By SHANNON ROXBOROUGH
It's hard to imagine a more perfect person than Judith Minoff to run a design firm whose motto could well be "think globally, act locally." The New Jersey-born Minoff, spent time in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. before heading to Europe and eventually visiting Turkey, where she ended up staying 30 years, before returning to the United States.
A lady in every sense of the word, her affable, urbane manner and unpretentious charm are a throwback to a bygone era; she epitomizes the qualities to which her clients aspire: authenticity, elegance and class.
A quick glance and you might mistake Minoff for just another well-turned-out social maven: She is active in local historical foundation activities and fund-raising events in Washington, D.C. But she is much more than the sum of her refined parts.
After graduating from New York University, while deciding on a career move and looking for her niche, she took a European vacation, a trip that changed her life. "While in Rome, I met my future husband, a Turkish businessman, and we traveled a bit in Europe, and then I visited him in Istanbul. That," she recalls, "is when my life really started to shift." She lived in Turkey for a number of years, working with her husband, Sadun, in the textiles industry, before they temporarily moved to the U.S.
Later returning to Istanbul, she embarked on a career in design. For Minoff, the transition was a natural one. After all, she was no stranger to fabrics, colors and creativity. Having worked as an assistant fashion editor for Glamour magazine, before moving on to a management role with Saks Fifth Avenue, Minoff honed her eye for the beautiful but also the functional, and a talent for pulling looks together.
The first design job she landed was fine-tuning the interior of a bank, an early predecessor of JPMorgan Chase. That assignment led to Minoff decorating the residence of its chief executive, after which her career took off. Her Istanbul client base was predominantly American expatriates with high-level corporate officers. She counted the heads of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Citibank, Procter and Gamble, L'Oréal and Purina among her clients. She even became her own client, pristinely restoring the couple's tired circa 1870 Ottoman home.
After the death of her husband in 1999, she returned to Fairfield County, Connecticut and ultimately settled in Tucson, Ariz., where she got her contractor's license and faithfully restored late 19th- and early 20th-century houses in historic Armory Park. Her wanderlust eventually brought her to history-rich Fredericksburg, Va., where she currently resides two blocks from the home of George Washington’s sister Betty.
A lifelong love of design and architecture and a penchant for all things international has long influenced her work, and while her personal style is eclectic and comfortable—combining old with new, domestic with foreign—in planning clients' designs, she works to create spaces that reflect their tastes and interests. She endeavors to strike a balance between classic good taste and a modern way of life, always considering ways to infuse a home with life and the spirit of its residents while tailoring its style to his or her liking. "A home should be an extension of its owner," declares Minoff.
Whether working with someone seeking a traditional or contemporary design, Minoff encourages all her clients to "bring a little history with them" by including things they have a personal connection with and objects with a patina. When she arrived in Virginia, she brought with her a moving truck filled with "personal memories and antique treasures" from her life and travels.
Minoff's next challenge, she says, is to cater to global-thinking clients seeking creative direction and guidance. Minoff points out that the very thought of trying to navigate the myriad of design choices and hundreds of fabrics on one's own can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially for those with a more exotic mind-set.
"Having an experienced decorator who can help with anything from furniture and accessory suggestions to explaining which colors will make a room look larger or smaller can make the process less of a headache," says Minoff. "Whether a client’s budget is a few thousand dollars or open-ended, I help bring their vision to reality."