Storytelling Spaces: The Hallie Goodman Design Approach

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“This is a living room for LIVING, all caps intended,” says designer Hallie Goodman. “While everything is definitely beautiful and elegant, it’s all comfortable and nurturing first. Absolutely nothing is precious.” The chandelier, made entirely of plastic water bottles, is by artist Willie Cole. To the classic George Smith couch, she added custom pillows made of African indigo panels, and used the raggedy weft threads as fringe. Photo by Chris Mottalini.

Columbia County-based writer and interior designer Hallie Goodman is having a moment. A recent high-profile project, covered glowingly by Architectural Digest, has caught the attention of new clients across the country. Her draw is an intriguingly specific storyteller’s perspective, which she brings to every room she designs.

Currently, she sits behind a little marble table, tucked into a deep green corner at The Maker hotel in Hudson, back to the wall, eyes to the door. With time spent as a reporter, she still takes an interviewer’s favored position. Goodman wears a long dark coat and a big black hat. She looks the part, draped in confidence. While she’s only been designing full time for a few years, Goodman says she is self-assured in her style sensibilities because she doesn’t grasp at trends. Rather, her process reflects the crafting of a narrative, based on client character and setting.

The studio lounge is equal parts comfy and vibey. The custom platform bed acts as a roomy chaise by day, but has a secret compartment to stash pillows and linens. Goodman applied the Gucci wallpaper to the room’s sconces by hand. Photo by Chris Mottalini

“I started as a copy editor in LA,” Goodman says, hustling through her bio with nonchalance, mind focused on the present. “Then from there, I went to magazines. Also naming, creating, ghostwriting, reporting—absolutely every aspect of writing—and then I moved into more literary writing.”

While living in Hudson in the 2010s, her design business gestated. She started a popular reading series in Hudson called Volume. The regular events birthed a tight writing community of aspiring locals and accomplished authors. Off of Volume’s success Goodman also began hosting exclusive, luxurious writing getaways.

It was at one of these workshops, called Literary Alchemy, that Goodman hired bestselling author Suleika Jaouad as a presenter. Along with initiating a close friendship between the two, Goodman said Jaouad seemed to appreciate the “stagecraft” of the workshops. Jaouad asked Goodman if she’d be her design collaborator for the new Brooklyn townhouse she recently purchased with her husband, Grammy Award-winning musician, Jon Batiste. (The couple were the subject of the recently released Netflix documentary American Symphony.)

Goodman’s design aesthetic combines elements of antique, vintage, custom, and handmade items. The iron shaving stand is early 1900s, the stool is circa 1880, and the brass accessories are Mid-Century. She had the Apparatus light customized with an extra canopy and length of chain to give it drape. Photo by Hallie Goodman

Goodman’s work on the couple’s massive, multi-year project, in consort with architect Ravi Raj, was glamorously splashed across the pages of AD this past fall. It was also featured in a lively and touching video tour for the magazine’s popular YouTube channel, currently viewed over two million times.

Goodman thinks people have connected with the project because it’s so specific to Batiste and Jaouad. Rooms respect both the quiet predilections of an author and the gregariousness of a larger-than-life performer. There are touches of his New Orleans roots and her Tunisian/Swiss heritage. The inspirations blend and match (and contrast) in ways that are deeply personal and also, now, resonating in the zeitgeist of contemporary aesthetics. “It looks like the story of their lives,” Goodman says. “It just speaks to who they really are. They have joked that they should do a lifestyle brand called ‘Tunisiana.’”

For this modernist new-build in Catskill, Goodman chose tactile materials to soften the signature “clean lines” and make the space feel more human and welcoming—an 1880s-overshot coverlet for one Mid-Century couch and caramel hued sheepskins for the other. A cheeky side table on skateboard wheels made by artist Arnaud Cornillion keeps the austere space from taking itself too seriously. Photo by Hallie Goodman

While specifics of the pair’s biography are central to what’s drawn attention to Goodman’s work lately, she’s not about to replicate Tunisiana for any other client. However, the connective tissue she does bring to all her work is the same writerly attention to detail. She says she’s always looking to seamlessly stitch together the client’s life with the history and language of the home’s architecture and location.

Since the success of her AD showcase, Goodman has been snatched up for jobs in New York, DC, California and Florida, but where she says she’d really love to do more work now is here in the Hudson Valley and Berkshires.

“I loved working with Hallie on styling my house in Catskill,” says one client, who wished to remain anonymous. “She was a great communicator and always had fantastic out-of-the-box ideas.”

Guest bathroom. Photo by Chris Mottalini

Before leaning into decor full time, Goodman and her husband spent a decade renovating a crumbling old Hudson Colonial. It sold in a day. She felt the amount of attention that project received online provided vital experience and was a proof of concept that she could shift more focus from writing to design. She restored and modernized the aesthetic of the Hudson home while leaving its underlying details raw. That approach, she says, is the key to the contemporary “Hudson Valley look,” which she sees as being all about highlighting the authenticity of historical character with unconventional creativity and, first and foremost, story.

“My approach absolutely comes from my experience as a writer and editor,” she says. “I’m always looking critically at what I’m trying to do. So if my design concept is something like traveled elegance in a way that looks very uncontrived and natural, every single moment I’m asking editorial questions. Am I sticking to the brief? Because you can have gorgeous ideas and try to shoehorn them into a house but if it’s not super authentic to that person, you need to cut them out.”

Guestroom. Photo by Kate Sterlin

When called for, Goodman is not afraid of texture or color. Layers of timeless furniture, dramatic lighting, unique objects, and art create a rich complexity without feeling busy. She is an expert hunter of antique stores and auctions, finding vintage accoutrements others might overlook but she uses to set a space apart.

Art is also a major focus of Goodman’s design philosophy. Whether new or repurposing an existing collection, Goodman uses painting and sculpture to add points of definition to a space.

“Traditionally a lot of interior designers get all the way through a project and then there’s no budget left for art,” she says. “For me, art is in the original plan. It has to be because the rooms wouldn’t be half of what they are without it.”

Goodman’s exacting attention to detail and innate sense of style, whether in writing or design, is finally drawing attention and recognition. As a creative being, she seems to be entering a new chapter at the height of her power. Here at The Maker, deftly slung in the corner, Goodman is in the catbird seat, catching canaries. Even so, it’s clear she’s still hungry for opportunities to prove herself, and tell more stories. 

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