Naming the top professionals in a field as dense with talent as interior design requires finesse. To find interior design’s major players, one can’t simply tally the number of touchdowns or compare batting averages. Other, less objective factors, such as personal taste, invariably come into play.
After some trial and error in whittling down a list that surely could number over 500, we settled on peer recognition, which means a lot in an industry as self-critical as interior design. Next came training and client prestige. For this ranking of the 20 top interior designers in the US, top billing went to the designer who has fetched the most awards and media attention and did so without ever leaving his beloved heartland.
20) S.R. Gambrel
Website | 212.925.3380 | 15 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013
Steven Gambrel founded this firm in 1996, just three years out of the University of Virginia’s architecture program. He began what many industry watchers say has become one of the most influential forces driving the dynamic interior design market. Gambrel specializes in residential interiors and custom furnishings. He’s known for exquisitely detailed designs on residences, whether they are polished duplexes on Fifth Avenue, etched-in-stone country houses, or getaways in Palm Beach.
The tireless designer’s work has prompted numerous features in New York Magazine, Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Town & Country, and World of Interiors. In 2012, Architectural Digest named him to their AD100 List, dubbing him one of “today’s greatest talents in Architecture and Design.” Notable projects have included designing a showhouse in Manhattan for Town & Country, designing a line of custom lighting with Urban Electric Company, and creating a custom accessories line with the Lacquer Company to design your home.
19) Matthew Patrick Smyth
Website | 212.333.5353 | 136 E. 57th Street, New York, NY 10022
After studying design at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Matthew Patrick Smyth spent six years learning the trade from famed New York architect David Easton. Smyth ventured out on his own in 1988, focusing mostly on residential interior design throughout the United States and Europe. His love of vibrant colors and bold-patterned fabrics has made him a favorite of Elle Decor, which singled him out to design a showcase apartment in Tribeca in 2012.
Matthew Patrick Smyth has done five Kips Bay Decorator Showhouses and launched his own line of carpet collections, wall coverings, and fabrics. A consistent Top 25 designer on Elle Decor’s A-List, Smyth has also received the 2012 Alpha Workshop Award and 2011 Stars of Design Award. His creations are routinely written up in Architectural Digest, the Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, House Beautiful, Gotham Magazine, and New York Spaces. His book, Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth (Monacelli Press), is in its second printing.
18) Fox-Nahem Associates
Website | 212.358.1411 | 4 West 22 Street, New York, NY 10010
It was Joe Nahem’s innate entrepreneurial spirit that caused him to leave high school at age 16 and own shoe stores just two years later. After meeting future partner Tom Fox at age 18, Nahem plunged full time into an interior design career, studying first at Parsons School of Design and then in Paris.
After three decades, Fox-Nahem Associates still creates impressive interiors that attract well-to-do clients all over the country, including Robert Downey, Jr., whose Hamptons home was an Architectural Digest cover story (December, 2017). Those interiors have been featured in books, such as the firms new book Fox-Nahem: The Design Vision of Joe Nahem published by Abrams and major design magazines. The firm also ranks high on leading design lists, such as Architectural Digest’s AD100, New York Magazine’s Top 100, Luxe Magazine’s Gold List, New York Spaces’ Top 50 Designers, and Elle Decor’s A-List. Nahem has collaborated with many Hi-profile architects such as Annabelle Selldorf, Gwathmey Siegel, Steven Harris and Robert M. Stern.
17) Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design
Website | 323.655.5080 | 8550 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038
London-born design whiz Martyn Lawrence Bullard had no formal training beyond the lessons he cultivated as a teen while buying and selling antiques at the Greenwich Market in South London. By age 16, he had caught the attention of prominent buyers for Ralph Lauren, who snatched up Bullard’s collections to adorn Lauren’s fashions on Madison Avenue and Rodeo Drive. In 1994, Ballard moved to Los Angeles, pursuing dual careers in acting and design.
