Monday, October 17, 2016

Wilde Child — Ken Fulk’s Vivid New Book: Ken’s Witty Must-Read Biography is Fun, Frisky, Irreverent and Inspirational

‘Mr. Ken Fulk’s Magical World’ (Abrams) is published this week, with parties to celebrate and Champagne corks popping. Come with me for a close read—and to listen in to my surprising and revealing recent chat with Ken.

The book covers a decade of accomplishments. It’s part picaresque novel, part ‘Adventures with Ken’, with a dashing dollop of gusto and fresh paint, and flea market finds, naughty bits, pals like Dita von Teese and Denise Hale, animalia, decorating, objets-trouvés, bi-coastal thrills, and legendary bacchanalia and bonhomie.

From the book, I’ve selected ‘Ken’s Greatest Hits’, twelve of my favorite rooms and vignettes and collections he and his team have composed.

“Ken happens to be one of my most favorite men friends. I always say he is the Ziegfeld of our time. Traveling with Ken or going out, we always have the best time” —Denise Hale

Above, Ken’s new book, shimmering in my library. iPhone image by The Style Saloniste.

I’ve been writing about Ken for over a dozen years. Ken’s fan base goes far beyond the digerati, with dazzling and diverse clients around the world including leading philanthropists, art collectors, Kamala Harris, a biz whizz or three, financial stars, restaurateurs, real estate developers.

He loves social animals, families, dog lovers, Provincetown authors, vintners, and his pals include Trevor and Alexis Traina, Hearst Design Group Editorial Director Newell Turner, C magazine founder and director Jennifer Smith Hale, Dede Wilsey, Vanessa Getty, Vanity Fair editors, Elle Décor editor-in-chief Michael Boodro, House Beautiful editor-in-chief Sophie Donelson, The Facinator, David Downton, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Martha Stewart, Cornelia Guest, Dior designers, Kevin and Nicole Systrom, Jony and Heather Ive, Malin Giddings, Carmen Dell’Orefice, and glitterati and drag divas and snake-charmers too fabulous and divine to mention.

Scroll down for ‘Inside the Brain of Ken Fulk’— a chat with the great Ken, as we discussed his favorite rooms, best paints, and his fervent belief that decorating should be fun, uplifting, and personal.

He is decorating in Aspen and Provincetown and from Pacific Heights, to the Dordogne and Provence, Paris, Palm Springs, Cabo San Lucas, and London and all points north, south, east and west.

Ken’s new book photographed in the library of The Style Saloniste.

“I always say if everyone loves my décor, it is probably boring, and I haven't done a very good job.”—Ken Fulk

Ken’s Greatest Hits: Images from ‘Mr. Ken Fulk’s Magical World’

“Design should inspire and make you smile and it should never be a bore. While décor has an essential practical purpose, it should also lift our spirits, make us feel happy to walk into a room.”—Ken Fulk

“I have always felt very self-confident about design. I was never afraid to learn, but afraid to be taught in a conventional sense. I feared I might lose something in the translation. Like a singer afraid to take voice lessons, I was scared that an innate gift might be lost.”—Ken Fulk

Ken in New York, antiques galore. Photo by Deirdre Schoo, the New York Times.

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative” — Oscar Wilde

Architecture by Ken Linstead

Inside the Brain of Ken Fulk

Diane Dorrans Saeks sat down recently for a chat with her longtime friend.

Ken in his San Francisco loft, 2005. Photo by Phil Harvey.

DDS:  What was the moment you decided to become a designer?
Like many things in my life I believe it wasn’t a choice but somehow pre-ordained or unavoidable. It’s the lyric from that Leonard Cohen song? I am not the one who loves - it’s love that seizes me. I feel seized by design. It’s part of who I am and not simply some vocation I chose. 

DDS: You have avoided a ‘signature’ style. 
 It’s simply a factor of how we approach a project. Each residence is always deeply personal and expressly oriented to the client who is going to inhabit a space. We are creating an individualized environment not looking to put our stamp on it.

