Specialized, one-on-one interior design is the precinct of Alexis E. Benne, and interaction with her varied clientele is crucial to her working method. Each client presents different challenges and desires. “It is my job to apply my experience and sensibilities to the project. My greatest joy is being able to give someone their own unique sanctuary.” Mixing together cultures and periods that reflect the client’s sensibilities and stretching them to the limit, she creates a memorable residence. Her own Manhattan home is a take on English country with an extra dose of femininity. A mix of tartan, needlepoint rugs and chintz takes one away from the stresses of the city and into a lush comfort zone.
Perhaps this sense of individuality comes from Benne’s Fashion Institute of Technology degree and her first career in fashion, where making the woman you are dressing feel special is paramount. Benne has turned her early fashion training to interiors with great success. Working regularly with an architect and cadre of craftsmen, she has reinvented classic Park Avenue apartments and country homes throughout the tri-state area. Her projects turn out professionally and on budget. “Design is not merely about buying furniture, fabric, and selecting color,” explains Benne. “It is an entire process that involves coordinating many people. It takes considerable training and hands-on experience.”
A strong believer in the power of beauty, Benne cites a myriad of sources from nature to dance to music to architecture as her inspiration. Starting with the client’s wishes, Benne moves on to create a point of view for the project and injects it with a sense of style rooted in her appreciation of beauty. Such was the case with a Bridgehampton spec house that Benne refashioned from bland white space to warm country home through the use of color and interesting shapes. Stylistically speaking, she has worked across the board from country casual to minimalist chic. Trends, although of passing interest, do not offer the timeless interiors that Benne seeks to create. Instead, a deep-seated love of history drives many of her projects and she appreciates conquering different styles for different clients. For one Manhattan apartment the spirit of Coco Chanel’s Parisian rue Cambon home was evoked via a 1930s mirrored screen, lacquered walls and Ruhlman-designed carpets. For another client far outside the city, Benne built a serene writer’s studio, setting it at the convergence of two streams with windows looking out to the deep woods for a weather-proof take on indoor/outdoor living. The diversity of style is typical for this multi faceted designer.
According to Benne, trust is the secret element for magical results. “It is the challenge of creating something fresh that excites me,” she notes. “I’m passionate about discovering what will nourish my client’s mind and soul, the true center of one’s home.”