In 2010, Bullard was named the Andrew Martin International Designer of the Year. He has been a constant fixture on Elle Decor’s A-List and Architectural Digest’s AD100. He’s also a media star, having appeared in the Bravo TV series Million Dollar Decorators in the United States and Hollywood Me in the United Kingdom. The interiors he’s designed for the likes of Eva Mendes, Tommy Hilfiger, Cher, and the Kardashians have been featured in thousands of publications worldwide. Most recently, Bullard designed a lavish Beverly Hills retreat for Elton John.
16) Mark Zeff
Website | 212.624.4004 | 20 John Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Mark Zeff is a Cape Town native whose early academic progress had his teachers wondering what would become of him. But Zeff’s career skyrocketed to the top after he discovered interior design as his niche and founded this firm in 1985. Today, he is commissioned to design interiors for a roster of high-powered clients, such as Hilary Swank, Gabriel Byrne, and Annie Leibovitz — for whom interior designers cost is no issue. His multi-disciplinary firm provides graphic design, architecture, product design, and custom furniture.
Recently, Zeff has aroused considerable media attention for helping to revive black barns in trendsetting East Hampton. The 6,500-square-foot black barn that Zeff built and designed for himself was spread out in Hamptons Purist magazine. An intense living room features mid-century bar carts and black ottomans. Zeff’s creations have been written up in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, the Los Angeles Times, Elle Decor, and Conde Nast Traveler. He’s also fetched a spot on Interior Design’s Hall of Fame.
15) Rees Roberts + Partners LLP
Website | 212.587.3371 | 50 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007
Lucien Rees Roberts credits his love of art to his family’s three generations of painters. The British-born designer studied architecture at Cambridge University before relocating to New York in 1981. He helped to found the renowned interiors department at Steven Harris Architects then set up his own firm in 2007. Rees Roberts + Partners is based in New York, but they work worldwide. Partner Deborah Hancock travelled the world as a home design furnishings trend forecaster for Cotton Incorporated before attending Parsons School of Design and then coming on board.
Rees Roberts + Partners is known for intriguing landscape designs that capture the geography surrounding a home. Projects by Roberts and team have been widely published in Elle Decor, Architectural Record, the Wall Street Journal, Luxe, Interior Design Magazine, and Town & Country. The firm’s numerous awards include multiple Best of the Year awards from Interior Design. In 2008, Roberts was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame.
14) Steven Harris Architects
Website | 212.587.1108 | 50 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007
For over three decades, founding Principal Steven Harris, American Institute of Architects (AIA), has presided over the highly credentialed design team that makes up his New York-based firm. Harris was born and raised in Florida. He studied design at Rhode Island’s New College School of Design and then at Princeton University. He founded this firm in 1985. Ten years later, partner John Woell joined, after receiving a Master of Architecture from Yale and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of Minnesota, where he graduated with honors. Partner Eliot Lee, a native of California, also joined in 1998. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from Princeton and a Master of Architecture from Yale.
All three men have earned reputations for crafting impeccable interiors and managing projects expertly. Works by Steven Harris Architects have been featured in a variety of publications, such as The Robb Report, Architectural Digest, House & Garden, and the Wall Street Journal. The firm has landed on numerous “best of” lists, including Elle Decor’s, Architectural Digest’s and Luxe’s. Its various awards for “Best of Year” projects have come from Interior Design magazine and AIA.
13) D’Aquino Monaco, Inc.
Website | 212.929.9787 | 9 East 19th Street, New York, NY 10003
Interior designer, Carl D’Aquino, is renowned for his ability to apply modernist sensibility and eclectic taste to contemporary design. His extraordinary appreciation for antiques, period furniture, and lighting is complimented by a fascination for cutting edge materials and invention. After 13 years of developing his hallmark style, Carl teamed up with architect Francine Monaco, and established D’Aquino Monaco in 1998.
