Jennifer Post: Lady in White
Jennifer Post likes to tear down walls. Because of her energetic disposition, it is easy to fantasize the designer knocking down a wall with a hammer—bang! bang! bang!—while engaging in a brisk conversation, smiling all the while.
In reality, Post is far too busy for such work. A perfectionist by nature, she spends her time attend- ing to the details of the spaces brought to her for beautification—raising floors to make them all the same level, straightening crooked hallways, removing clutter, banishing murk, and creating light and views where they did not previously exist.
“She is very high energy and goes a million miles an hour,” says John Finton, a building contractor who has built Post-designed houses for high-profile names like Jennifer Lopez and is finishing one for Simon Cowell.
The easiest label to hang on Post’s work is classical minimalist. Her designs in one sense are subtractive, as she removes elements and simplifies radically. Her spaces have a look of radical austerity and geometric order, yet they are not cold; with layers of soft shadows, the prevailing mood is restful.
Acting as both architectural designer and interior decorator, Post’s approach is unconventional. She has a strong, personal visual style; her clients can take it or leave it.
She hates frou-frou and the usual decorator obsession for fussily matching colors. Her preferred color is white. “My two words for Jennifer are perfect and white,” says Linda Rothschild, a professional organizer who has consulted with many of Post’s clients. In the Post-designed Dhar residence in New York, walls, ceiling and floor are all covered in honed white marble, creating a lumi- nous effect when the soft, Manhattan daylight enters the room.
If clients prefer something darker, however, Post utilizes a palette of muted tans, browns, and grays that one client wryly calls her “Armani colors”; the pearly gray of the living room of the Lauer Residence in NewYork provides an example of one such scheme. Elsewhere, contrast lends a sense of drama, as in the Gerstenhaber Residence, also in New York, where the fireplace—a simple white mass set off by walls of dark gray stone on either side—exudes the power of a muffled tympani drum.
Born in Ohio, Post describes herself as a child who loved to explore cities by foot (she boasts she can name all the buildings and their architects on New York’s Park Avenue). After getting degrees in art from the Universities of Cincinnati and Michigan, she lived in London briefly, then decamped to L.A. with the hope of enrolling in UCLA’s film school; she was not one of the lucky twelve admitted that year. Always design-minded, Post found her way into theatrical and set design. Her big move came at 30 when she bought a dilapidated barn in the Hamptons and started her design studio.
Unlike many architects who need to redesign certain details again and again to achieve the desired effect,“Jennifer gets it right the first time, all the time,” says Finton, the homebuilder. “She is what I would call a taskmaster,” he adds.
Post’s approach is thoroughgoing; the New York resident is not satisfied to retune an existing house with an addition here and a new space there. For the dramatic remodel of an existing, 13,000-square-foot house in Beverly Hills for Simon Cowell, she has preserved only the outer shell.“I gutted the entire house, everything,” she says matter-of-factly, the way other people would say they had planted a rose bush.
All the spaces—the giant living room, the generous kitchen, the guest rooms upstairs—are new. A white gallery stretching the entire length of the house and day-lit by newly installed floor-to-ceiling windows lets visitors know that the residence is distinctively Post.“I took out all the walls and doors that used to be here,” she says proudly of her work. The entire circulation of the home has been reordered so that visitors at the front gate can walk almost a straight line to the pool house at the rear of the property. The sloping backyard has also been redesigned, with some areas newly terraced and paved in stone and others replanted.
Post does preserve, however, the original profile of the formerly Dutch Colonial house, complete with its symmetrical lines and the finial atop the front gable, “so it fits in with the neighborhood,” she explains. Otherwise, the Cowell house has been totally redesigned.
Now Post thinks big—and only big. “It’s such a big difference for me now than it was ten years ago,” she says.“Then, I was doing 1,000-square-foot apartments. Now I am doing large houses, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000-square-foot houses.” And there are rewards for the designer who sticks to her convictions: “Nowadays, I am hiring the clients as much as they are hiring me.”