Designer Friday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Matthew Whitaker

Matthew Whitaker has one goal, and that is to help inspire an interior design narrative with irresistible art. While spearheading the global art consultancy of Hirsch Bedner Associates, Whitaker has been able to accumulate exquisite art pieces ranging from massive sculptures to subtle photographs. Each of these finds have decked the spaces of luxury apartments and other commercial spaces. Whitaker weaves “the art of storytelling” into all his projects, which has caught the eyes of prestigious publications such as The New York Times, Mansion Global, and now aspire design and home. Introducing this week’s Designer Friday, Matthew Whitaker.

Over-scaled portraits coated in resin make a bold statement in this D.C luxury residential tower. Artwork curated by Canvas Art Consultants | Interiors by RD Jones & Associates | Photography by Whitney Cox

Andrew Joseph: What is the last book you read?
Matthew Whitaker: Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir. I know, I know, I am very late to the party. Our former First Lady was, and is, a total badass in every good way, and she has an innate gift for storytelling. Her straightforward, no-nonsense style of writing really allows her humor, humanity, and truth-telling to shine through in a compelling and deeply personal way. It’s a great read.

AJ: If you could live in any home in a movie or television series, what would it be?
MW: Without any hesitation it would be the Schaffer Residence, which is the house Tom Ford used in his terrific film A Single Man, starring Colin Firth. It was designed in 1949 by architect John Lautner and is a paean to minimalism and modernism. Much of the film is set in the interior spaces, so fortunately we get to see a lot of the house, which is a modest two-bedroom, two-bathroom home constructed of steel, glass, redwood, and concrete sited in an idyllic wooded glen. In a word, perfection.

Art evokes emotion, and this sculpture is certainly no exception in its figurative representation of an entire ancient culture. Artwork curated by Canvas Art Consultants | Interiors by HBA | Photography by Eric Laignel

AJ: What are three words to describe where you live?
MW: Edited. Eclectic. Collected. Edited, because when my husband and I finally merged households many years ago, we took that opportunity to get rid of everything that wasn’t important or meaningful to us. Marie Kondo has nothing on us. Eclectic, because as a result, we ended up with a wonderful mix of Shaker, Craftsman, and classic mid-century modern pieces that blend superbly. And collected, because we are avid art lovers, so our home is alive with works that we love that we’ve collected over many years.

AJ: Are you a good cook? If so, what’s your specialty?
MW: Little known fact – in a previous life I was planning to become a restaurateur, and in that pursuit actually acquired a culinary degree from The French Culinary Institute in Lower Manhattan. The greatest gift that came from that schooling is the ability now to confidently shoot from the hip in the kitchen and whip up great food utilizing whatever happens to be on hand.

Art imitates life in a way with this sophisticated photograph of hand-sculpted books in a glamorous library interior. Artwork curated by Canvas Art Consultants | Interiors by HBA | Photography by Durston Saylor

AJ: Are you a pet person? Why either way? Dogs or cats?
MW: My family always had dogs who did everything, and went everywhere, with us. I have dogs now, of course, so I am a dog person, no question, and cannot imagine my life without dogs in it. Dogs are the best, they’re pure joy, and they love us unconditionally no matter what. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t love dogs.

AJ: What’s your current TV obsession?
MW: Oh man, we’ve done them all during quarantine – Schitt’s Creek, The Crown, Lovecraft Country, Watchmen, Ratched, and a gazillion others. We recently binged The Queen’s Gambit, about an orphaned girl who struggles with emotional problems and addiction and who finds redemption through…chess? Um, what’s not to love? And it’s visually spectacular, to boot.

AJ: What are some of the podcasts you listen to and why?
MW: Like many folks I know, I stopped listening to the news a while ago and turned to podcasts instead. There are a few that I regularly listen to while on long walks with my dog. Armchair Expert – I find Dax Shepard’s interview style very refreshing, and his point of view as filtered through the lens of recovery makes for an interesting exchange with guests. The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter – Scott Feinberg totally elevates the celebrity interview by asking searching and unexpected questions that make his guests actually think. It’s a guilty pleasure. I also really like Where Should We Begin with Esther Perel and have just started listening to Hillary Clinton’s newish podcast, You and Me Both, which so far is pretty great. She reveals a more relaxed and natural side of her personality.

About The Designer | After a successful career in hospitality operations management, Matthew longed to return to his creative roots, so he went back to school, subsequently graduating summa cum laude with a BFA in Interior Design from Georgia State University. His unique and diverse skill set has proven to be a successful combination when collaborating with interior designers and clients to develop compelling fine art programs for luxury properties around the world.

A passionate art collector, Matthew’s eye for fine art was carefully honed by hands-on experience working with artists and galleries across all disciplines. Working from a humble belief that art has the power to transform the human experience has contributed to Matthew’s philosophy toward his work in the luxury hospitality industry. “We’re in the business of storytelling. The collections of artwork we develop support concepts put in place by the design team, enrich the overall guest/resident experience, and ultimately define the interiors in which they hang. We strive to encourage guests to engage with the artworks, to talk about the collection and tell their own stories. We hope that the work we do will leave a lasting imprint on their experiences.”

Andrew Joseph is a regular contributing editor for aspire design and home magazine. See more of his work here.

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