Their visionary architectural and interior design firm, celebrated its 20th Anniversary—and the start of a new decade for their award-winning design practice.With more than 200 projects worldwide, the creativity sponsored by this partnership led to their induction into the Interior Design Hall of Fame along with top designer accolades. They are presently engaged in several residential projects in New York City, a hotel in Pennsylvania and their very first collection of bespoke hardware.
Website | 212.754.3099 | 67 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
The principals of this firm achieved the highest design accolades on their own before joining forces to establish Drake|Anderson. Jamie Drake graduated from Parsons School of Design and then established Drake Design Associates, which boasted an impressive clientele that included Madonna and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Since 2012, Drake has held spots on Elle Decor’s A-list and Architectural Digest’s AD-100. He’s also made House Beautiful’s Master Class and Interior Design’s Hall of Fame. But he’s even more proud of having received the Director’s Award from the Partnership for the Homeless, a cause he has championed for decades.
Co-owner and Principal Designer Caleb Anderson hails from Texas. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design from Texas State University, Anderson interned with Drake in 2008. By 2013, he had opened his own shop, Caleb Anderson Design, and the praise poured in. House Beautiful called Anderson the “Next Wave Designer” and the International Furnishings & Design Association named Anderson one of the industry’s top rising stars. Designs by Drake|Anderson consistently appear in Luxe, Traditional Home, Interior Design, and other publications.
11) Tsao & McKown
Website | 212.337.3800 | 242 Third Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215
The founding principals of this Brooklyn-based architecture and design firm were classmates at Harvard’s graduate school, where they used to fight over desk space. After Harvard, both earned impressive stints with industry giants. Calvin Tsao, Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA), went to work with Richard Meier and I.M. Pei, while Zack McKown, FAIA, apprenticed with Ulrich Franzen and Rafael Vinoly. They joined forces in 1985 and today head a team of a dozen design professionals. Residential projects run the gamut from rustic mountain houses to swanky penthouse duplexes.
Tsao & McKown have garnered enviable industry recognition. Tsao serves on the Board of The American Academy in Rome and is the former vice president for Design Excellence of the New York AIA. He has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. McKown serves on the nonprofit Board of Directors of the Design Trust for Public Space in New York. He has lectured at Harvard and Parsons the New School for Design. In addition to their Interior Design’s Best of Year Awards, Architect’s Newspaper Best of Design Awards, and National Design Award for Interior Design, Tsao & McKown are Interior Design Hall of Fame members.
10) Hariri & Hariri
Website | 212.727.0338 | 520 W 27 Street, New York, NY 10001
The principals at Hariri & Hariri didn’t rise to the top of the interior design profession simply because they are sisters who were born in Iran and educated at Cornell University. Instead, that position has come from solid accomplishments in architecture and design, as well as from their forward-thinking management of one of the country’s top women-owned businesses, which opened in 1986.
While they excel at museum and hotel interior designs, the sisters have been especially lauded for modernistic and out-of-the-box creations for single-family luxury units. In 2005, Hariri & Hariri received the Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture and were inducted into Interior Design’s Hall of Fame. In 2010, the duo was added to Architectural Digest’s list of top architects. In 2016, they were doubly honored with the AIA’s Career Achievement Award and Build Magazine’s Female Designers of the Year Award. In 2017, Hariri & Hariri announced the publication of their latest book, which details the firm’s most innovative high-tech projects.
9) David Kleinberg Design Associates
Website | 212.754.9500 | 330 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022
A venerable fixture in New York’s design scene for decades, David Kleinberg has been recognized by Architectural Digest as “a consummate decorator in the old-school mold” and “a master of color, texture, scale and detail.” Kleinberg graduated from Trinity College in 1976. He then apprenticed at interior design firms Denning & Fourcade and Mara Palmer. That was followed by 16 years at the highly respected Parish-Hadley Associates.
