What happens when you put these four creative friends in the same room? I’ll tell you. A lot of laughs, a lot of fun, and a lot of love.
I first met Danielle Rollins, Cathy Austin, and Billy Ceglia on a designer trip to Italy. We became fast friends and bonded over the beauty of Italian architecture, art, and sumptuous textiles (not to mention a glass of wine or two). Since then we check in, reunite, and deepen our relationship through trips, talks, design events, and vintage ashtrays from famous hotels that we gift to each other. We’re like-minded for sure, but how well do we know each other? I asked this group the same questions to see how each would respond. Then someday, hopefully soon, when we are fitting regular travel back into our schedules again, we will happily execute some of these ideas. Enjoy!
We’ve all traveled to inspirational destinations, but none of you have visited me in Des Moines. I know that art would mark our agenda with trips to the Des Moines Art Center, the Pappajohn Sculpture Garden, and the Krause Gateway Center that was designed by Renzo Piano and boasts its own fabulous collection of works. What are your thoughts about Iowa?
Cathy: I’m dying to see your scene, both the museums and architecture. I first learned of the cultural vibe in Des Moines through an exhibit on Halston (NOTE: For those who don’t know the connection, the legendary American fashion icon was born and raised in Des Moines).
Danielle: I’d love to say it’s flat, and full of cows and tumbleweeds, but I know much better. When I did my first book tour for Soiree: Entertaining with Style, I made my first Midwest journey and discovered great old and new architecture, incredible symphony halls, and lovely neighborhoods. I also learned you don’t hear about the gems of the Midwest because its inhabitants like to keep it a bit of a secret.
Billy: Aren’t Des Moines and Sheboygan the same thing? I know you have a lot of corn, a lot of sports, and fried butter at your famous Iowa State Fair. And I don’t consider fried butter a bad thing!
Speaking of travel, I’m missing it terribly, especially seeing all of you. If you were going on individual trips with each of us and together, where are we headed? And don’t worry, you don’t have to say Iowa.
Danielle: I’m heading to Nantucket with you, an art museum with Cathy, and anywhere with Billy. But let’s reconvene next in Palm Beach.
Billy: They say true friendship is when you can get together and talk about a wooden spoon for hours, and we certainly have that bond, so I’d be happy to go anywhere one-on-one. Even if it’s a trip to Wal-Mart, it’s going to be interesting. But we should schedule a European adventure for our next trip, with the hijinks of cultural and language barriers.
Cathy: A jaunt around the Mediterranean on Constance, the beautiful setting of Danielle’s birthday. That’s where I want us to all be together. One-on-one, museum-hopping in Rome with Amanda, an adventure at art fairs and nighttime dancing in Miami with Billy. With Danielle, I’d like a guilt-free shopping excursion in Paris starting at the flea market in the morning and ending the day at the Hemingway Bar with cheeseburgers, frites, and fabulous cocktails.
OK, Billy, I’m glad you think we can take a trip to Wal-Mart together or talk about a wooden spoon for hours, but let’s find something else to do. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If we were all together and assigning one person to every task, who would do what?
Danielle: I’m cooking, Amanda gets the playlist, Cathy will entertain us, and Billy will set the table.
Billy: I’ll cook the meal, Amanda can choose the music, Cathy can entertain, and Danielle will set the table.
Cathy: Danielle should cook, I will choose the music, Billy is always entertaining, and Amanda, you set a beautiful table.
If I had my way, I’d like some group activities. Can you imagine the depth and beauty of the tablescape if we put all of our china, table linens, and silver together? Magical. And I’d love to cook a meal with Danielle, but if we are ordering and pouring drinks, well, that goes to Cathy and Billy. And Billy, you are one incredible dancer, so that is entertaining in and of itself!
Let’s talk design. After all, that’s how we know each other to begin with. What’s one crazy industry story that you’d love to share?
