04 October 2009

A Tribute to Randall Ridless

Randy with one of his beloved cats, Mack

Last week, the design community lost one of its great talents, Randall Ridless. Not yet fifty, Randy had an extraordinary career which masterfully encompassed both commercial and residential interior design.

You may not have heard of Randy before, but chances are you have stood in one of his impeccable spaces, such as the seductive shoe salon at Bergdorf Goodman

or one of Burberry's flagships, where he effortlessly channeled cool Britannia chic....

The one thing you could say about Randy's entire portfolio is that no two projects were identical: for each project, Randy delved into the client's needs - whether it was an international luxury brand or a private client on the Upper East Side; considered the architecture, and created a completely unique space perfectly tailored to each client. One of his signatures was bringing the intimacy and comfort of the home into the showroom.

Van Cleef and Arpels, 5th Avenue

No detail was overlooked. In fact, Randy's attention to the finishing touches - from hand-embroidered decoration on the back of a chair to red Venetian-plastered walls - recalls haute couture both in its custom design and superlative quality of execution.

Many of us have had an Aunt Mame in our life who urged us to be bold and to see that anything is possible. Randy's was his Aunt Renee. At the age of 11, she took Randy into the city to see the Wrightsman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kip's Bay 2000 showroom by Randall A. Ridless and his associate Beth Martell - the lacquered paneling is after one of the rooms in the Wrightsman Galleries, but with a twist - its decoration is inspired by Picasso and his interest in African art

A life-long passion for the crisply elegant neoclassical was instantly born. He immediately redesigned (on paper) his family's Long Island ranch house into a pavilion worthy of Marie Antoinette.

Randy loved to draw and even as a child, drew rooms constantly.

After a childhood trip to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, all his drawings of rooms suddenly had dentil moldings. He possessed an insatiable curiosity and tremendous retention of design history. Henri Samuel and Jansen were Randy's sacred masters.

His major weakness (besides a love of "Wife Swap" and Diet Coke) was for books. Anita Brookner and biographies were especial favorites.

Even though Randy was an acclaimed designer with a blue-chip roster of clients, he didn't take himself too seriously. "We're not doing brain surgery," he would say. He had a sense of proportion about the extravagance of the industry and could spot pretense a mile away, which he detested.

This aligned with his philosophy of choosing the authentic over the "tricky" and "gimmicky". He prefered a simple barn to a trendy restaurant - the genuine and humble over the souped-up, latest thing.

Randy loved what he did. His sincere enthusiasm and passion were so titanic that his presentations often ended in applause. He lived and breathed each project - and always devoted himself 100%. The results speak for themselves.

A Memorial Service for Randy will be held on Tuesday, October 6 at 6:00pm.

Friends Seminary Meeting House
15 Rutherford Place
(at the corner of 15th Street and Rutherford Place, just east of Third Avenue)

A memorial fund has been established at Randy’s alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design.

Contributions can be made to:
The Randy Ridless Memorial Fund
Rhode Island School of Design
Attention: Louise Olson
All photos courtesy of Randall A. Ridless LLC

Thank you to Beth Martell and Tim Rearden for their help.


Mrs. Blandings said...

This is a lovely tribute - no pretense here. The work is beautiful. He sounds like the kind of guy I would have liked a lot.

An Aesthete's Lament said...

He was an extraordinarily nice person.

home before dark said...

Sorry for the loss of your friend and for the design world's loss of him and his wonderful talent.

Anonymous said...

He was such a kind and funny man and a MAJOR talent. A rare combination, he will be missed.

Years ago I published a picture of his apartment in a rather dorky magazine. He told us he preferred not to have it published and then we went and got permission from the photographer and did it anyway. When it hit the stands we had spelled his name wrong- Randy Riddles. He called me and said "this is the Riddler", he thought it was the funniest thing ever...

Joanna Fernandez said...

I had the privilege of working with Randy at his office and I actually remember the story above. He did have a great sense of humor and was a very kind soul. Anyone who came in contact with Randy was forever changed in some way. As for his talent, his work says it all. He will be extremely missed by all.

Blue said...

I knew of him and liked his work a lot. What a shock to read this just now and I am truly sorry the design community has lost such a talent and you have lost a friend. My sincere condolences.

Anonymous said...

I just reread your words and they are so perfect, so beautiful. A tribute he would be proud of. Thanks

red ticking said...

lovely post. so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.... x pam

pve design said...

A lovely tribute.

Shandell's said...

I did not know him, but loved the shoe salon at Bergdorf Goodman.

Style Court said...

Emily, I loved the 2000 KB showhouse room and definitely remember RR. How refreshing to learn more about such a down to earth designer. Beautiful tribute.

Anonymous said...

Do you know what ever came of his firm? I am curious if it continued.

Thanks - from a curious decorating wannabe!!

Emily Evans Eerdmans said...

Anonymous, the firm's senior designer Beth Martell and architect Enda Donagher are continuing on as Martell-Donagher. I'll be posting about them soon!

Dean Farris said...

I knew Randy while we worked together at Macy's Store Design-(1980's) he was always in a good mood, and had the quintessential New York life with his then partner, a leading NY architect...


mary mcdonald said...

I stumbled upon your great post and remember pulling a tear sheet from 20 years ago in the early 90's of this man named Randy Ridless. He had an unbearably chic one room studio that would hold up to scrutiny to this day. It is no wonder he became a great talent. I am still inspired by his magical NYC studio.