“Pristine and the Patinated”: A Conversation with Designer Timothy Whealon

Connecticut Farmhouse Photo by William Waldron

For designer Timothy Whealon, creating the ideal space for his clients means crafting a perfect blend of the past with the future. His love of classicism meshes brilliantly with his passion for what’s next in the world of design.  With a background in art history (first studying at Kenyon College and later through Sotheby’s Works of Art) he is especially adept at incorporating fine and decorative art into his designs.  He views every project as a unique challenge, often working with artists and craftsmen to create custom pieces to ensure a perfect design solution for each space. He lends his well-trained eye to each project with an attention to detail that is unparalleled.  We checked in with the in demand designer for tips on adding antiques to the home, how he manages to blend colors, eras and styles with such elegance, and the places in the world from which he derives the most design inspiration.

Gramercy Park Penthouse Photo by Max Kim-Bee

While today he is a sought after designer whose work is regularly featured in the pages of Architectural Digest and Elle Décor, he began his career far from the world of fine art and design, in finance. “I had grown up with the idea that art should be an avocation, not a career, so when I graduated from Kenyon College Wall Street was a natural first stop. New York’s countless galleries and museums offered a sense of relief from that world, so I began exploring opportunities within the art world, even taking a weekend job at Stair & Company on Madison Avenue.  I made the full switch from finance to design when I resigned to spend a year in London completing the Work of Art Course at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. My mother and my aunt where both influential in fostering the love of design and the decorative arts; my aunt, Kay Healy Moquin, was an interior designer in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and attended Cranbrook Academy of Art.”

Monaco Villa Photo by Simon Watson

Timothy’s love of art can clearly be seen in his body of work. To those looking to add artwork to their own space, he offers this sage advice:  “Buy things that you love and that speak to you and one will always find a place for it.”

Monaco Villa  Photo by Simon Watson

In addition to his ability to find the perfect piece of art to complete a room, he is also extremely talented at finding and placing antiques. “Craftsmanship and the hand are important elements in my work—I love the juxtaposition of the time worn and the new, as well as layering things from different periods and cultures.  At the core of my work, is the idea of the English country house and collecting throughout centuries; however, my vision of this is executed in a more clean American, edited fashion. I look for pieces that have their own personality and character.”

Gramercy Park Penthouse Photo by Jeffrey Hirsch

This juxtaposition of past and present has a place in his own home as well. His blend of “pristine and patinated” as he aptly describes it, adds a major dose of charm and personality to a room. “I mix bespoke furniture of my own design with antiques and this can definitely be seen in my own apartment on Gramercy Park [pictured above].  One of my favorite pieces is an early 19th century campaign chest I purchased at Sotheby`s when I was in my 20’s training with them; its utilitarian, streamlined design, and patina makes me happy – “A thing of beauty, is a joy forever”.”

Park Avenue Pre-war Photo by Tim Street-Porter

Quick Questions with Designer Timothy Whealon

TLV: Is there a particular era that you find especially inspiring?

TW: I love the late 17th Century and early 18th century, as well as the 1930s & 40s.

TLV: Go to color combination?

TW: Greens and chocolate browns with natural fibers like abaca.

TLV: Do you have a favorite place to travel for design inspiration?

TW: I love Istanbul and South Africa.

Southampton Glass House Photo by Max Kim-Bee

TLV: Favorite way to spend a summer afternoon in the city?

TW: On my terrace with a good book and chilled Margarita with fresh lime juice or biking along the west side highway.

TLV: What was a project you worked on recently that you especially loved?

TW: A weekend house in Highlands, NC; the clients are extra special and I love the area and landscape.

TLV: Dream project?

TW: An amazing architectural shell with a rich history, such as a grade 1 listed English country house or an old Italian palazzo filled with a mix of contemporary art, modern furniture, and a nice mix of old world antiques.

TLV: What is the inspiration behind your rug collection?

TW: Design inspiration came from many different places for my rug collection. I have been collecting old textiles on my travels for years, so elements in some of these textiles inspired my collection as well as photographs taken on travels. I am already in the process of designing another collection and would like to create a fabric line down the road.


Click here to Shop the designer’s collection

Portrait by William Waldron / Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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