Billy: How about the time that my client’s new house number was the same as their old one? Same town on a street with a similar name. The carpet that I had ordered came with instructions to deliver it to the living room, where the housekeeper would spread it out. Well, the rug went to the OLD house, where it was delivered to the living room, and that housekeeper spread it out. The problem was eventually resolved.
Cathy: Mine has to do with a practical joke. We all know what it’s like to work with a new client. There are often old pieces that they want us to incorporate in the new design. I was once referred to a new client and thought someone had played a major practical joke on me. When I entered the living room, a full-size stuffed lion was staring at me and was supposed to be the focal point of the room!
Danielle: My funny story has to do with the four of us. I love that when we go out at events, we have an uncanny knack for showing up dressed alike. We end up looking like we are part of some kind of traveling fashion circus—and the funny looks we get from everyone. Not that any of us ever care!
What about the fun we have together? My fondest memory was in Italy. We were in Venice at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection enjoying a private dinner. Then very late that same evening (or possibly the next morning by then) we were at the Bauer Hotel twirling in swivel chairs with martinis in hand laughing our hearts out. I am not even sure what we were laughing about now, but it it’s my warmest and most cheerful memory. What’s yours of our time together?
Cathy: I agree, Amanda. There are so many to share, but I loved when we were in Italy with the Rubelli family. From our shenanigans at Villa d’Este to a private evening at the Guggenheim Foundation and the “wedding” that followed as Danielle and Billy’s bridesmaids was pretty spectacular.
Billy: Italy. That’s when we all really bonded and had the best time.
Danielle: But remember when Billy had the top-floor suite in L.A. at the Sunset Tower? We had a little sunset party with just the four of us! Then there was the time in Palm Beach when Amanda and Cathy waltzed into (read crashed) a party at The Breakers and got booted out! I’ll never forget y’all coming out wearing glow bracelets necklaces, and headbands looking like scolded schoolgirls but laughing all night long!
Back to design, we all have parts that we love and parts that drive us crazy. Let’s see how well we know each other about what’s hot and what’s not according to each of us as we see the industry.
Cathy: I know that dealing with paperwork is not Danielle’s favorite, dealing with contractors is not Billy’s, and dealing with difficult clients is what Amanda likes the least.
Billy: I know that the copy-cat design trend drives Danielle crazy and Amanda doesn’t love boring beige and gray design.
I’ve heard you all reference those things before. No fun! But what IS fun is thinking about the room that we would design for each other. I know if I were designing a space for Billy, it would be a candy bar, Danielle would get a chic bar area from me, and Cathy’s passion for artwork would happily force me to fill her room with inspiring artwork. If you were designing a room for each of us, what would you choose?
Danielle: My design for Billy I would include graphic solids. Cathy’s space would be saturated with florals, and I would give Amanda happy, vibrant color.
Billy: Doesn’t matter what type of room that I’m creating for Danielle, it would include a fabulous bar. When I think of Amanda, I think of preppy patterns, and Cathy would be looking at colorful art.
Cathy: Definitely a candy bar for Billy, a cocktail bar for Danielle, and a sweet dog bed for Amanda’s new pup.
The three of you definitely chose well for me. I love color, I love pattern, and I definitely love Parker and my new love, Minnie. We all love patterns and the variations that we see on textiles and wall coverings. What’s one favorite that you couldn’t live without? I rarely repeat fabrics from project to project but have used “Les Touches” by Brunschwig more than most other fabrics. But if I had to choose just one it would probably be “Gainsborough Velvet” by Schumacher. We seem to use one of its brilliant hues in every project.
Cathy: A multicolor “Tree of Life” pattern. It adds an element of exoticism to any room.
Danielle: Oh, that’s a tough one for me! Probably an ikat!
Billy: Off-white linen
Final question: The song that best describes us?
Cathy: “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge
Billy: “These Are My People” by Rodney Atkins
Danielle: “Pump Up the Jam!”