Travel & Living

Billy Norwich Lives With the Things He Loves

The legendary editor talks interior design with us ahead of the release of Phaidon's latest photobook "Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of The Century"
Reading time 5 minutes

Former Vogue editor and New York Post columnist William Norwich is what you would call a legendary presence in the world of publishing. Yes, the current fashion and interior design editor at Phaidon Press has led an eclectic career: From reporting hot gossip about New York’s elite for Page Six to writing novels and children's books, he seems to have done it all. But now, in relation to his role at the publishing powerhouse (Phaidon), Norwich’s latest exploit is his participation in the production of Interiors: The Greatest Rooms of The Century. The photobook boasts pages of the most wonderful interior design exploits, preceded by a foreword from Norwich.

We spoke to the legendary editor about his personal take on interior design, and the challenging he faced curating this extensive anthology of interior design. The book features 400 rooms belonging to notable people such as designers, decorators, patrons and artists, all organized in alphabetical order. The pages are grazed by images of decors by design greats such as Billy Baldwin and Nancy Lancaster, and homes ranging from penthouses to chateauxs, to desert ranches and tiny apartments, all spread out throughout the globe.

Other exciting interiors you’ll be able to feast your eyes upon are those of fashion designers Pierre Cardin, Gianni Versace, and Coco Chanel, and artists like Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Salvador Dali.

The book is currently available for pre-order in four different velvet covers: Midnight Blue, Merlot Red, Platinum Gray, and Saffron Yellow, and will be released on May 22. In the meantime, let this interview with William Norwich give you an additional teaser of what you can expect.

If you could choose any one of these as your home, which one would you choose and why?

So many! But there's one in particular, and that’s Carolina Irving’s place in Paris. It is as light as it is textured.


What’s your personal approach to interior design?

To live with things that I love, and pray that they don’t collect too much dust. Over the years, I have been given photographs by the many wonderful photographers I’ve worked with and they enjoy pride of place in my home, along with all my books I’ve kept, and comfortable furniture. Nothing too precious.


Do you think any of the legendary interiors in the book have influenced your apartment?

Probably it’s the legacy of Billy Baldwin, who said, “Simplicity in every way,” which I try to adhere to. He also said, “The best decoration in the world is a room of books,” to which I’d add, “especially if you’ve read them.”


Interiors is available in four different colored covers. Do you have a favorite?

Blue. Always everything blue. Blue and white.


Tell me about the decision to feature the 400 different interiors in alphabetical order?

The answer isn’t very complex; Interiors is a legacy project for Phaidon. We have The Art Book and The Fashion Book which are similarly structured, encyclopedic, and organized A-to-Z.


How does your work as an editor at Phaidon tie with your previous work as a columnist?

I don’t know if specifically as a columnist, but more my experience as an editor for Vogue and The New York Times Magazine certainly connects with the idea of how to house content in an appealing container: the book.


What was the selection process like to decide what interiors would be featured in the book?

Over three decades working on magazines and listening to interior decorating editors and patrons, and of course, interior decorators themselves, talk about what they admire and do not admire left a big impression on me. There was no shortage of names. We also asked a few dozen arbiters to suggest, anonymously, who and what should be featured in the book.


Was it difficult to source 400 interiors?

Yes, and no. The internet is filled with images, not all correctly identified we discovered, and not all that can be sourced to bonafide hi-res images of a quality suitable for a Phaidon book. This took a lot of searching.


Any interiors you wished had made the cut?

Editing is a good exercise in everything, not just bookmaking. We could have had a book that was 1000 pages, and that would have been way too much from many perspectives, and it would have been impossible to read. Too big. One designer especially that I am sorry we could not attain was a usable image for a room by the late American, California-based interior designer, Michael Taylor.



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