Levine reclines on a Christian Liaigre chair in a Gold Coast townhouse he designed. To his right is a Macassar ebony and nickel credenza of his own design below a vintage Vico Magistretti lighting fixture.
Douglas Levine is a true arbiter of style. From his signature skinny ties and trousers (which he was wearing long before they came back) to his simultaneously classic and envelope-pushing interiors and furniture designs, he knows how to make a bold statement quietly. He was Holly Hunt’s design director for eight years before opening his own design firm, L Corp (561 W. Diversey Pkwy., 773-528-9748), in 1996. Not long after, the 75-year-old Bright Chair Company hired him to update its image; the company once known for solid-but-boring corporate and hospitality furniture is now a modern luxury brand coveted by commercial and high-end residential customers alike. Currently, Levine is working similar magic for the 75-year-old furniture manufacturer Manheim-Ruseau, and spends his remaining time creating interiors for a few select private clients. We caught up with the charmingly opinionated Levine to get his thoughts on some matters.
Vanessa Sofa in Holly Hunt’s Great Plains Fabric
What inspired the Vanessa sofa in your new collection for Bright? It’s beautiful. All of my pieces are inspired by my life and friends. My friend Vanessa is a classically trained dancer. This sofa’s long dancer legs remind me of hers, and the elongated back reminds me of the line of her back, from her shoulders to the tips of her fingers, when she is dancing.
What pieces always seem to find their way into your projects? Drink tables. They’re smaller than an end table, about 8 to 18 inches in diameter, and portable. They allow you to sit in one spot and have your drink, and not have to lean over very far to set it down.
What design conventions are people used to that you aren’t particularly sold on? Towel bars. You walk into these people’s homes and they’ve got like five towels hanging over each other on one bar. And you’re only supposed to use the top one. The rest just hang there and gather dust. I prefer hooks. All the big bath showrooms, like Waterworks and Kohler, have their towels on hooks.
Jason Drink tables in Mahogany
What colors do you love? White, and I consider it a color. For me, it represents clarity. My whole place is white. But I also love color, except purple-especially if you let me go monochromatic. I’ve done five to ten clashing reds in one room, and also incorporated different textures; the texture makes it read as another color. The effect is very soothing.
What is the height of luxury? Fine art.
What should you splurge on if you can’t afford to buy everything at once? One or two great pieces of furniture and beautiful window treatments. That way, it will look like you did it on purpose instead of the room looking unfinished.
What are you sick of? Chocolate brown chunky furniture.
What are you excited about? The move from silver metals to gold. And thinner, more refined lines in furniture.
Photography: Katrina Wittkamp