José Solís Betancourt and Paul Sherrill's Essential Elegance Secrets
Virginia living room
A Solis Betancourt home evokes words like “timeless,” “effortless,” “classic” and “striking”—apropos, considering this formidable team has decorated some of the most prominent dwellings in the city. Through the years, the design duo José Solís Betancourt and Paul Sherrill have established themselves as two of the country’s preeminent designers: Their work is often published in Architectural Digest, and they have clients in every (posh) corner of New York City, the Hamptons, South Florida, Puerto Rico and, of course, Washington, DC.
In November they released a new book, Essential Elegance: The Interiors of Solis Betancourt, showcasing some of their most stunning projects, many of which were inspired by art, always a strong influence on their work. Each of the 14 homes detailed in the book, which is loaded with glossy images of interior splendor, incorporate artwork— and from that jumping-off point, the masters of creativity speak for themselves.
What was the idea behind the book?
Essential Elegance is a book we have been dreaming of for almost 20 years. This year our firm will celebrate two decades in business, and we wanted to celebrate by documenting some of our favorite projects. We took a smattering of our work to illustrate range of style and how the designs differ depending on the local context and architecture.
What is your design aesthetic? Are there signature Solis Betancourt touches that you always incorporate?
Our design aesthetic is defined by our approach. We view each project as an individual and seek to create spaces that reflect the owners and their personalities and lifestyles. Hallmarks of our style include luxury, comfort and layered sophistication. We believe that a room should stand on its own as a beautiful architectural space and furnishings should serve only as embellishments that support the concept.
Who is a dream client?
We find that [we get the best] results when we are working with clients who are dedicated to the project and truly want to create something beautiful. It requires time and effort on their part, but it is the only way to provide perfectly tailored, successful solutions.
Do you have individual strengths?
We work together on every phase. I [José] am formally trained as an architect and am naturally drawn to the classical principles of design, while Paul leans more toward the traditional, with a fondness for color and the unexpected contemporary element.
How did art factor into the homes in the book?
We believe incorporating original works of art in an interior is a key part of creating a home with soul. Whether we are working with existing pieces or locating new works for a project, we always seek to create an appropriate contextual balance so the experience of the home remains true.
Washington, DC, is known as a fairly traditional city. Does that help or hinder your process?
DC is somewhat of a traditional city, but more importantly, it is very wellheeled and has an interest in sophistication and an appreciation of the arts. This goes hand in hand with our line of work. DC is filled with homes that are aching to be rediscovered and brought to their full potential. It’s a very exciting time to be designing here.
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