When a seasoned traveler adds up his lifetime miles and the number reaches the 9-million mark, one assumes that he's been to the moon for a galactic views of the Earth. But not Timothy Corrigan. The Los Angeles-based design superstar projects his artistic talent into the homes of sophisticates, celebrities, and sometimes, leading powers in foreign states. Yes, as many who want intense design insight, Timothy travels to France often. In fact, he lives there part-time. But it’s his roster of international clients that keeps him on the road non-stop, to places as chic as London and as exotic and curious as the Middle East. It’s that experience, perhaps, that has influenced his layered global style. We caught up with Timothy for a discussion about his intense travel schedule, and how he manages to sleep through it.
Let’s start with the numbers. Approximately how many trans-continental flights do you make in one year, and where do you travel?
Let’s start off by stating that I am on the road about 70% of the time; I have over 9,000,000 miles on American Airlines over the course of my professional career. I make approximately 28 trans-Atlantic flights a year (2016 was a lot more because we were doing big projects in both Paris and London). I make around 40 trans-continental flights a year and around 24 flights of 3-4 hours lengths.
In 2016 my destinations included: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Mumbai, Milan, Frankfurt, Munich, Brussels, Nice, Paris, London, New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Ashville, Atlanta, Palm Beach, Miami, Fort Meyers, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Boulder.
What is the approximate length of your longest trip? That’s almost impossible to say…I have flown from LA to Europe for a single meeting and returned the next day, or my trips can be up to three weeks long if we are doing an installation and I have other meetings added on. I try to bunch meetings in the same part of the world all at one time.
With so many international trips, you must have tips for nodding off on the plane? Please share them with us.
I think that the single most important thing that I have learned about long-distance travel and the best way to avoid jet-lag is to eat as little on the plane as possible, don’t drink any alcohol, keep a big bottle of water by your side at all times, and perhaps most important of all, sleep as much of the flight as you can.
Any travel products that you take with you (A sleep mask, travel pillows, travel blanket, etc.) that you take with you on the plane?
Oh, yes, indeed…. these may not sound fancy but they really work: plastic ear plugs that are made for flying…research shows that the sound in airplanes actually cause jet-lag and by helping cut out some of the sounds you are better off. I always travel with a sleep mask. And I take Alka Seltzer Plus Cold tablets to help me sleep without feeling groggy. They are non-addictive and work better for me than sleeping pills.
Once you arrive to your destination, what are some steps you take to acclimate even though your internal clock may be confused?
When you get to your destination, if you have flown east, try to get 15-20 minutes of morning sunlight the day after you flew and if you have flown west, get some afternoon sunlight. It helps reset your internal clock. I also take a melatonin tablet the day before I fly and the day that I have flown.
How do your sleep habits differ at home from when you are traveling abroad?
Wherever I am I try to get a good night’s sleep because more and more research is showing the benefits of sleep on everything from memory to metabolism!
And does the way you design bedrooms for clients in other cultures differ from how you design for clients in the States? How is their sleep culture different?
I find that most of our international clients are much more concerned about sleeping in totally dark rooms than many Americans who like to wake up to the sun. The biggest other difference in terms of sleeping is that most of our international clients find American-style beds too high; they tend to like beds no higher than 24” off the floor.
Deisgn: Timothy Corrigan
Your chateau in France is an example of bedroom after bedroom that is designed to the fullest to give you an at-home experience. Why is it so important to have a beautiful/well-designed bedroom even when you are away from home?
I believe that a bedroom should be a total sanctuary from the rigors of the world and a difficult day. It’s important therefore to think first about comfort, good lighting for reading in bed, a mix of different types of pillows on the same bed (some people like soft and others more firm), and colors that are soothing and calm. I like to make my guests feel that their needs and wants have been considered because it helps make them feel special.
Please describe the best hotel experience you’ve had while traveling abroad. And on the flipside, please describe the worst hotel experience you’ve had while traveling abroad?
Once when I was in Jaipur, India, I stayed in one of the former palaces of a Maharaja…my room was all art deco from the 1930s and even though it was a little down at the heels it was still so glamorous with marble and mirrors for days! My worst hotel experience was in one of the top hotels in London and my room was stuck next to the elevator shaft on one side and a staff kitchen on the other. It was so noisy that I could hardly sleep at all!
You’re quite a tall guy...in fact, how all are you exactly? Do you insist on flying first-class so that you can stretch, recline, etc. in the seats?
I’m 6’4”, so even a queen size bed is too short for me! I usually fly business or first class if it is a flight that I will need to sleep. For shorter flights I often find that the exit row in economy has the most leg room ….whoops, I probably shouldn’t have given away that secret! :)
Design: Timothy Corrigan
How many hours of sleep do you prefer to get each night?
I am envious of those people who can get by with four or five hours of sleep a night. I try to get eight good hours of sleep each night.
Please describe your bed linen situation…down comforter? No blanket? Top sheet, yes or no?
I am a bit of a fanatic for my own bed. I sleep with 6 standard 100% down pillows, I sleep with both a top sheet and a silk filled duvet. (It’s lighter than down and I find that it breathes better than down.) I love embroidered sheets because they feel like a bit of luxury and I only use bed linens from DEA or Pratessi—while I am a Francophile for most things, when it comes to bed linens I stick with Italian.