge were given identities that shrug off any evidence of having been “designed.” In the acknowledgements, Hayes himself writes, “In my line of work it is easy to begin believing one is laboring for one’s art.” Hayes’ art has such a delicately powerful quality to it that even the natural light seems to tiptoe into the rooms, unwilling to allow its harshness to interrupt the quiet beauty that has been achieved.