The story of Cliff Fong's first interior design job sounds utterly apocryphal. That project was initiated while he was house-sitting for a friend, who asked Fong if he could "spruce the place up" while she was away. "I bought a few things from town, and moved things around a bit," Fong says. "When she came back, she was really happy. Since then, I've done more than 14 or 15 projects for that friend." Someone who buys homes a lot? "Yes," he says, anticipating the next question. "It's Ellen." (When the couple were first dating, Portia de Rossi also asked Fong to track down an exceptionally rare gift for DeGeneres -- a Cite chair by Prouve, one of six surviving in the world, by Fong's estimation.)
Fong, who is based in Los Angeles, came to interiors from a background in fashion, as a buyer for Fred Segal and Maxfield. In 2004, he started Chatav Ectabit, an androgynous, all-handmade menswear line, with Sandy Dalal. Among his many magazine-cover-ready residential projects is television magnate Ryan Murphy's home, which features touches of the black-lacquered, American Horror Story-style macabre.
While fashion may seem more of-the-moment than interior design, Fong sees many similarities. But don't expect anything too trendy when Fong and Dalal collaborate again to launch a new furniture design line later this year. He prefers the soul-feeding qualities of pieces with substance and patina, and likens more ephemeral designs to pop music: "Like a song that gets overplayed on the radio, that thing that initially hooked me might seem flimsy after a while."