Courtesy Jill Singer
Courtesy Jill Singer

Sight Unseen’s Jill Singer on Why She Doesn’t Actually Consume That Much Design Content

The co-author of the new book “How to Live with Objects” shares her media diet, from the listening app JQBX to the celebrity-gossip podcast Keep It.
By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans
October 31, 2022
5 minute read

Home is unequivocally where the heart is. But in a world that far too often embraces soulless or downright bland furniture and interior design trends, it may not always look like it. Which is where the pathbreaking work of Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov, the co-founders of the online design magazine Sight Unseen, comes in.

A new book by Singer and Khemsurov, released this fall, expands on the curated presence they’ve built online for the past 13 years and further helps those flummoxed by design develop personalized, layered interiors using meaningful objects rather than throwaway ones. How to Live with Objects (Clarkson Potter) includes home tours, from Mexico City to London, and interviews with the likes of chef Alison Roman and celebrity designer Kelly Wearstler. “Part of the impetus for writing the book was that I think people are intimidated by interior design sometimes—especially because it’s called ‘interior design,’” Singer says. “We’re basically here to say: You don’t need to hire a professional (although they can be very helpful). You don't need to know about window treatments or the precise distance between your sofa and your coffee table. It’s really more important that you educate yourself about what makes a good object and why things are important—and why it’s nice to buy things that support the independent community and vintage things you feel connected to, so that your home isn’t fully outfitted from a big-box store.”

We recently spoke with Singer about her go-to media outlets… and another  home-related book that recently hooked her.

How do you start your mornings?

Well, I have two kids. So we get up around 7:15 and they have to be at school by 8. I don’t really do anything when I first wake up, except sometimes I’ll check Instagram for DMs, or check email to make sure there’s not an emergency happening. Sometimes, I'll drive them to school, but my preferred way is taking them in an Uber and then walking back so that I create a “commute” for myself where I can listen to something, like a podcast or a Spotify playlist. You know, it’s actually funny, I don't consume as much design content as you might think. I think it’s because I'm looking at design literally all day.

During the pandemic, my friends and I downloaded this listening app, JQBX—like,  jukebox—and listened to music together and chatted almost every single night for a full year. So I have a 10,000-song archive from that. I will listen to whatever, but I’m extremely partial to nineties Lilith Fair–type music and everything from the late 1970s, when all kinds of music was converging.

Amazing. What do you like to read?

I subscribe to the print edition of The New York Times, mostly for the Sunday crossword, but I will read T and look at [the] Styles [section] and whatever catches my fancy. I also subscribe to The New Yorker, Elle Decor, and New York magazine. I get a lot of my news from Twitter—all genres of news and design stuff.

I’ll often read personalities as opposed to publications, and part of that is from being a writer myself. For example, Molly Fischer, who used to work at The Cut and did a great podcast for them for a long time; I’ll even go back and listen to some of the archives. And now she works for The New Yorker [where she recently profiled the food artist Laila Gohar], so I was excited about that. [I also follow] my friend Diana Budds, who works at Curbed; I’ll read whatever she writes. And Fiorella Valdesolo, who has written for Sight Unseen a little bit. I also really like reading Lane Florsheim’s “My Monday Morning” on The Wall Street Journal.

Any favorite podcasts?

I really like the podcast Bandsplain, which is basically about explaining bands. She’ll do four hours on Sheryl Crow or five hours on the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I started listening to Design Time, the Domino podcast; my friend Julie Vadnal does that, and it’s really good. I actually listen to Keep It a lot, too, because that’s just celebrity gossip, and that’s a zone-out period I really need sometimes.

What books are you currently loving?

When I was researching for the book [How to Live with Objects] and interviewing a lot of people, a vintage dealer down in Charleston recommended this book by Bill Bryson called At Home. It basically takes you through every single room of an old British house—so, like, one chapter’s about the dining room, one chapter’s about the scullery—but he uses that as a jumping-off point to talk about so many things. For example, when he’s talking about the kitchen, he talks about the age of exploration and the things Europeans brought to America and the things they brought back to Europe.

Any guilty pleasures?

I don’t really feel any guilt at liking things other people consider lame. Maybe that comes with being 44, but I really don’t. [Laughs]