In 1997, Time Out crowned Rayman Boozer, BA’82, the “color guru.” And nearly 30 years later, that title still suits the IU alum, who, as you might expect, calls white rooms “really boring.”
His passion for color and prints isn’t for everyone—and he’ll be the first one to tell you that—but it’s a niche he’s carved out for himself in the interiors world. And thanks to exposure in magazines such as Architectural Digest and Elle Decor, the right clients always find him.
Boozer founded Apartment 48 in 1994 after working at Bloomingdale’s, Saks, and The Conran Shop in New York City.
While he learned a lot about sales and merchandising in those jobs, he attributes his sustained success as a business owner to the critical-thinking skills he gained at IU Bloomington.
“Without critical thinking, I wouldn’t be [running] my own company,” he says. “You’re better prepared for life [if you have] the ability to question your circumstances and your surroundings.”
Long before it became the interior design firm it is today, Apartment 48 was a place for customers to come and shop Boozer’s curated collection of furniture and vintage finds.
But something shifted in 2006 when his apartment appeared on the cover of Elle Decor. Clients came running, in the hopes that Boozer would put his unique touch on their homes.
“Interiors is just like telling stories,” he says. “I’m really good at choosing things that go together, that tell a specific story for different clients.”
Since his magazine cover debut, Boozer has become one of the world’s top interior designers. He’s decorated celebrity homes, as well as spaces for AOL, Yahoo, Rent the Runway, and the HuffPost.
In the following Q&A, Boozer spills all his decorating dos, don’ts, and pet peeves.
When you attended IU, what career did you think you were headed for?
Rayman Boozer: I started out as a psychology major. I thought I wanted to study psychology, because I wanted to understand myself. But as soon as I got there, I realized that I could do fashion [and interior design], and that became my dream.
Was there a professor who made an impact on you?
RB: Her name was Nelda (McMurtrey) Christ, BS’47, MAT’60. I learned from her that fashion is not trivial, [and that] the clothes we wear hold historical and sociological significance. It’s a creative field that deserves to be taken seriously.
There wasn’t an interior design major when you attended IU—today there is. If you were to teach a course at IU, what would you insist aspiring interior designers learn?
RB: I’d teach good taste, but taste is subjective. That said, I think it’s important to learn the history of interior design and furniture. We should understand how the way we live has evolved through the centuries, and the role technology has played in that evolution.
Can you describe the vibe of your NYC apartment?
RB: I think that my overall aesthetic is very Bohemian. I’ve always liked the ’60s and ’70s vibe, and I think there’s a little bit of that here.
Do you change your space often?
RB: I never do, because I just don’t have time. I reupholstered my sofa during the pandemic, because I was really bored. When I was a kid, I was changing my bedroom constantly. I [drove] everybody crazy.
How did you change your room as a kid?
RB: One time, I took my bed apart and put it on the floor because I wanted it to feel like a Japanese-style [bed]. I did basically whatever I wanted, but [I] mostly moved the furniture around a lot.
It feels like you were born to do this.
RB: I think I was. When I was small, I’d read fashion and design magazines all the time, but I had no idea that anybody did it for a living.
Do you have a favorite color?
RB: My favorite color is blue. I like any shade of blue. Anything that reminds me of the ocean. I love dark blues, deep blues. Not necessarily navy, but I use blue in almost every interior that I do.
Do you love the ocean?
RB: I’ve been obsessed with it since I was a child. I’d never seen the ocean until I moved to New York.
Is there a popular color right now?
RB: I like using purple, but people never really gravitate to purple. We’re also using a lot more green than we used to. I’d say green is my second favorite color, so I’m seeing green everywhere. It’s bringing the outdoors in.
Everybody is obsessing over green, especially Bottega green.
RB: I know. I have a Bottega shopping bag, and I won’t throw it out because I love that color.
Why do people not like purple?
RB: I think that people misunderstand it. Five years ago, nobody really cared about pink. It was always considered a girl’s color. But now, pink is kind of a standard. Everything is pink. Everybody looks good against a pink background, but it took forever for people to rally around pink. I think purple’s the next thing.
Do you have a favorite brand of paint?
RB: I like Benjamin Moore paint because it’s water-based. All the colors have a white base, so the colors come out clean and clear.
Aside from painting a space, what are some easy ways people can transform a room?
RB: Rearranging the furniture. Figuring out the best layout for furniture is the best way to change your home. I think most people have their furniture in the wrong places or their furniture’s too big. A lot of people think, “Oh, I want a comfortable sofa.” So, they buy a huge sofa without thinking about what size the room is. If they have the right proportion of furniture for the room, it’s going to look a lot more inviting.
Where do you order furniture from?
RB: We [order] a lot of Crate & Barrel and West Elm. For vintage furniture, we use Chairish.
Is there a retail company that’s overrated, in your opinion?
RB: Restoration Hardware. The quality’s not there, considering how expensive it is. The furniture doesn’t hold up.
What other tips do you have for decorating a home?
RB: There are simple formulas that, if you abide by them, your house is going to look good. For example, triangulation. If you have three blue pillows and you put them around the room, then you get triangulation. It’s really simple, but it works.
What are the design rules that people should not break?
RB: Symmetry. You can break symmetry if you have some symmetry. You must have two things that match, because human beings are used to seeing things balanced. Once you have two matching things, then you can do asymmetry with other things. But you need something for people to focus on when they walk into a room.
Do you have a design pet peeve?
RB: One of my biggest pet peeves is a rug that’s too small for the room. A small rug in the middle of a room drives me crazy.
I don’t like when people don’t have headboards on their beds. The bed is the focus of the bedroom, and it should have a headboard. Also, people should have coffee tables, because that’s where you put all your accessories that show people who you are.
What’s on your coffee table?
RB: There are lots of design books. I have a vase that a friend of mine made. I have little candle holders and coasters. Usually, I have orchids. It’s always changing.
Do you have a favorite design book?
RB: I like a book called Interior Life by Gert Voorjans. It has great pictures, and it has all these little inserts of colors and stuff. It’s almost like a collage. I [also] really like Vogue Living. Domino had a good book that came out about 10 years ago—Domino: The Book of Decorating.
Where do you find inspiration when you need it?
RB: I travel a lot. Already, this year, I’ve been to London and Paris. A lot of my design ideas come from movies, like The Sheltering Sky, where people go on exotic adventures. When I was little, I was obsessed with I Dream of Jeannie. It was my first design inspiration.
Who are the designers that you admire?
RB: One of my favorite designers is David Hicks. He’s not alive anymore, but his style was ’60s and ’70s. He put pink and blue together, and I really like that. I love Albert Hadley, who’s also not around. I think Billy Cotton is somebody to watch. He decorates in a really simple way. I like Alexa Hampton. She decorates like her father, Mark Hampton, who is from Indiana. Alexa’s very traditional, but she uses color.
Is there a project you’re dying to do, or a client that you’re dying to work with?
RB: I have celebrity clients, but I’m not allowed to say their names. I thought working with celebrities would be the ultimate. I’d say it’s not, but I won’t say why. What I’m dying to do is a hotel. That’s my dream. I feel like a hotel would be a fantastic expression of what I can do.