“That’s the first thing: getting a sense of who they are,” designer Thom Filicia says of his process with clients. “I shop with them, meet their friends, listen to their music. My job as a designer is connecting the dots.”
It’s one of his many, many jobs. This month marks 20 years since Filicia launched his own firm, Thom Filicia, Inc., after cutting his teeth under legends like Jeffrey Bilhuber, Robert Metzger, and Parish-Hadley. Over those two decades, he also established a thriving home collection; partnered with major hoteliers and brands like American Express; opened a showroom in New York; and wrote two books. Of course, he’s also a TV star. The second season of Get a Room with Carson & Thom, costarring his Queer Eye for the Straight Guy colleague Carson Kressley, begins this fall. Of all these accomplishments, it’s the anniversary of striking off on his own that looms largest for Filicia. “What I wanted to do in the world of design, I didn’t really see other firms doing at that time,” he says. “I was interested in bringing design not just to the one percent of the one percent.”
One way that has manifested? Products. Not everyone can afford the services of a top designer, but pillows and throws from the Thom Filicia Home Collection are priced at around $100. “Whether it’s furniture, wallcoverings, or textiles, I’m always trying to create really exceptional things that are also approachable,” he says. “Today, you can find thoughtfully designed home products at every price point. It’s in direct response to the fact that design is something that everyone talks about now. It’s part of our lives.”
That heightened awareness is due, Filicia believes, to television, and to television designers. It was in 2003 that he wielded his first on-screen paintbrush on the groundbreaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. “Television has been a great vehicle for explaining design to people,” he says. “You’re speaking with them, you’re including them in the dialogue. As a designer, when you have the ability to bring a lot of different people to the party, it makes the party more interesting.” And Filicia is undoubtedly the guy you want standing next to you at a cocktail mixer.
Sophisticated, yes. But the clients that Filicia designed this open-plan apartment for were also a young family. “They wanted it to be artful but down-to-earth as well. They wanted it to be stylish but also welcoming and not pretentious,” he says. Hence the roomy sofas and textured wallcoverings: “When it was a Tuesday night, they were able to relax and enjoy their environment. But on a Saturday night, when they were entertaining neighbors and friends, they felt like it worked on every level.”
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