Meet Award-Winning Designer Paul Siskin
For this New York-based interior designer, ranked among the country’s top 100 interior designers by New York, House Beautiful, and New York Home magazines, flexibility is fundamental. “My work is not exactly art in the sense that it has to function,” says Siskin. “I try to express what my clients want, but often what they want is not realistic. One aspect of my job is to bring them back to reality about the way they actually live.”
Siskin has developed his principles over years of experience. The seeds of Siskin’s approach germinated early. The California-born and bred designer comes from a furniture family dating back to his grandfather. Before starting at Parson’s School of Design, where he received a BFA, Paul worked as an antique buyer at W&J Sloanes of Beverly Hills. Siskin’s attendance at Parsons was at a time when the first wave of minimalism was rising to the height of contemporary modernism. Hence, Siskin’s preference for the mix of old furniture in modern spaces and modern furniture in old spaces. After graduating from Parson’s, Paul worked at John Saladino’s several years prior to launching his own firm, SiskinValls, in 1984.
“I have no interest in reproducing an era, nor perfecting a distinctly unique style. I’m modern in my preference for a lack of clutter, but I am interested in the art, design, and the taste of each and every period. This makes it easy for me to work with all different types of clients and to collaborate with them over the long term.”
There may not be a Siskin style, per se, as his rooms are not characterized by a particular color palette or by the use of specific fabrics or furnishings. However, those are the choices he feels date a place. “In the long run, I tend to stay with the classics, especially when it comes to seating. Primary seating should be about comfort. Nothing dates a room more than trendy upholstery.”
“It’s important that a room expresses the personality and needs of those who live in it. That’s why people have to be involved in the process. Each room should be history – not my history but the history of those who occupy it.” –Paul Siskin
Siskin Furniture Companies
“Who hasn’t used, or at least heard, that old expression “It’s in their blood?” It’s something that can’t be avoided when I discuss my lifelong professional career.
I don’t know much about my paternal grandfather other than he was born and raised in Russia and migrated to the United States at the turn of the 19th century. Stories vary – he made furniture for the Czar or swept the factories where they were made. Somehow I don’t think his position required the removal of a crown or setting aside his Faberge key chain.
It was in Pennsylvania that Harry set up his first 1 man factory, The Philadelphia Couch Company. From there, he moved his growing concern to Los Angeles. (Who knows, maybe he had secret dreams of a Hollywood film career?) With the help of his growing family – sons, grandchildren, and son in laws, he grew his manufacturing concern. After expanding to retail sales with the acquisition of Wilders Furniture and the Beverly Hills and Palm Springs W&J Sloanes, I entered the family business.
It only took a few years for me to know that this was a mistake. It was then that I moved myself to New York, enrolled and graduated from Parsons School of Design, apprenticed for John Saladino, and finally, a partnership with Perucho Valls.
It was my induction into the Interior Design Hall of Fame that I knew that my Uncle Leo had been wrong when he warned me, “ your deceased father would roll over in his grave with your choice of a career in interior design, Paul; we hire them we don’t become one!’”