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L.A. Designer Michael Berman Perfects the Vintage Remix

The collector of watches, cars, and cuff links believes in the power of good design and a quirky bowtie.

Michael Berman

Vintage furniture and accessories shops inspire the dashing interior designer Michael Berman—and help round out his wardrobe. When not dreaming up elegant living spaces or timeless, modern furniture and wallpaper designs, he can be found dressed up and behind the wheel of a classic car, cruising through Hollywood or Palm Springs, some Dean Martin on the radio. But this man about town isn’t stuck in the past. His particular passion is for streamlined American modernism, with its love of skyscrapers, its optimism, and an eye toward the future. 

Motor Oil in the Blood

I’m originally from Detroit. My dad was in the automotive business, and we were always talking about the latest in automotive design. A lot of people don’t realize it, but Detroit really was very rich in architecture and design. One of my favorite architects, Eero Saarinen, and his father established Cranbrook, an art school in Detroit. Automotive design and architecture appear in a lot of the things that inspire me, and in a lot of my work.

Dad, the Clothes Horse

In the 1970s, my dad wore an ascot with a ring or medallion attached. He always had the sharpest, newest shirts—all of that Pierre Cardin or Paco Rabanne kind of styling. He had that almost Good Guys or Mad Men look to him. We didn’t talk about football or baseball; what we did talk about were Italian men’s shoes, leather belts, and walking suits.

My Kingdom for Horsepower

I’m an avid vintage-car collector. I love the feeling of getting into a car and the smell of the leather, the design of the dashboard, and all the coachwork. It transports me to another era. When I’m driving my 1963 Studebaker Gran Turismo (shown at left) down Hollywood Boulevard, I really feel like I’m in a film noir movie.

Links to the Past

I love cuff links and have an amazing collection from the 1960s—big, chunky cuff links in carved Wedgwood ceramics or gigantic agate or amber. I love dressing up a tuxedo or a suit with cuff links. For a man, it’s an opportunity to wear more jewelry, and that is something I’m always open to. One of my serious jaunts is Bon Vivant in Palm Springs. The owners have an amazing eye for the most original designs, and I always walk out with several.

Put a Bow on It

I absolutely adore wearing bow ties. I don’t care if they’re clip-on or self-tied. Especially ones from the ’60s, with a very slim-lined profile. It’s kind of like my extra accessory. I love wearing odd bow ties that really don’t match my suit but make a statement.

Berman's beloved bow ties

Berman’s beloved bow ties  Photo: Courtesy Philippe Morotti

By Georg!

Georg Jensen silver is my addiction. He was an iconic 20th-century Danish designer of objects and jewelry. The brand’s aesthetic runs the gamut from simple to very ornate, but it has a masculine bent to it, so I love anything—​even the new things. This extends to tableware. My favorite pattern is the cactus pattern, which is this almost art nouveau masterpiece. I love the feeling of the silverware—it’s chunky but decorative.

Georg Jensen adornments

Georg Jensen adornments  Photo: Courtesy Philippe Morotti

It’s All in the Wrist

One of my favorite objects is this amazing rose-gold Doxa watch from 1958. It has a very flat, slim chain-link profile. I imagine Steve McQueen would have put it on to go to the Academy Awards in 1967. It’s one of those watches that’s eye-catching but very subtle at the same time.

Doxa watch

Doxa watch  Photo: Courtesy Philippe Morotti

Where the Cool Kids Go

I have a standing booth at Musso and Frank in Hollywood. It’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, and it’s still in its original state. Whenever I take people there, they can feel the presence of Rudolph Valentino and Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. It represents the golden age of Hollywood. It has dark wood paneling and tobacco-​stained wallpaper you just know was caused by Bette Davis’s cigarettes.

Shop Secrets

One of my secret places to shop for overcall table lamps and amazing midcentury home furnishings is Hedge in Palm Springs. This place keeps me cool with my clients! They bring in incredible restored furniture, modern art, and primitive sculptures that finish off a client’s home perfectly. In L.A., I love Robert Kuo on Melrose. I’m obsessed with his Peking glass table lamps and gorgeously scaled accessories of rock crystal, cloisonné, and lacquerware.

Robert Kuo wares

Robert Kuo wares  Photo: Courtesy Philippe Morotti

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