Fashion designer Cynthia Rowley is no stranger to the design world. Sure, her collections have graced countless Bryant Park runways and been recognized by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, but she dabbles in many (and we mean many) creative arenas, splashing her signature brand of whimsy on everything from Band-Aids to surfboards. And who could forget the cheerful melamine dinnerware and madras plaid outdoor accessories from her popular home collection for Target? Most recently, Cynthia teamed up with her husband, renowned art gallery owner Bill Powers, to launch Exhibition A, a members-only art website that makes limited-edition prints from the hottest contemporary artists accessible for the casual art enthusiast. For a limited time, Cultivate users can receive $20 off a purchase with the code CultivateXA.
When she isn't busy waving her magic wand of design, Cynthia unwinds with Bill and their two daughters, Kit and Gigi, in their 1845 Greek Revival townhouse in New York City's West Village. We caught up with her recently to chat about her inimitable style, her favorite new trends and how she and her daughters have fun in the kitchen.
CULTIVATE: You're widely known as a stylemaker on and off the runway. Does your kitchen follow suit? What does it look like?
CYNTHIA ROWLEY: My kitchen doesn’t really look like a kitchen—on purpose. It’s the entry to our backyard and swimming pool, so it’s really more of a hangout area. All the cabinets are black lacquered wood [pictured below], mylar wallpaper [pictured above and in between the counter and cabinets in the photo below], and there’s not a tile in sight.
Photo by: Courtesy of Elle Decor
The kitchen cabinetry from the Home Depot was lacquered black. The wallpaper Cynthia designed wraps around the room as a beautiful faux backsplash.
CULTIVATE: How has its look evolved over the years?
CYNTHIA: We haven’t really been there that long. The floors are definitely showing some wear and tear, but I like the look.
CULTIVATE: How does your fashion sense translate to your interiors?
CYNTHIA: I believe that in the end you are who you are, so I'd describe them both as a little bit pretty, a little bit tough, and a little bit sporty with an overall artistic spirit.
CULTIVATE: What is a normal day in the kitchen like for you?
CYNTHIA: The whole wall opens up into the backyard, so we’re always in and out with food and drinks, kids and friends.
CULTIVATE: What was the inspiration for your current fashion collection?
CYNTHIA: Celebration! I was inspired by this beautifully decaying building downtown with a soaring atrium. I envisioned a glamorous party with lots of shine and confetti. We took pictures of the peeling paint at the space and used it as inspiration for our layered foil prints—and then we showed the collection in the same space.
CULTIVATE: You're always ahead of the fashion trends. What's your favorite new trend for interiors?
CYNTHIA: Contemporary art in unexpected places. Our website, Exhibition A, does limited-edition artist prints that you can hang in your kid’s room, at the beach, or even have tons of them covering a whole wall.
"Vandervoort Place" by Paul Behnke limited-edition print on ExhibitionA.com.
Photo: Courtesy of Cynthia Rowley
CULTIVATE: What's the best memory you’ve made in the kitchen?
CYNTHIA: I love doing experiments with my kids; besides making edible things, we've also done candles, tie-dye, chewing gum and Shrinky Dinks.
CULTIVATE: What are your top three must-haves for a great kitchen?
CYNTHIA: First, a clean countertop. I don’t like to have small appliances or any kind of junk on the counter—just a perfectly clean countertop with everything in cabinets or a pantry. I also like a really big table that can be used for multiple cooking projects and serve as a great buffet table. And finally, potted plants—it's the only place in the house where I like them. I think it's nice to have a planting area where you can have herbs all year round.
CULTIVATE: What's your favorite element in your kitchen?
CYNTHIA: The mylar wallpaper that we designed.
CULTIVATE: What's first on your list for a kitchen makeover?
CYNTHIA: Isn’t it universal? More cabinet space!
CULTIVATE: You're such an avid art lover. What are your favorite art ideas for the kitchen?
CYNTHIA: You want something that can be changed. Expensive art can get damaged in a kitchen, so try to hang a print or something less expensive that can maybe even inspire adventurous meals.
CULTIVATE: When you’re hosting a dinner party, what's on the menu?
CYNTHIA: I’m super busy all the time, so I don’t want to stress out about having friends over. There’s a famous saying that goes, “It’s not what's on the table, it’s what’s on the chairs.” As long as there’s a good mix of people, the other things are less important. The most important thing is to have fun at your own party, so make it easy on yourself. For food, one or two homemade dishes is enough! The rest can be ordered in.