How To Achieve Elegant, Unfussy Interiors—No Matter Where You Live


shawn henderson gray brown and white living room

Shawn Hednerson’s personal West Village apartment, which opens his monograph, features a vintage Dunbar sofa with Frits Henningsen wingback chairs and a 1950s Brazilian rosewood cocktail table. (Photo: Stephen Kent Johnson)

When it comes to mastering unfussy yet elegant interiors, Shawn Henderson’s no-fail formula boils down to use of color, scale of furniture and sense of place. Pop in a wingback chair—a Henderson trademark—and you’re left with a timeless space that welcomes guests with open arms. Ahead of his first monograph, Shawn Henderson: Interiors in Context, due out November 9, the New York-based designer briefs us on weaving a laidback sense of sophistication into any home.

shawn henderson rustic modern living room with fireplace

A sitting area in Henderson's Upstate New York home nods to the designer's love of Scandinavian design with a sofa by Kaare Klint, side chair by Kerstin Hörlin-Holmquist, and table by Frits Henningsen.

shawn henderson moody living room with green accents

Hans Wegner Papa Bear wingback chairs, in addition to Fritz Hensen lounges, a custom sofa and a Shawn Henderson Mercury daybed, offer plentiful seating options in a High Line-adjacent apartment in New York City.

shawn henderson green formal dining room

The dining room of a bucolic Mississippi estate nods to nature with a landscape-inspired mural and a custom dining table made from pecan tree wood.

shawn henderson dark living room with white fireplace mantel

Above the fireplace, a Tom Keyes painting adds a pop of color to a purplish-gray primary bedroom in a Greenwich Village town house.

shawn henderson pink bathroom with soaking tub

A dazzling pink bathroom—which is rumored to have a ghost, according to Henderson—makes a statement near Natchez, Mississippi.

shawn henderson interiors in context book cover

Shawn Henderson: Interiors in Context (Monacelli Press), out this month, features 14 of the designer's projects across the country.

How do you marry the local vernacular of a home with a client’s wish list?

It’s always important to reflect a bit of the architecture in the decoration. I don’t feel like design should be imposed upon a space. Because of this, I’ve been able to adapt and work in some amazing places.

What’s your No. 1 tip for selecting artwork for a project?

There are so many things to consider when placing artwork—scale of the room, energy of the space. My main tip would be to find or place art that enhances the experience of the room.

Talk about making the most out of unusual nooks.

All decisions come from giving a sense of purpose to a space.

Expand on your love affair with the wingback chair. 

I love the sculptural form of a wingback! Traditional wing chairs are just so beautiful, and I’m fascinated by the “modern” interpretations whether they are Italian or Scandinavian.

How does your design mantra differ when working on spaces for yourself versus others? 

I definitely am a bit more playful when it comes to my personal interiors. I like to experiment a bit.