Sasha Bikoff didn’t plan on a career in interior design. She always thought she’d work in the contemporary art world, as a gallerist. But after receiving her first interior design project—decorating her mother’s apartment at the famed Dakota—while working at Gagosian Gallery, she decided to leave her job and pursue design full time.
Now, Bikoff owns an eponymous interior design company, and works with an impressive roster of clients, including restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld. Along with residential projects in New York and the Hamptons, Bikoff has designed restaurants (like The Mess) and is in the midst of fabric and furniture collaborations, as well as a media project.
Bikoff, who was born and raised on the Upper East Side in New York, currently lives in a prewar Greenwich Village duplex. She invited the Observer into her colorful, chic and maximalist apartment; a refreshing change from the modern, sterile, beige aesthetic taking over right now. Bikoff told the Observer about her design process and showed us her favorite pieces in her feminine bedroom—she’s particularly fond of objects that bring to mind Marie Antoinette and 18th century French design.
What first drew you into interior design?
I’ve been an interior designer for five years now. My first job gave me a lot of press, and then I started to get a bunch of clients from there. I’m not classically trained in interior design, but I always loved it. I lived in Paris, and would go to the Marché aux Puces almost everyday. I’d go antiquing, and I would teach myself about interior design and the history of design, but I had never thought about it as a career—I always thought I wanted to be a gallerist! I realized design is my real passion, and I’m a creative person and I’m going to do this.
How do you begin your design process with a new client?
First, we kind of interview each other. I ask so many kinds of questions, like what do they do in their spare time, what’s your passion, where do you like to travel to? I try to size them up, and figure out who they are as a person to develop what kind of design aesthetic they would like. Sometimes people will send me inspiration images. You try to get to know someone, and it’s almost like a therapist. My job is to give them what they don’t know they want.
Tell us about how you decided on this apartment.
When I graduated college, I bought my first apartment in Tribeca. I felt the area was very secluded and kind of family-oriented. It was on the water, so it was kind of desolate. So I decided I wanted a pre-war, old style apartment in Greenwich Village. I can picture myself living in this area forever! It’s like a combination between the Upper East Side, old world class with all of the beautiful brownstones and the really gorgeous buildings on lower Fifth, but then you have the downtown cool, so it’s the best of both worlds.
What was the first thing you did when you moved in?
I painted the floors downstairs white, I painted all the walls, and I did the wallpaper detail on the closet. I like to approach a space like a painting. You have your base, like your paint, your floors. Then you keep adding and building up the space, as though you would on canvas, where you’re building up the paint and the brushstroke. I have a warehouse of furniture because I’m an antiques dealer; I make furniture and I sell furniture. Things are constantly coming in and out of here.
What cities and places most inspire you?
Paris inspires me the most. I lived there, and I go there all the time—it’s one of my favorite places in the world. I just feel like the combination between fashion, art and architecture is the most elevated. I also feel really inspired being out in nature, on the beach. I spend my summers in the Hamptons and I surf, and just the salty air and the ocean. My color theory and my usage of color comes from nature. The combination of both of those places is what really inspires me.
How would you define your design aesthetic, especially in your room?
I wouldn’t say I have a particular style, but I am drawn to certain periods in design history. I love 1960s French space age, I love 1980s Memphis Milano, I love a little 18th century French Rococo. My style is definitely vintage and antique, but with a fresh new approach to it. For instance, this carpet is a Chinese deco rug from the 1920s. I dyed every single little flower detail in this rug. Originally it was brown, so I gave it a fresh new light.
These are 18th century French porcelain lamps. I was in Israel in the Shuk, and I bought Syrian Damask fabrics, and I made the lampshades—they look like little hats. And my vanity stool, I used an Hermès scarf, and I love it because the daisies kind of match the shape of the stool. It’s about taking these old, special treasures that have a uniqueness to them and bringing them to make them look cool for nowadays. I’m not modern, I’m not contemporary, I’m not clean minimal lines. I’m a direct reaction to that Fifty Shades of Grey basic bitch.
What do you think is the most tired interior trend right now?
I would say the whole reclaimed wood with the whole iron metal base, the Edison bulbs, the whole industrial thing. It’s been done so many times. We see it at restaurants, you think of Brooklyn, you think of this industrial look. I’m just tired of it.
What’s your favorite piece in your bedroom?
Probably the vanity. It’s an 18th century French piece I got at the flea market in Paris, and it has these vines on the side with little leaves. I put the amethyst crystal knobs on, and then I did the chair with the Hermès scarf stool. There are some furniture pieces that I think are very hard to find, and one is a vanity. A lot of times, there’s not enough storage space to put all your makeup, or it’s too big or too small. But this has everything you need—the chair, the matching stool, the lights, the design motifs. To me, this was a really unique piece and a hard find. I think a vanity is such an important piece for a woman, and it’s also such a throwback. I love the things that make you feel nostalgic, and when you sit there and do your makeup, you feel so glamorous, like Marie Antoinette or Marilyn Monroe. I think every girl needs a vanity.
Do you have any big projects or collaborations in the works?
I’m working on a TV show! I’m working on two restaurants, I’m doing a carpet collection, I’m doing a fabric collection, and some awesome residential projects—so a lot of exciting things going on!