Mark Zeff Talks Uptown Versus Downtown Interiors and What Defines His Style

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The designer heads up his international multi-disciplinary agency, MARKZEFF, known for its innovative ability to fuse interior and environmental design in everything, from high-end residential properties (clients have included Hillary Swank and Annie Leibovitz), to luxury yachts.

Haute Residence: What’s trending in high-end city design?

Mark Zeff: New materials in the home. For example, using bronze instead of silver or nickel, or using painted brick in kitchen areas instead of painted Sheetrock or tile, which provides a softer look. Also, kitchens are becoming larger and more eclectic in terms of style. Currently, there is a trend of mixing a modern vernacular with classic designs.

HR: Is there an Uptown versus Downtown style?

MZ: The variation stems from a difference in building style, as Downtown lofts are able to accommodate larger art and therefore, lead to more forward design. Downtown has a cool, zany, chic, and modern vibe, which results in more eclectic and curated interiors. Uptown, the requests for interiors skew very glamorous and rather old-fashioned in terms of look and feel. The apartment buildings often dictate this aesthetic.

HR: How has your interior design has evolved?

MZ: In the last five years, drastically. My work has grown in terms of scale and responsibility, giving the firm more involvement from the start of a project. The hospitality sector of our business has become a major part of our workload, too.

HR: What is your favorite room to design?

MZ: Kitchens, pool cabanas, off-the-charts, technology-driven media rooms and outdoor living spaces, where I get to create environments that have a real “wow” factor by integrating landscaping and outdoor lighting with the design of the room.

HR: What are design rules you like to break?

MZ: I have been breaking design rules for over 30 years. In the ’80s, I used rusted iron for furniture and concrete floors in interiors; in the ’90s and early 2000s by designing dark, sexy rooms; and now building Blackbarn structures in the Hamptons.

HR: What distinguishes your interior design?

MZ: I take chances on all fronts: in my choice of materials, furniture concepts, and the proprietary designs for almost every aspect of the project. Inventing new ideas is how I enjoy this profession.

Portrait by Kristen Zeff

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