In 1997, Kleinberg decided it was time for a solo gig and set up David Kleinberg Design Associates, where he now heads a team of 30 employees. Since 2011, he’s been on Elle Decor’s A-List. In 2012, he was named to Architectural Digest’s AD100. But the honors didn’t stop there. The firm has participated in the Kips Bay Decorator Show House and has had its creations published internationally. In 2017, Kleinberg was honored with the Albert Hadley Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York School of Interior Design. His eponymous furniture collection is set to launch in spring 2018 through the Heritage Home Group and the Henredon Collection has launched and will be in stores in the fall of 2018.
8) Bruce Bierman Design Inc.
Website | 212.243.1935 | 29 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10011
Although the founder of this prestigious firm can pull off designs to suit both classic and contemporary tastes, Bruce Bierman says he is a modernist at heart. Bierman graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design before opening this firm in 1977. His first taste of fame came fast. The designs he made for his own apartment were featured in the New York press, and a high-end client flew Bierman to Acapulco to design a lavish retreat.
Today, Bierman’s interior designs range from a 24,000-square-foot estate in Palm Beach to a lofty penthouse at Trump Plaza. This type of adroitness doesn’t go unnoticed. Bierman’s work has been extensively covered in Architectural Digest, House & Garden, Interior Design, the New York Times, and Elle Decor. It has also received worldwide recognition on CNN’s TV show In-Style with Elsa Klensch. An Interior Design Hall of Famer, Bierman has made House Beautiful’s lists of “The Top 10 Designers to Watch” and “America’s Most Brilliant Decorators A-Z.”
7) Elliott + Associates Architects
Website | 405.232.9554 | 35 Harrison Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73104
When asked to describe his firm’s approach to design, Founding Principal Rand Elliot, FAIA, answered, “The best award is a client who believes we solved their problem.” That approach helps explain why 80 percent of the firm’s business comes from repeat customers. Elliot, who was born and raised in Oklahoma, studied architecture at Oklahoma State University. He was just 27 when he established Elliott + Associates Architects. Forty-two years later, the award-winning designer — who is still based in his home state — heads a team of about 12 credentialed professionals.
The firm’s signature style is inspired by the Midwest, with its Great Plains, rugged landscape, extreme weather, and indigenous artifacts. Elliott + Associates Architects has achieved 289 interior design and architectural awards, including 10 AIA National Honor Awards. In 2006, Rand Elliott was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was named Innovator of the Year by Oklahoma’s The Journal Record. The firm’s work has appeared in more than 85 books and 375 periodicals.
6) Victoria Hagan
Website | 212.888.1178 | 5 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019
Veranda magazine has called Victoria Hagan “the reigning queen of restrained elegance.” The nationally recognized designer grew up in Hudson Valley, New York, and attended Parsons School of Design. After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts, Hagan studied with interior designer Simone Feldman. In 1991, Hagan established her firm and attracted almost immediate attention from design aficionados. Her creations routinely appear in leading design publications.
Victoria serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons School of Design, is included in Architectural Digest’s AD100, and was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame. Among the firm’s recent projects are renovations of a 20k-square-foot historic townhouse in Manhattan; an 8,000-acre mountainside ranch in Aspen, Colorado; and Number One Observatory Circle in Washington, D.C. — the official residence of the Vice President of the United States. Hagan has branched out with an eponymous line of furniture and fabrics that she calls the “new American classics.”
5) Marmol Radziner
Website | 310.826.6222 | 12210 Nebraska Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Two decades ago in 1989 Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner teamed up to open this Los Angeles-based firm, which has made national headlines for its design prowess. The duo head an impressive group of cabinet-makers, site supervisors, general contractors, and senior design associates. The firm has launched its own line of custom-made furniture and runs both a cabinet shop and a metal shop. Managing Principal Marmol, FAIA, received his Bachelor of Architecture from California Polytechnic State University. Radziner, FAIA, received his Master of Architecture in 1986 from the University of Colorado. As the firm’s design principal, Radziner supervises every project.
