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Helen Thompson | Photo: Julie Soefer | October 8, 2012
Former Ralph Lauren model turned interior designer, Blair Gordon isn’t just another pretty face on the Texas design scene. With a recently opened showroom in Houston and a roster of stylish projects, Gordon’s star is on the rise.
Design innovator Blair Gordon (blairgordondesign.com) moved to Houston two-and-a-half years ago to open an interior design business, the equivalent of a nanosecond in an industry where long-term relationships drive success. But the design seed had been planted decades earlier in 1982, when his five-year modeling stint for Ralph Lauren ended. He simply switched gears, eventually becoming vice president at the famed fashion house, where he was in charge of visual merchandising and window displays worldwide. Then he moved on to J.Crew, also as a VP and creative director. “My job was to create a specific look that was totally identifiable with the company—I was building a brand,” says the still-lanky Gordon, now in his 50s. (“Branding” is a word Texans can relate to: Stamp your cow’s rump with a hot brand, and you’ve identified it to the world as your very own.)
After decades in New York in a career that centered on fashion, Gordon needed to make a change. “I was going into a board meeting,” he recalls, “and everything went into slow motion. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’” So he quit and switched gears again. Relying on skills honed creating gorgeous environments for top retailers, he bought a decrepit house in the Hamptons to renovate, decorate and sell. Snatched off the market immediately, Gordon bought and renovated three more. “I furnished them like I was living there,” he says of the turnkey homes that included a teak Indonesian bed with canopy, retrofitted antique cabinets, all-white paint schemes that telegraphed a never-ending ethereal experience and shell soap in the soap dishes.
“My buyers,” says Gordon, “were people who could afford that second home but didn’t know how to execute it. They knew what they wanted when they saw it.” And what they wanted was everything Gordon had stocked in his houses, down to the monogrammed linens, liquor in the bar and even the photos of himself (those, he kept).
Gordon’s ability to forge a unique environment—whether it’s an outfit, a store window or a three-bedroom home—is the skill that’s bridged his two careers. It held him in good stead when he and his partner, an investment banker in the energy business, moved to Texas. Although at the time most of his projects were out of state, he’s now working on five houses in the Houston area. If you ask what his style is, Gordon will deny that he has one. He relies on neutral palettes and tailored lines, a strategy that always feels timeless. “I’m not into being in style,” he says, “but I do want my projects to be stylish.” He doesn’t look at magazines or what other designers are doing, either. “I just mix up stuff that pops into my head,” Gordon demurs. But all that fashion background still holds sway: “I get a lot of my inspiration from menswear and fabrics like herringbone, windowpane checks and houndstooth.”
You can buy his stylish look at his new Fannin Street showroom in Houston that opened this fall, and online at the luxury site 1stdibs.com, where the inveterate shopper sells his finds. Look for one-of-a-kind pieces such as a vintage ostrich leg lamp ($950), a midcentury off-white leather arm chair ($2,100) and a handsome pair of gondola sofas upholstered in beige linen attributed to Adrian Pearsall ($4,900 each). What’s next? For now, Gordon, who is keeping the details of a possible bespoke home collection up his well-tailored sleeve, will only say: “If I’m not creating something, I’m dying.”