DDS: Inspirations?
The strongest inspirations in my life have perhaps been geographical. I’m a southerner by birth, and have been strongly imprinted with it’s since of place, far beyond the clichés of southern life. Day to day life in the South I carry with me, and it is truly ingrained as the importance of a life well lived.

DDS: Favorite designers?
 I don’t really pay enough attention to other designers’ work. We are, thankfully, so busy doing our own thing that there isn’t time to study and appreciate the great design being done by others. I did have quite a crush on Christian Liaigre’s designs for the longest time. I think of all contemporary designers his work is amongst the most timeless and his furniture the most likely to be collected in the future. 

The majority of good design I’m surrounded by is in other fields. I have had an obsession with the menswear designer Thom Browne. His clothes are a thoroughly modern interpretation of the traditional gentlemen’s wardrobe with impeccable attention to detail. His suits are a ridiculously expensive addiction. I think I’m so attracted to his work because while classically tailored they can be fearlessly modern. That is something I strive for in our own work.

DDS: Architect? 
 I grew up near Charlottesville, Virginia, where Mr. Jefferson loomed large. To me, he was the first and greatest of American designers among a few other accomplishments! He took a traditional European sensibility and created something uniquely American. 

DDS: Favorite rooms?
Room 107 at the Chateau Marmont feels glamorous but understated. It’s old Hollywood glamour at its best. Originally a one-bedroom apartment, it has a terrace that overlooks the lush courtyard, and LA is spread out beyond.

The Fishing Cabin at Manka’s Inverness Lodge in Inverness, Point Reyes is an idyllic rustic retreat. The main lodge burned a few years back, but this jewel thankfully survived.

The Apartment at L’Hotel in Paris. This is famously where Oscar Wilde died. It was restored several years ago by Jacques Garcia and is opulent Left Bank Paris at it’s best. Filled with luxurious fabrics and antiques, it has a terrace overlooking the church of St. Germain-des-Pres.

DDS: Your dream dinner guests?
Oscar Wilde for witty conversation, Julia Child to help prepare, Chet Baker to serenade us, and a young Paul Newman just to look at.

DDS: Antiques? 
KF: I could move into my friend Stéphane Olivier’s shop on the Left Bank in Paris. Everything he collects is a thing of beauty. In Europe, I always visit the Vervoordts in Antwerp – undoubtedly the finest collectors in the world.

DDS: The five most versatile paint colors?
Picket Fence white by Ralph Lauren is a true classic white. Not cold, but not too cream either. I painted every surface at my ranch with it, inside and out.

Fairview Taupe by Benjamin Moore is a wonderful “non” color. It is the perfect warm brown/grey/green. I love it in a dining room or bedroom.

Everyone seems to always be searching for the perfect chocolate brown. I found it in Ralph Lauren’s Mahogany. It is magnificent with crisp white trim in an entry.

Perhaps an unusual choice — but one of the most versatile of colors is Pumpkin Pie by Phillip’s Perfect Colors. It can look smashing (pun intended) in a traditional setting and equally good in a modern space.

Stout by C2. I am crazy about this color. I especially like to use it on trim and doors. It is indeed the color of good Irish Stout!

DDS. Favorite fabric? 

KF: Salt, a super-heavy, beautiful linen by Christian Liaigre for Great Plains. It is literally the color of salt - and like salt, it’s pure and simple and is good on just about everything.

DDS: What do you love most about being a designer?

KF: Nearly everything (except perhaps the billing!) I always say it’s as if God made a job for me. 

DDS: What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

KF: Be fearless and listen to those voices in your head (the good ones at least).

DDS: Best advice you ever received regarding design.

KF: Lighten up, you’re not curing cancer, for goodness sake. 