The seemingly endless list of awards Marmol Radziner has earned through the years includes numerous Best of Year Award from Interior Design magazine along with a place on that publication’s star-studded Hall of Fame. Publications such as Town & Country, House and Garden, Dwell, Harper’s Bazaar, Metropolitan Home, Interior Design, and Architectural Digest have highlighted Marmol Radziner’s creations.
4) Olson Kundig
Website | 206.624.5670 | 159 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104
Principal / Owner Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, has a unique approach to design: he’s known to leave materials in a raw state to be tamed by natural elements, including human touch. Kundig’s designs have earned him a National Design Award for Architecture from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and a spot — along with Jim Olson, FAIA, who founded the firm in 1966 — on Interior Design’s Hall of Fame. Kundig has also received the AIA Seattle Gold Medal and an Academy Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2016, he was elected to the National Academy as an Academician in Architecture.
Olson’s work is no less impressive. It’s been the subject of four monographs, and he had a solo exhibition at the University of Washington in 2015. Olson has also been published in more than 500 write-ups in leading publications worldwide. Olson Kundig was honored with the AIA’s Architecture Firm Award for exceptional interior design. Since the 1990s, the team has been on Architectural Digest’s list of the world’s top design professionals.
3) Gabellini Sheppard
Website | 212.388.1700 | 665 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Nationally acclaimed designer Michael Gabellini graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design before honing his skills at Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects in New York. He established Gabellini Associates in 1991. Almost three decades later, Gabellini Sheppard has two equity partners, as well as accolades from the design world’s most prestigious voices. These honors include over 85 awards, including the International Interior Design Association’s Global Excellence Award, the American Architecture Prize for interior design, and many Best of the Year awards from Interior Design Magazine.
Partner Kimberly Sheppard, FAIA, earned degrees in architecture and fine arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has served as an adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design. Partner Daniel Garbowit, AIA, LEED AP, received his Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Management from Syracuse University. Garbowit has been the subject of countless magazine, newspaper, and journal articles and featured in 100 books on design. He lectures at Parsons School of Design, the Rhode Island School of Design, and Harvard Business School.
2) Hagy Belzberg
Website | 310.453.9611 | 2321 Main Street, Santa Monica, CA 90405
The founder of this internationally acclaimed firm was born in Tel Aviv, but has resided in Los Angeles since age 7. Hagy Belzberg studied architecture at Harvard University, where he received his master’s degree with distinction. His design for the Walt Disney Concert Hall was featured in the New York Times. Belzberg opened his firm in 1997 and now heads 23 architects and designers.
Belzberg has been called an “Emerging Talent” by the American Institute of Architects California Council and an “Emerging Voice” by the Architectural League of New York. In 2010, the cutting-edge designer was elected to The College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects for exceptional contributions to the architectural profession. Since 1994, Hagy has lectured graduate and undergraduate architecture students at UCLA, USC, and the Southern California Institute of Architecture. Since its founding, Hagy Belzberg has received over 90 awards, including AIA Honor Awards, Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Awards, and Prism Awards.
1) Bates Masi + Architects
Website | 631.725.0229 | 132 North Main Street, East Hampton, NY 11937
Though firmly based in East Hampton, the full-service firm of Bates Masi + Architects completes projects nationwide. Principals Paul Masi and Harry Bates possess a combined experience that stretches back five decades. Masi was raised in Montauk and resides in Amagansett. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from Catholic University and a Master of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Before teaming up with Bates in 1998, he worked at Richard Meier & Partners. Also an East Hampton resident, Harry Bates studied architecture at North Carolina State University. He spent 10 years with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill before going into private practice for 17 years.
Since 2003, the firm has racked up over 148 design awards, and its projects have been covered by local and national media outlets. Residential Architect Magazine put the firm on its list of “50 Architects We Love.” In 2012, Architectural Record Magazine said that the firm’s project in Montauk was one of nine projects in the world to be recognized as a “Record House” for the year.