Jay Jeffers describes his formula for fab interiors

The nationally recognized San Francisco designer shares his secrets at ADAC

Yesterday was San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers’s first formal presentation at ADAC, but it was certainly not his first visit to Atlanta. Named multiple times to both Elle Décor’s and House Beautiful’s lists of top talents, Jeffers and his husband Michael Purdy, creative director of their retail store Cavalier, have often sourced products at ADAC and local antique galleries. In fact, they’re big fans of Scott Antique Market.

Photograph courtesy of Jeffers Design Group
Photograph courtesy of Jeffers Design Group

What can a couple who frequents the Maison & Objet show in Paris possibly find at Scott’s? Apparently, vintage objects, midcentury paintings, cool lamps, and the kind of random bits the monthly Atlanta market is known for. Once, passing by nearly the last booth of the day, the guys discovered a stash of shipping crates marked “Ann Demeulemeester” after the cult-favorite Belgian fashion designer. They snapped up dozens of them for novel floral containers and eye-catching store displays.

Though Jeffers does favor vintage style, he told the ADAC crowd he admires design icon Billy Baldwin, who contended that if someone could walk into a client’s house and recognize the décor as Baldwin’s work, then Baldwin hadn’t done his job properly. Jeffers wrestled with the question of his own signature style when he wrote his first book last year, “Collected Cool” (Rizzoli). And, said Jeffers, he realized the common thread was simply collecting. He likes rooms that appear to have been composed over time, with objects that are multi-layered and hold stories.

The projects in his book, which he discussed at ADAC, are divided into four themes: Collected Cool, Bold Bespoke, Unabashed Glamour, and Casual Chic. And, truthfully, they have more in common than artful curating. “I do love being glamorous,” Jeffers admitted to me over coffee at Café Intermezzo. Look up in one of his rooms, and you’re likely to spy a ceiling shimmering with gold or silver—or perhaps lacquered a bright Hermès orange.

Jeffers is also known for bespoke furnishings, and most of his projects include imaginative custom flourishes like an embroidered leather chair, a blackened oyster shell fireplace surround, or a fire screen made with slices of colorful agate that glow softly in front of the flames.

With all these far-ranging ideas, creating his first furniture collection, which debuted at Cavalier, took a bit of discipline, Jeffers admits. And he’s now designing accessories for Arteriors, due out this fall. The line will primarily be cocktail ware, says Jeffers (who admits being addicted to “Bewitched” as a kid and admiring Darrin’s after-work bar cart).

Regardless of scope or budget, Jeffers has kept true to a formula he once prescribed for some Ritz-Carlton residences: two parts comfort, one part whimsy, one part elegance, and a dash of chic. “The key is balance, not to use everything at once,” he explained to me. “Too much whimsy becomes kitsch. Now that you can find anything in the world for your home from a laptop, designers have become master editors.”