How the Editor in Chief of Elle Decor Spends His Sundays
When Asad Syrkett became the youngest-ever editor in chief of Hearst Magazines, one of his goals at Elle Decor, the interior design glossy he would be overseeing, was to enjoy himself. Two years in, Mr. Syrkett, 33, said he’s having the most fun of his career.
Under his watch, projects have includedpeeks inside Georgian farmhouses in upstate New York, as well as an apartment in Milan with a polyurethane cactus. He has also published provocative essays, like one exploring sociocultural issues surrounding the 17th-century design style, Chinoiserie.
Any design blunders in his own apartment? He won’t admit to them, although the dining table, which he bought at a thrift store and always has fully set for guests who might pop by his home in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is “not a looker,” he said. Currently, it’s covered in a black and white Marimekko tablecloth.
“I mean, would my table setting pass muster with the butler at ‘Downton Abbey’? No. But it does bring me a lot of joy.” A proper place mat and linen napkins always elevate the experience, he said. “That’s the power of design and why I love it so much.”
CHERISHED MUG I’m not a morning person, but I play one on TV, I always say. Haven’t been able to sleep in since my early 20s, my body gets me up by 6:30 or 7. First thing I do, even in 90-degree summer, is make hot loose-leaf green tea. Coffee makes me pretty jittery. I’ll put a nice metal sachet in a green Ginori mug from Italy that I cherish.
INDOOR CAT Then I get ready for class. I do a little stretch before Citi Biking the 20 minutes over to Fort Greene, it’s easier than parking and locking up my own bike. I started out going to reformer Pilates — the kind on the jungle gym-looking machine — just to rehab my shoulder after a 2017 mountain biking accident. Oh, that sentence makes me sound substantially more rugged than I actually am. I’m an indoor cat, though I did humor my partner by going on a biking trip in Mexico. And I fell.
REFORMING FORT So my dancer friend Catherine and I go to Fort Pilates’ main space on Fulton at 9 a.m. I danced some at Columbia, and a little after college, too. I’m not necessarily your typical Pilates demo, though I do think that’s changing. When I first started going to Fort, the other participants were usually all white, slightly older Brooklyn ladies. I got, “Are you a dancer?” a lot. It felt innocuous, though there was definitely some curiosity about me in that space. There’s just an element when you’re the only person in the room who looks like you.
BURSTING BUBBLES For whatever reason, a lot of my college friends have settled in Brooklyn. Meaning, after Pilates, I often have a midday plan with someone who has a kid. We’ll meet at the Brooklyn Museum, up the street from my apartment. Not just to catch up — it’s easy to get bogged down in the city’s media bubble. Hanging out with someone who’s not in magazines or design or architecture wrings out my brain.
SMALL FIRES Despite trying not to do this and my firm belief in weekends away from work, every Sunday, sometime between 3 and 5, there’s an hour of emails. Any later, it’ll infringe on my evening and ability to truly unwind before Monday. But, if there’s something irksome in the inbox, I’d rather know in advance. If I do respond, Outlook has this thing where I can schedule it for 8 the next morning. My view is, if there is a small fire, responses can probably still wait until Monday.
TWO SCENTS My parents were really young when they had me, my mom, Mecca, was 16. One thing I associate with being a kid is her lighting frankincense and myrrh incense, calmly engaging another sense to signal that change into evening. I was raised Muslim; mainly in Harlem. Over on Atlantic Avenue, here in Crown Heights, there are a bunch of shops selling Medina incense and oils. Prayer rugs. Anyway, I’ll burn a stick for just 10 minutes, any longer and your whole apartment will fill with smoke.
FUNKY WINE MOMENT I’ll have a glass of wine with the incense, leading up to my early-evening dinner plan. I love funk in a wine: so, Greek, Georgian. Could be orange, or a sparkling red like Lambrusco. Yeah, love a chilled wine moment on a late-summer Sunday while texting design friends to see if they want to meet up for pizza at Camillo.
LITERARY MEDS Reading is my Ambien. Unless it’s a super light topic that definitely won’t induce a panic attack, I exclusively read fiction before bed. Been doing deep dives into Octavia Butler, who won awards for her sci-fi in the ’80s and ’90s. One of her post-apocalyptic novels, “Parable of the Sower,” has recently come back into the cultural conversation because its plot is set in a fictionalized 2024 America and actually parallels where we are politically right now. So, I’m not reading that at night, but it is on my bedside table. Getting into “Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzales, who lives here in Brooklyn and wrote an essay for our summer issue.
UNDER THE BLANKETS Knowing I have to get up at 6 a.m. to make it to Midtown on time, the reading generally begins at 10 on the dot. By double-digit hours, I like to be under the blankets, I always say.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Asad Syrkett on Twitter @AsadSyrkett or on Instagram @as4d.