Thom Filicia might be known first for his role on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” but his work expands far further in the design industry — particularly when it comes to sustainability. Filicia is known for his ability to create modern, yet classic interiors with an inviting aesthetic. He is also a bestselling author and the force behind the Thom Filicia Home Collection, which includes furniture, artwork, bedding, textiles, wall coverings and more. His flagship showroom, Sedgwick & Brattle, is at The New York Design Center.
How did you get started in design? Where did you find your passion?
Thom Filicia: “I started my career when I was a young kid. I was very interested in architecture and interiors, and I started cultivating that in middle school, if not even elementary school. Then I studied interior design in college, and I kept [on] that path. From there, I worked for multiple design firms in New York City to hone my skills before going off on my own.”
How would you describe your style?
Filicia: “I would describe my style as American chic. It’s about creating livable interiors [that are] straightforward, clean, crisp, livable and at the same time, stylish and sophisticated. American chic is a nice way of keeping it simple and clean but still refined and fashionable.”
What are some challenges that you face in your job?
Filicia: “In a design, we’re looking at the client and their lifestyle, the architecture and the region or the area where that project is [because] each region has a different environment. Wherever you are: countries, cities, suburbs, Northwest, Southwest — you’re taking into consideration all those elements.”
When you’re working in residential versus commercial, what are the key differences in design that you notice?
Filicia: “The commercial journey generally is a little bit more clear cut; it’s more about a timeline and budget. There’s an objective, and we want to get as close to the goal as possible, in a way that supports the design process. The residential process is very different because it’s more emotional and more about individual decisions. Clients are willing to do things differently than what they may have imagined, because it’s something that they’re excited about, and they want to live with it. So there’s a little bit more of a personal journey with residential, where commercial can be more streamlined.”
Can you explain why sustainability is so important to you?
Filicia: “I’m a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Part time, I design, produce and manufacture products that we make and sell. We’re always looking at our partners, their practices, and what they’re doing in terms of being sustainable. We’re always trying to encourage that kind of thought process, because I think it’s important. Every year, there’s more that’s available to us that is healthy. That’s recycled reuse, low VOC (volatile organic compounds), recycled springs and organic foams. We work with factories that employ LED lighting and geothermal heating and cooling. All of these things are important because they all work together to help move in a direction that’s sustainable and more eco-friendly. We’re doing it in a way where it makes sense for the manufacturer, the design and the end-user.”
What common mistakes have you seen other designers making in your field of work?
Filicia: “I think the common mistake is just not being curious about the world around us and what we have available to us. It’s mistaken thinking that your minimal effort isn’t going to add up too much. Everybody adding one little piece of the puzzle creates a much bigger impact. Thinking about the fabrics you put on your body, the mattresses we buy for our homes — all these things come with [sustainable] choices.”
When working on projects, where do you get your inspiration?
Filicia: “Inspiration comes from the world around me. It comes from being interested in what people are doing, what they’re looking for, what they gravitate towards and what they’re excited about. I think the inspiration for me comes from being an active participant in design in the world, in going out and connecting with people. Whether I’m in an urban situation, or I’m in the middle of the country, it’s about just knowing what’s around me and being interested in it. You’d be amazed how much inspiration comes to you all the time in so many different situations.”
Are there any current projects that you’re working on that you’d like to share?
Filicia: “We’re working on a variety of products and projects all over the U.S.: Florida, Montana, upstate New York, Connecticut and New York City, as well as a hotel in the Turks and Caicos. We’re working in very different regions and clients, both commercial as well as residential. Each project brings a whole host of variables and challenges that make it unique and special.”