Stamp of Perfection

Designer Christopher Coffin claims he doesn’t have a signature look. Well, maybe, he concedes, the Hermes blanket he incorporates into most projects is a stamp of sorts.


“People say I have a signature look,” he says, “but I don’t realize I do. I did a project for "Luxe" magazine last year, and the writer said, ‘It’s Christopher’s look.’ ”


Buster thinks the Hermes blanket is a good idea.


What is Christopher’s look? It’s not a particular style. It’s not a particular color or room configuration. It is in the details.


For him, finding the perfect accessory, sofa or drapery fabric and then putting everything in exactly the right place is satisfying. While his own home is traditional with a European flavor, and many people in the Valley associate him with that look, he enjoys other styles as well. He has worked all over the country, creating looks from Spanish Colonial to contemporary. 


A blank slate doesn’t send Coffin into panic mode. He sees an empty room and can visualize the finished project. “I can sit and look at a room and make it happen,” he says.


Inherited taste

Coffin comes by his creativity honestly. He is quick to acknowledge that his mother put together a beautiful home when he was growing up in Wichita, Kan. “She was artistic and had incredible taste,” he says.


She taught him to seek quality, whether in the antiques she enjoyed collecting or in clothing.


Taking his cue from her penchant for shopping, he began browsing the Midwest's antiques store while he was earning his degree in textile marketing at Kansas State. He continued that habit when as vice president of worldwide communications for the Erno Laszlo skin-care line, his professional life took him to Germany, Spain, Hong Kong and more. 


The living room of Coffin's home contains antiques he has

collected from his extensive European travels.


Among his purchases were the many portraits he has incorporated into his home. “I started going to auction houses in London – Christie’s or Sotheby’s. I was able to start collecting portraits for not a lot of money. Now it’s a big craze in all the design magazines, and good portraits have become extremely hard to find.”


The porcelain displayed in his dining room is Old Paris, Marie Antoinette’s wedding ring pattern. His canisters are old pharmaceutical jars from Paris. “I like a place to be relaxed,” he says. “But perfect.”


A new direction

When the 9/11 attacks happened, the event brought an epiphany of sorts – and soul-searching. Did he really want to be hopping onto an airplane several times a month?


At the time, Coffin lived in the same Scottsdale neighborhood as designers Donna Vallone and Anne Gale, who both worked in the company Gale had founded, Wiseman & Gale. Gale was certain the design industry would be a perfect fit for him. “Anne took me under her wing,” he says. She taught him the business side of the industry, and when she sold her company, Coffin went out on his own, as did Vallone.


He started receiving press quickly, with his projects featured several times in Traditional Home and Décor magazines. He also has been featured in Phoenix Home and Garden and other local publications.


A hallmark of Coffin’s design is its enduring appeal. “Go with what you can live with in the long run,” he says. “I really try to stay away from fads.”


Choose colors with staying power, Coffin says.


The emerging popularity of bright colors is an example. If you want to incorporate this look, he says, do it with accessories rather than with more permanent elements in your home.


Favorite things

Coffin’s home is a mixture of textures with a smooth flow of color and light. One bedroom's walls are upholstered in brown velvet, rugs are sometimes layered and the large dining room cabinet sits in front of a mirrored wall. Crystals mingle with antlers mounted on the wall, and the formal-looking European portraits are at home among soaring bookcases (filled with beautifully bound books) on walls surrounding a farm table. Things look as if they were easily placed because they are perfectly placed. And TVs are hidden away.   


Christopher Coffin's kitchen is clean, classic white with carefully selected

and placed accessories.


Coffin’s rooms are edited. Tables, desks and countertops are full, but not crowded. In the kitchen, antique glassware sits on white Carrera marble countertops – not too many, not too few. One contains colorful green apples; another holds doggie treats for his two pugs, Hampton and Buster.


Coffin guides his clients to their own serene design. “Scale and balance are so important,” he says. “I can envision how to achieve that.”


Coffin’s projects range in size from a single room to a new home from the ground up. “I do it all, from soup to nuts,” he says. “When I start at ground level, I select everything from hinges to linens. I also help with the architectural elements on the exterior. It’s so smart to have your designer in on those early meetings.”


The best outcomes happen when the client and designer establish trust. “Homes that look the best in magazines are ones where the client lets the designer run with it. Then it will turn out.”


Photos courtesy Christopher Coffin and Baxter Imaging

– Cindy Miller


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