When John Dransfield and Geoffrey Ross launched their namesake line of home furnishings 26 years ago, they brought together two distinctly different perspectives, both equally saturated in design. Geoffrey brought a classic approach to textile design, while John was a trend-minded fashion designer. That duality of traditional and modern continues to be at the core of Dransfield & Ross‘s collection of soft furnishings, decorative accessories, and furniture. “What’s important to us is the relationship between two objects, two periods, or two lifestyles,” Ross explains.
Now they’re bringing their highly sought-after aesthetic to Barneys, via a pop-up shop in Madison Avenue’s Chelsea Passage, running now through Memorial Day. The shop will feature a curated assortment of home furnishings, from vintage sculptures and art to their own indoor/outdoor pillows and throws made using high-performance Sunbrella fabrics. Below, the duo lets us in on their inimitable design philosophy and what to expect from their Barneys shop.
The Window: How do you describe your design/décor ethos?
Geoffrey Ross: Both our careers have really been saturated in design. John comes from a different perspective than I do. He was a fashion designer and worked in really trend-driven junior apparel, while I was a textile designer working for high-end textile firms. We really come from two different disciplines of design. I think the magic is created in the tension that comes from John’s trend-driven perspective and my own slower paced, more traditional perspective.
What’s the result of that tension?
GR: That’s the magic! When you look at design, you’re always building on what came before you. I bring to the table a real sense of history and knowledge of design and home furnishings. John brings a spirit of newness and the excitement of taking what I bring to the table and making it relevant.
John Dransfield: What we do is to interject different elements into our design. We are both textile-oriented. I’ll bring that couture dressmaker detail to our product, while Geoffrey has a sense of history. We are always blending those two things: The old and the new; the retro and the fresh. It’s always a mish-mash, which makes our products interesting.
You started Dransfield & Ross in NYC, but now live outside the city in a country town. How are those dual influences seen in your collections?
GR: Like many designers, we react to our environment. We like the stimulation of different places. Both John and I really are urban at our core, but we still have a passion for the things we can do in the country, like our animals and our gardening. For us, it was never either/or, but we really looked at it under the umbrella of one lifestyle. Even though we live in the country full time now, we are constantly in the city and haven’t given anything up.
Is there a certain time period of design that you favor or that you’re especially into at the moment?
JD: I think it changes from time to time and season to season. Our collection is taking a very modern approach right now, and we’re looking at all things new and interesting. Even if we’re using historic textiles, we’re adding clear, vinyl piping—doing something crazy to them. Our main thrust now is new, new, new even though we are artisanal and everything is handmade.
GR: It’s not like we love Shaker furniture only; it’s about the relationship that happens when a mid-century chair is sitting in front of a Shaker cabinet. The space between the chair and the cabinet—that chemistry—is what’s interesting to us, not either object on its own.
Tell us about this collaboration. What was the process like curating for the pop-up space at Madison Avenue?
JD: We’re showing a collection that complements the textile offerings that we have in the store currently. It’s all geared toward summer entertaining. We are using a lot of our Sunbrella performance textiles—lots of throws and pillows that are indoor/outdoor friendly and can be used on the couch or by the pool. That was our springboard for this curated collection. Geoffrey and I have a design Bible that we go by that says we can only buy things that we love. We’ve taken this approach to the Madison Avenue pop-up—they are things we love and have a passion for. Whether they are part of our collection or something in our own home, we have to really love it. It will be a lot of mid century artwork, sculptures, and ceramics that echo that feeling.
GR: Another important component that reflects our town and country lifestyle is the Sunbrella collection of textile-based products that are in this mix. Even though you can use them indoor or outdoor, they are really high performance. One reference that we love is Bill Blass, who had a very elegant apartment with period furniture, which was his passion. But his other passion was his dogs. He had all his sofas upholstered in white Sunbrella fabric. It was this sense of wanting to have a very elegant lifestyle, but not willing to give up the dogs that he loved. We kept that in mind when designing these products—keeping them beautiful and modern, but with a very practical side too. We have a Great Dane, so it’s close to our heart.
Tell us about some of your personal favorites from the collection.
JD: One of the fabulous products that will be in the shop are our throws. They’re made from Sunbrella fabric and are processed to be as soft as can be. We hand-fringed the bottoms of them. You can use them as beach blankets and get mustard and ketchup on them, but they look super-chic folded on the chaise in the house.
GR: We’ll be using ours at Shakespeare in the Park this summer.
Do you have some basic tips for summer decorating/entertaining?
JD: One of the things that we really love is lighting. Take lamps and use them outdoors! Things that you would normally think are only for the inside can come outside. Don’t be afraid to use those inside techniques outside—it can really make a space look fabulous. Picture having table lamps outside on either side of your outdoor sofas, and it really changes the atmosphere.
GR: Yes, bring some of your accessories outside for a party, even just for the evening. It helps that continuum of design—bringing the inside outside and the reverse. Bring your potted delphiniums into the house, and bring your oriental rug outside and throw it under the outside sectional or over the table for a dinner party. Those are ways of extending your living space.