One time over the winter I woke at 6am to join designer Garrow Kedigian and friends for an informal tour of the fabulous estates on the side of Mount Royal, in our hometown of Montréal. It was maybe 10 degrees (because: Canada) and pitch black until the 8am sunrise but Garrow kept us warm with his ridiculously rich knowledge of local vernacular and historical gossip. We all picked out places for ourselves, but, truth be told, Garrow already lives in one of the best houses in Montréal. (And in one of the best in NYC for that matter.) Early bird gets the worm, they say!
Anyway, because fine custom furniture is always the topic du jour around here, I figured I’d check in with Garrow since, like Goldilocks, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in all of his sofas, and truly, they are all just right. (His formula for sofa success follows.) Like many fabulous designers, his three-person team works in South Florida, the horsey part of New Jersey, and the “right” ZIP codes in Manhattan. And joyfully, he works a lot in his hometown, too, creating houses I’ve had the pleasure of chronicling in House Beautiful and Elle Decoration. Without further ado, I present he of the gemstone velvets, Renaissance paintings, and historically correct moldings: Meet Garrow. —Sophie Donelson
Where exactly is home for you?
Well, I live between the three cities that I love the most, Montreal, New York, and Paris. Between pandemics, I’m known to travel constantly from place to place but most recently I’ve been marooned in New York (between my old home on Park and my new place in the Carlyle). That said, I’ll always consider Montréal to be my home.
Design your personal sofa style:
I like a classic. The Carr-style sofa with the simple scroll arms has always been and will always remain a personal favorite. Always down-wrapped foam, 50/50 for firmness of seat recoil, and softness for seating comfort. Sofa back tight and in one piece, and the seat cushions loose—box-style. Oh and yes, lots and lots of pillows, the bigger the better for me!
Is there anything you always spec as custom?
I always have upholstery made—it costs the same as purchasing it from a showroom (sometimes less) and the advantage is you can customize it the way you like.
Your banquettes are so iconic. When did you get the banquette bug?
The inspiration stems from one I saw in the Paris flea markets years ago, which I still, to this day, regret not purchasing. It was the perfect blend of classic and contemporary. I always feel banquettes are friendly and more inviting to sit on than formal sofas, that’s why I did a huge sectional banquette in my living room in Montréal. Normally I like them shallow to sit upright with tight seat and back, but there are exceptions to that rule, such as when I want to use it as a main sofa in a living room (in which case I’ll sometimes make it a little deeper and with a loose box style seat cushion), but always a tight back which keeps it tailored and formal.
What custom project are you dying for a client to request?
I’d love to work on a yacht, preferably one that skirts the Mediterranean coastlines…
What do you find… questionable?
I have never really been a fan of a chaise extension sectional style of sofa, that chaise extension only takes up superfluous amounts of space, and caters only to the person sitting there.
How did you learn to spec custom pieces confidently?
It’s something you learn with time, but I’ve always drawn up a furniture plan to scale and sized the upholstery accordingly.
What technique would you like to learn more about?
Strapping or caning. I like the look of a leather strapped seat or caned seat but am trepidatious about specifying it.
What would you love to try?
I would love to make a three-sided chair as a centerpiece for a large room—I’ve proposed it a few times, but no client has ever bitten at that concept!
What fabric combinations always work?
A velvet with a contrasting welt done in leather or vinyl to add a punch… also a fuzzy mohair can make a great thick contrast welt for effect.
What does tassel or trim do for a piece?
Well, tassels and trim, when well-selected can make any piece sing. It’s important to use it sparingly otherwise you run the risk of your piece “wearing too much makeup”!
What inspires the incredible jewel-tone palette you often use?
I’ve always been a fan of saturated color and jewel tones that create a cozy effect… I suppose some of my travels have directly influenced my love for this color palette, the color of the Mediterranean sea in Majorca, the Anglo-Indian architecture of New Delhi. They’ve always beckoned to me and I have always answered the call…
Do you still draw?
Yes, I draw every week for all my projects, in fact, Fridays are usually my ‘desk work’ day and relegate myself to my drafting table where I do my sketches. On Instagram I’ve been asking followers to weigh in on their opinions of which layouts they like for my current and ongoing design projects
Rapid Fire Round
Go-to textile houses: Clarence House, Castel, Pierre Frey, Lee Jofa, Cowtan & Tout, Thevenon.
Sofas: Skirted, platform, or bare legs? Skirted preferred, but based on context of the room.
Sofa pillows: Knife edge, no welt, French seams.
Generously decorative-pillowed beds: Yes, I have 9 decorative pillows on my own bed.
Upholstered headboards? Yes, to create softness in a space, especially when a room is too small for other upholstery pieces.
Which old-school idea needs to come back? Tassels and trim.
A dream client… has 10 other homes and doesn’t micromanage their project, listens to the design presentation, and says ‘yes go for it’! (In 22 years doing this, I’m still waiting for that client!)
My first real sofa… was a small Carr-style sofa I inherited from a client in Boston who downsized. I still have it in my bedroom in NYC.
I’m a sucker for… fancy fabrics, cut velvets, interesting patterns.
Dinner with a friend: Banquette, always.