The bestselling author of Arm Candy, Wolves in Chic Clothing, and the just-released Rock Star in Seat 3A dishes about life and design.
You could be forgiven for assuming Jill Kargman would be a stuck-up socialite. The bestselling author boasts a Yale degree and runs in the chicest of Manhattan circles. (One of her longtime pals is Gwyneth Paltrow, a fellow classmate at the elite New York prep school Spence.) But the self-described “trashy novelist” is as refreshingly grounded as they come—and her family’s city apartment, which inspired her Curator’s Collection for Joss & Main, is as polished yet down-to-earth as she is. Here, Kargman explains how her traditional-cool look came together.
The images in your Joss & Main lookbook are of your own home, right? Did you have any help designing it?
Yes, it was done by Lauren Duff. She’s my friend from forever ago—we went to high school together. I know, people say “don’t work with your friends,” but I knew I could trust her. When you work with someone you don’t know very well, you don’t always feel comfortable striking down their choices and their opinions, saying “I don’t like birds,” or whatever. When I found [my apartment], there was this allegedly beautiful wallpaper in it. It was this graphic print of, like, Asian men playing leapfrog—some sort of toile. The broker was like, “If you remove this, I will die.” When I moved in I told the broker, “Start digging.”
What was the process of designing it with Lauren?
With Lauren, she knew me so well, and I felt like I could say what I wanted and what I hated. I went with her to pick out one or two things, but mostly I let her do all the hard work. She’d drop off a bag of stuff in my lobby, or she’d come over and we’d have a glass of wine and look at pictures or swatches together. And my apartment looks very much like my style. I wear mostly black with some gray, some white. I don’t wear colors, so I don’t want to live with them, either. Lauren took my style and translated it into three dimensions.
How do you balance your desire for a lovely space with messy kids?
My apartment usualy looks like shit, I’ll be honest. But when it came to designing, look, l’m not going to decorate around my children. Especially for the mom, even if you are at work, you end up spending more time at home, and especially when you live in the East where you have seasons, it’s so easy to get cabin fever. So It’s important that your home is a space you love. With kids, I just have to kind of train them, set boundaries, and let them know it’s not OK to get handprints on certain pieces of furniture.
What room would you most like to re-do?
I’m doing some work in a few rooms this summer, but it’s not really a redo. It’s decorating Botox. I’m getting new carpet because they’re stained, but I’m getting the same one. I’m repainting, because it’s chipped paint—just refreshing it where there’s wear and tear. I want it to look fresh.
Have you had many New York apartments?
Yeah, I moved a lot. I had another apartment, and I had my bachelorette pad. After going to boarding school. l got used to folding your life into boxes and packing it out every couple of years.
Did that affect how you lived and designed your spaces?
Yeah, definitely. Never until this apartment had I bought wallpaper. It’s so permanent, and you get used to transience when you’re single, and not wanting to make decisions when you’re not sure where you’re going to be in a few years. Picking it out I was like, whoa, this is a big decision.
What’s one design trend you hate?
I hate when people just choose one thing and make it their concept. “Lime green!” And everything’s that color. Or, “bowls!” I hate form over function, or items that are just there because they’re artistic, like a chair that’s tilted to one side or something. There’s no furniture in my house that’s sculptural. That’s what art is for.
Some favorite places to score home items?
As a novelist and magazine writer, you’re constantly on the go. What are some spaces that inspire you?
I just got my first laptop after years of just having a desktop, and I love taking it to places around New York to work. I like working in hotels. I was just writing the other day at the Gramercy Park, and another time I went to the Harvard club, which is beautiful. I like dark, creepy places like that. You feel like you’re doing something serious, like you’re working among all these people who came before you.
Jill Kargman’s novel The Rockstar in Seat 3A is available on May 22.