The tastemaker: Frank de Biasi’s Rockefeller selections

The New York City-based interior designer, named one of the world’s best by Architectural Digest, selects his favourite pieces from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller — and reveals why he so appreciates the couple’s collecting philosophy

How did you get started as a decorator?

Frank de Biasi: ‘I graduated from college in 1986, and started work at Christie’s in New York in 1987. I started on the registrar but soon moved to Estates and Appraisals, where I spent six years. The job enabled me to go see beautiful collections all over the country and understand how they were put together, and it was those experiences that led me to develop a real love of antiques and art. Eventually, I became a decorator myself — largely because I like mixing things together. In a way, finding myself in the depths of Christie’s vault looking at treasures from the Rockefeller Collection felt like a bit of a homecoming.’

How would you describe your decorating philosophy?

FdB: ‘I think that a lot of collectors today really do tend to focus on one thing when it comes to their acquisitions, whether it be contemporary pieces, or Chinese or Indian, English or French. But I never wanted to exclusively collect in one particular area.

‘To me, The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller  represents the height of personalised decorating. They mixed beautiful old furniture with porcelains, silver and sculpture, and added in contemporary pieces. That’s exactly the way I want to be decorating.’

Frank de Biasi in the interior space he created with pieces from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. Behind him is a William and Mary oyster-veneered chest of drawers, a particular favourite, on top of which sits a 19th-century Moroccan glazed storage tureen. Behind that hangs Kenzo Okada’s Night Sunflowers (19645). To the right of the picture is Paravent,

Frank de Biasi in the interior space he created with pieces from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller. Behind him is a William and Mary oyster-veneered chest of drawers, a particular favourite, on top of which sits a 19th-century Moroccan glazed storage tureen. Behind that hangs Kenzo Okada’s Night Sunflowers (1964/5). To the right of the picture is Paravent, executed by Marc Chagall in 1963

How have you attempted to achieve that mix in this room, which you designed using pieces from the Rockefeller Collection?

FdB: ‘My goal for this space was to showcase some of the pieces a younger buyer might want to take away from the incredible collection. It was pretty daunting to try to select exactly those items that I thought would make the room sing.

‘In the end, I chose pieces from three of the Rockefeller residences. I included objects from all over the world — France, England, China and India, all mixed together — which reflects the way that Peggy and David built their collection. Ultimately, they acquired only things that they liked, and liked to live with. There are important things, but there are also less-important things. That mix is what made their homes so beautiful, and it’s what I tried to do here as well. Some of the items I’ve included are of  huge value. Others are simply treasured objects that I like and I'm sure David liked and used.

Frank de Biasi’s selection of pieces from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller  includes an 18th-century German steel strongbox, in front of the Chagall screen, on top of which is a Chinese export famille rose soup tureen, cover and stand, Qianlong period, circa 1760. To the right of the picture, a George II mahogany hall armchair, c. 1750, is placed next to a large

Frank de Biasi’s selection of pieces from The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller  includes an 18th-century German steel strongbox, in front of the Chagall screen, on top of which is a Chinese export famille rose soup tureen, cover and stand, Qianlong period, circa 1760. To the right of the picture, a George II mahogany hall armchair, c. 1750, is placed next to a large brown-glazed Martaban storage jar, 17th-18th century. De Biasi singles out Gauguin’s Fleurs dans un vase, painted in 1886/87, and hung on the wall behind the screen, as ‘quite exceptional’

‘Above all, I wanted to show young collectors that more “traditional’’ pieces make a great addition to a contemporary room. You shouldn’t be afraid of adding elements of great quality and provenance, and that are personal to you.

‘I think David would like it. I was very fortunate to have lunched with him once at Hudson Pines. It was a beautiful afternoon and he proudly showed off his collection, especially the beetles which he kept in the basement. It was an amazing experience.’

What are some of your favourite objects from the collection?

FDB: ‘That’s quite a difficult question. In terms of objects, the silver and the Chinese export porcelain are quite wonderful. In terms of furniture, I’m partial to the oyster-veneered chest of drawers, which is certainly something you don’t see very often.’

What do you most love about your job?

FDB: ‘Artistically speaking, each decorating job is an exciting challenge. I often start with items that my clients already have, and then bring in new pieces that tie their space together. I love collaborating with amazing clients and wonderful staff, and working to understand what each client wants and what each location calls for.’