Ten Minutes With A Furniture Designer
Amy Crain created the successful contemporary company ROOM
Photo by Phoebe Streblow
Amy Crain grew up living above a funeral home in a small town in southern Illinois where she used to play hide and seek in the casket room. When she didn’t join in the family business, her parents were disappointed but eventually came around. Crain started out as an engineering major at college but switched to architecture. After relocating to NYC with her husband, Shawn Miller, to pursue her masters in urban planning at Columbia, Crain worked at an ad agency and then at House & Garden where she developed the idea for ROOM.
There are ROOM showrooms in New York and Greenwich as well as a major online presence. How did ROOM come about?
In the late ’90s there really was no good way for anyone living outside of the major cities to have easy access to great design. My idea was to create a ‘magalogue;’ a beautifully printed and designed catalogue which was styled and photographed like a magazine, except that everything was for sale. Our first issue came out in August of 1998, and it was a huge hit! In the first six months, we had orders from every state in the country, and around the world as well.
What were your early influences?
My parents subscribed to Architectural Digest and those magazines showed me all of the beautiful places I wanted to visit and were definitely the seed for my love of design.
What brought you to Wilton?
When our son Graydon was four we decided to move to the area. We fell in love with our mid-century house. It’s been ten years.
What appeals to you about design?
I truly believe that beautiful environments can inspire and affect people, whether it’s an urban park, a quirky office design, or just a family living room, lovingly put together. Beautiful spaces make people happy.
What are your three favorite pieces of furniture and why?
Mario Bellini Camaleonda modular sofa—just so cool and sexy! Nakashima Grasscloth dining chair—iconic, sculptural and beautifully made. My new Beton dining table with cast concrete base and recycled walnut top. I love the tactile materials, the recycled element of the top.
Last home improvement?
Gut bathroom renovation. Shag carpet and paisley wallpaper (yes) became open, walk-in shower and large soaking tub.
Favorite Wilton haunt?
Torn between the beauty of Weir Farm and eating tacos outside with the family and dog at Heibeck’s.
It was eye opening when we realized how much we could do ourselves, that we didn’t need to depend on outside services, especially during the early years. I taught myself graphic design, photography, and furniture design.
Describe your personal style?
Laid-back casual. I dream of a beach life with air-dried hair and flip-flops every day.
What is your personal philosophy?
This is corny, because it was written on some vitamin literature, but I now repeat this to myself often through the day when I feel harried: Slow down. Connect. Spread joy.
Something you are never without?
Instagram. My 14-year-old son is a wonderful photographer, and I’m always eager to see the latest thing he’s posted. His ability to turn the mundane into art amazes me.