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We talk interiors with worldwide designer, Nancy Ruddy


CetraRuddy is an award-winning architecture and interior design firm with global projects across the residential, hospitality, education, cultural and commercial sectors.

Having recently celebrated 30 years, the New York based company made up of over 100 passionate professionals is highly recognized for exemplifying architectural and design excellence.

Familiar and enthusiastic about Nancy’s work, D&D London have worked with CetraRuddy to create beautiful spaces including 20 Stories, Bluebird London NYC and the groups most recent opening, queensyard.

What’s the best interior design lesson you’ve learnt?

The design of any space or building should have an attitude and point of view; that is what makes spaces memorable and inspiring.

Vintage or modern?

The most interesting spaces to me are those that are a medley of styles, with each finish or item that has visual appeal. A diverse combination of materials and textures enrich each other.  I love minimalist modern lines with large glass frameless glass, paired with aged wood and heavily woven fabrics. All must combine to create an ensemble. When everything is all modern or all vintage, it feels heartless and like a stage set.

Bold hues or subtle neutrals?

These are two different design approaches that both work; but not together. I love spaces that are composed of all neutrals but with a great variety of texture and materials. Subtle medleys of colours can be layered to create a luxurious effect.  Stay away from neutral schemes that just add a pop of colour for “accent”; it is artificial.  Instead, when using colour, use it intensely and with confidence. I love washing a room in one intense colour such as navy blue or orange: Millwork, ceilings, everything. Then bring in a contrasting bold colour or a white/ off white for an interesting contrast.

Are you seeing any particular style requests trending amongst your clients?

Clients come to our firm because they respect our point of view and know that our collaboration will be most successful if a “style” is not prescribed. What we are consistently seeing is people wanting to simplify their lives; to have fewer but more select items in their homes and offices. There is great serenity in not wanting things but wanting the inspiring feeling of experiencing an exquisitely simple and curated space.

Who inspires you inside and outside the interior design world?

Within the design world I particularly admire Sir David Adjaye, the British architect. He continues to inspire me with each new project. His design work is generated from a sense of place, history and an imperative to create meaning and memory in modern architecture.

Outside of our rarified world of design, I most admire people who fight for human rights in their everyday life; the many times unsung heroes that are really changing our world. Bold face names would include United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Richard Branson, and my daughter, Andrea Cetra, who has committed her life to promoting social justice for those who can least defend themselves.

What is your favourite thing to design?

I don’t have a favorite thing I like to design but have a favorite client I like to design for. I delight in working with people who are looking for a journey, who want to explore and crave spaces that are authentic and designed with spiritual and intellectual content.

My favorite thing to design is whatever I am working on at the moment. I am designing my first museum, called Fotografiska, a new faucet line for Waterworks and designing the forever evasive vanity light that makes you look glamorous while also providing enough light to brush your teeth in!

What are your go-to interior accessory brands?

Antique shops are my go-to first source for accessories. The towns of Hudson, Millerton and Saugerties in the Hudson Valley of New York; the Old Town of Cochin, India and Maltby Street in London all have great finds, from 19th century antiques to Mid-Century and 1970’s finds.  I also use 1stdibs which is an online treasure trove and stores like Maison Gérard, ABC Home, and Irreplaceable Artifacts for salvaged elements from historic homes and interiors.

Books are my favorite accessories- they add history and wonder to any room.  Select books that you love or books that are all one color to create art. In London, there is a bookshop called Persephone, where they print out-of-print women writers from the early twentieth century. All of the books have the same pale gray covers; a bookshelf filled with their titles would create the room.

Art in all scales and media create meaning and color in a room.

Can you share some of your top interior tips with us?

  1. Design with emotion and passion and incorporate elements that thrill you. By combining a variety of forms, colour, texture and history, a space becomes magical and memorable.  It will be a space grounded in the authenticity of who you are, not based in fashion or trends.
  2. Use colour boldly and with spirit.  Colour always appears paler in large expanses so select tones that have a great intensity.
  3. Comfort in furniture is key. Make selections that are luscious to the touch and are embracing and encourage one to stay awhile.
  4. .Add a touch of irreverence and surprise to any space that generates a smile and sense of wonder. Aim to create spaces that are magical.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the interiors sector?

Have a passion for what you do or do something else. Do even the smallest project for a great client to show them what you can do. Be true to your own design beliefs while never forgetting that we are in a service business. Fight for quality.