Billy Cotton tried to quit interior design. The universe had other ideas

In 2019, Billy Cotton sent an unusual note to vendors, customers and the press, informing them that he was closing his design business. This was strange for two reasons: first, interior designers hardly ever officially closed their businesses (it’s an Irish farewell industry). Second, Cotton was highly regarded. His work for famous artists like Cindy Sherman had landed it in glossy shelter magazines and a spot on the AD100 list. Why stop at the top?

It turns out that Cotton was about to climb even higher: he had been cast as creative director of Ralph Lauren Home, a coveted role if ever there was one (Alfredo Paredes, the former creative director of RLH, spent more than three decades with the brand). The move also seemed to fit perfectly with Cotton’s initial ambitions in the design industry – he had studied industrial design at Pratt and had sold a line of plates at Bloomingdale’s. But at the end of the day, the dream design job just wasn’t for her.

“[I had been thinking] that interior design is only a means to an end – I’m leaving to go to Ralph to pursue what felt like the full manifestation of a career in product design,” he said. declared to the host Denis Scully on the last episode of The Home Business Podcast. “What I’ve learned is that I like to work on more individual fashion. I love seeing the builder on the job, and the people in my upholstery shop… If I hadn’t gone to [Ralph Lauren] I don’t think I would have thought of the importance [interior design work] was for me, and how much it meant to others. And how that would lead to working with my community in this more intimate way than working for a global company.

Suffice to say that Billy Cotton, interior designer, is back. His first monograph came out earlier this year, and his projects return to the magazines he thought he left behind. But this time, Cotton is once again energized by the basics.

“It’s not really about bigger and more right now,” he says. “It’s about: How do we do what we do the best we can? At this level of service to these homes and clients, it takes a tremendous amount of focus to do it right, and I want to be very careful not to take my eyes off it.

Elsewhere in the episode, Cotton explains why he loves hiring waiters at his design business, shares the stark contrast between perception and reality in the design industry, and explains why in difficult times his most comforting balm. has always been hard work.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Crypton.

Home page image: Billy Cotton | Courtesy of Stephen Kent Johnson

Betty K. Park