The Dancer with the Albino Snake

It’s not every day that you arrive at a party, midnight hour, to be greeted by a Chinese dancer, petite, covered in palest makeup and graceful tattoos, lingerie-clad, framed in gold and elegantly lit—caressing what seemed to be an albino boa constrictor. Perhaps it was a snake, but albino. Hers was an exquisite performance. Ken plans the best parties.

Another vignette Ken pulled off at an earlier fund-raiser—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White, lace gown, sleeping on a bed of flowers, delicately made up and rather coy, was a handsome chap. Ken had transported the men who played the roles of 7 costumed dwarfs from Los Angeles in a luxury van, he told me later. Surreal and daring.

I’ve attended most of the parties, ranging from intimate book-signings, birthdays, the Peepshow launch, a major ball honoring Denise Hale, and a Cuban band in honor of ‘Orlando Diaz-Azcuy’ (my book with Rizzoli), and a gala for Jean-Paul Gaultier, a dinner for Madeline Weinrib, a party for top fashion illustrator David Downton, and a dinner for Dita von Teese, fund-raisers, and a ‘chat’ with Carmen, and many balls and festivities and private dinners and no-good-reason cocktail parties, and wingdings too numerous and hyper-crazed and hallucinatory to mention.

Images here from ‘Mr. Ken Fulk’s Magical World’ published this month by Abrams, used here with expression permission.

Images of book covers and book pages by Diane Dorrans Saeks, using Apple iPhone and iPad.

“Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” — Oscar Wilde


Suzanne Tucker said...

Wonderful blogpost, Diane! So vivid and amusing, as is our dear Ken! His book is a luscious treat! - Suzanne

carrps said...

I already have the book, so I already know how wonderful it is. And I'm a big fan of Mr. Fulk.

But I have to ask. What is that book behind Mr. Fulk's with the pinkish snakes on the cover? Divine.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


wit is a great thing in you noted.

In particular, Ken never wants to do 'the usual' and likes to be provocative.

He is beloved by many design editors who love his fresh ideas, his daring, and his desire to thrill and entertain and make wonderfully vivid

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you for your query.

The book is CABANA...published in Italy...a biannual 'magazine' of design.

In particular, this issue, a special edition, has a cover covered in fabric exclusively designed by Gucci.

I love it...the theme of the issue isRome. Beautiful photography. If you want to acquire it, I believe it is available at the RIZZOLI store in NYC. I happened to call thereabout something else...and they mentioned this CABANA issue in the store--best--DIANE

carrps said...

Thank you, Diane, for the kind reply. I found it at Rizzoli online since I'm in Los Angeles.

I just wanted to add that years ago you did a series of books about decor in the San Francisco area that are some of favorite design books ever. I'll never part with them.


Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Paula-

Yes, I'm so happy you found that edition of CABANA...but be sure it has the fabric GUCCI COVER...that one is a special edition and fantastic to have in the library.
By the way...there is a new one coming out on Nov fabrics and very very good.

SAN FRANCISCO interior books...yes...I wrote about 8 of them...and I hope you have CALIFORNIA COTTAGES which has a lovely cover and endpapers...and there was the series CALIFORNIA DESIGN LIBRARY which I hope you have...timeless..which was translated into books have all been translator...and I'm sure you saw all of my TASCHEN books...there is one, CALIFORNIA INTERIORS...that has some excellent houses...CALIFORNIA COUNTRY by Chronicle was also good...lots of my readers have all of my books...even before they found me on THE STYLE SALONISTE. Stay in touch and be sure to let me know when you get the GUCCI CABANA...and when you get the newest CABANA...I think the theme is Russia this time...or something equally great...
all best and thank you for your lovely message DIANE

carrps said...

Sorry for the slow reply, Diane. I've been sick in body and soul since the election.

"California Cottages" is the one that I love the most; the endpapers are gorgeous in that one. I don't even have to go to the book to see them. They are so distinctive and lovely they're imprinted in my memory. I got one of the California Design Library books, and then had to go find the others! I know have several others as well.

It's so nice to actually let you know how much your books have been a part of my design life and library!