It takes just a glance at the joyful prints and palette of her brand to realise Tory Burch is a consummate colourist. It’s a skill that infuses her whole life, as we discovered when we visited the designer in her New York home.
“I see my life in colour. It’s the first thing I notice. I’m drawn to the way colours interact with and complement one another… The subtle variations within the same shade: navy, cornflower and periwinkle, or orange, mandarin and coral. Living in full colour is my guiding principle—from the way I raise my children to the way I approach my work.”
So reads Tory Burch’s introduction to her 2014 book, Tory Burch: In Color. Stepping into the designer’s home on New York’s Upper East Side, the words ring true.
Artfully layered furnishings, each in vibrant shades of red, orange or green, sit by opulent wallpaper or deco-style monochrome walls. Prints—of flora and fauna, geometric, all ebullient—are recurring fixtures. So are artworks, both large and small, Chinese pottery and old collectables. The overall effect is a luxurious riot of bright hues and patterns. “It’s eclectic,” says Burch, “and very much me.”
The suite life
Occupying an entire floor of the Pierre, a lavish Fifth Avenue hotel facing Central Park, it’s been home to Tory for 20 years, “although for the first four we [she, ex-husband Chris Burch and sons Henry, Nick and Sawyer] lived only in one of the apartments.”
Tory acquired the floor’s other apartment and hallway about 15 years ago and worked with her friend Daniel Romualdez, an architect and interior designer, to meld the spaces into one home. “The entire house is in constant evolution. It’s a combination of hand-me-downs, things I got from my parents, and objects I have collected over the years, set against a rather classic decor.”
Feng shui dictates the layout. Tory has been interested in the Chinese philosophical system since opening her brand’s Hong Kong office in 2006, when one of her staff introduced her to it. She regularly consults feng shui masters on her properties, stores and even the Tory Burch headquarters in New York’s Flatiron district.
Low maintenance luxury
The result is a mix of formal—the entrance hall is stately, the marble flooring and tray ceilings striking—and casual. There might be a Modigliani drawing hanging on the wall and other valuable artefacts scattered around, but there’s no do-not-touch policy. “I’ve never been precious about things,” says Burch.
This unfussy attitude from a designer comes as something of a surprise. Tory is one of America’s youngest billionaires and the brand is now a lifestyle powerhouse in its own right—but not one that makes you think “low maintenance.”
“I am a country girl at heart,” the designer laughs, “which I definitely owe to my upbringing. My parents imparted a love for the laidback. And the eccentric, too. They had a more-is-more attitude when it came to our family home that I have inherited, but also edited down for this apartment. The idea that the place we live in should be welcoming has very much stayed with me.”
A space worth sharing
Tory grew up in a 250-year-old Georgian mansion on a farm in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, with three brothers and her parents, a fashionably bohemian pair who loved to travel and host glamorous dinners for visiting artists, writers, actors and entrepreneurs. She was outdoorsy, a tomboy with no interest in frills, but she was also enchanted by the way her parents entertained and dressed up for it.
Today, Tory loves to hold parties and informal get-togethers at home, from dinners to movie nights with her design team. “I find a certain pleasure in setting the table, picking the glassware, the tablecloth, the menu… I don’t do it as much as I’d like to.”
A love for the eclectic
Her parents were keen collectors, not just of art but of homewares, knick-knacks and mementoes from their travels in India, Asia and Africa. Looking at Tory’s compact but impressive assortment of furnishings and art—including a Lucio Fontana’s canvas, Magritte’s La Géante and an Yves Klein coffee table.
“I’m not a big collector, not compared to them at least. What I have always liked about my parents is how they used to gather things together, and in the house, not because of their value but because of their style and beauty. I try to do the same with the items I purchase. I just love mixing pieces from different periods. The old with the new.”
Which explains why a 17th-century oil painting by the Dutch artist Jacobus Victors hangs with the Modigliani drawing against a swamp-green velvet wall. It’s a contrast, and it works beautifully. The same goes for an Egyptian mask on a French table. “I find the clash interesting,” she says. “But, then again, I studied the history of art, so I’m sure there’s some influence from that, too.”
Home sweet home
We asked the designer if she ever separates the business, her Tory Burch Foundation—which she founded in 2009 to provide access to capital, education and digital resources for entrepreneurial women—from her private life (she’s currently planning her wedding with LVMH chairman and CEO Pierre-Yves Roussel).
“At home, it’s all about my boys,” she replies. “I try to spend as much time as possible with them when they’re here, which is increasingly rare, as they’re young men now and go out a fair bit. But we do have movie nights and often hang together in the library, which is perhaps my favourite space because of that. So, yes, I do keep things separate. Everyone needs to have some balance between life and work.”