Designer Charles de Lisle is a man of many contradictions. He idolizes legendary Italian architect Carlo Mollino and also adores celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe. He loves Los Angeles strip malls, but has set up shop in a decidedly less commercial San Francisco. He'll rock out to pop goddess Beyoncé and immediately tune in to iconic rockers Radiohead. De Lisle's work is no exception: Utilizing wood, bronze, plaster, metal, textiles, and clay, the designer crafts an array of furniture, lighting, and objects from seemingly contradictory materials. But de Lisle brings perfect harmony to his eclectic projects, combining rough and refined surfaces to create familiar pieces instilled with texture, meticulousness, and one-of-a-kind character. Find out what else makes the multi-faceted Massachusetts native tick in our Q&A below.
1. Who is your biggest role model?
Always changing...from Michael Taylor to Carlo Mollino to Rachel Zoe. Currently it’s Ward Bennet—risk taker, conservative, innovator, maker in many different mediums.
2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?
3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?
Mostly, I think certain people gravitate toward certain people. Since we do a lot of custom work, I always ask questions based on crazier ideas to see if potential clients respond to the option for risk-taking.
4. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?
I always have one eye on the runway shows to see what fabric constructions and forms are seeping into women’s wear. Right now I’m stuck on petite florals and sheer overlays.
5. How do you completely unwind?
By removing myself from my city and traveling with the smallest possible carry-on. Less options all around is a good thing.
6. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?
7. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?
Working on a manufacturing line in a plastic factory, boxing coffee stirrers as they came out of the extruder. Unbelievably boring and hot.
8. What’s your favorite recipe?
Traditional Mexican tortilla soup. I learned it second-hand via someone’s mother—so good. Every time I make it, I go in a different direction, but it seems pretty fail-proof:
2-3 split chicken breast on bone or 1 small whole chicken
1-2 Bay leaves
1 onion (medium dice)
3 carrots (medium dice)
2 –3 cups water
2 cups chicken stock
2 medium white onions
A handful of small/medium potatoes
1 fresh corn on cob
6-8 ripe tomatoes
3 ripe avocados
1 small can chipotle in adobo
Fresh ground pepper
Large bag thick cut, salted Mexican simple-style tortilla chips.
Braise chicken on high in large stock pot with a bit of olive oil until outside is browned. Add water, garlic, bay leaves, salt, pepper, one carrot , one onion. Set on low and bring to boil for about a 45 minutes to make a good stock base. Strain out stock from bones, carrots, onions, etc. Cook down, add chicken stock if need be or if in a hurry. Coarse cut carrots, potatoes, and quarter onions in big chunks—add to finished soup stock on low. Pull chicken off bone and add all meat bits to stock. Cut corn still on cob into 1-inch thick florets and toss in the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook at least 1/2 hour or simmer longer. Add chicken stock or water to keep broth thin. When all the ingredients are cooked, bring up to slow boil and add quartered tomatoes, let soften, and remove just the tomato skins from the broth. Add two tablespoons of chipotle in adobo to make the soup spicy and aromatic. Ladle into large soup bowls over whole crunchy tortilla chips. Top with fresh sliced avocado and fresh whole cilantro leaves. Make sure you have lots of extra chips on hand.
Words of wisdom...it's always better on day two.
9. Create your perfect playlist for us—include at least 10 songs, and feel free to explain why you love them.
Wow that’s hard. Here are some songs to drive by…I love good bass and a good story, all of these seem to have a bit of each.
10. Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Vintage. New is too new.
11. First celebrity crush?
12. What’s your hidden talent?
13. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?
Cotogna in San Francisco.
14. SF or LA?
LA. Love all those 7-11 malls.