Meet Alison Spear

Location: New York, NY
Age: Over 50
Marital Status: Married
Education: Bachelor’s of Architecture, Cornell University; Master’s of Urban Design and Architecture, Columbia University

With a career as sparkling as the glassy condos she designed in her hometown Miami, architect Alison Spear probably never expected to settle in a place like Wappinger Falls, a quaint village in Dutchess County, New York, population roughly 5,000. But after she got married for the third “and last” time to developer Alex Reece about two years ago, she decided that if one of them was going to move, it might as well be her.

The couple lives on an old estate built by Alex’s great-great-grandparents in 1840; in fact, one of her first projects in her new hometown was to completely redo the place. “It was a crumbling-down house that we brought back to life,” says Alison, who graduated Cornell and Columbia with degrees in architecture and urban design. Alison recently achieved her bona fides in eco-conscious design: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It was a triumphant moment for the elegant 50-year-old mother of two. “It was like passing the Bar for me because I’m not a good test taker. But I did it.”

When it comes to fashion, Alison’s approach is as elegant and pure as her architecture. She eschews trendy styles for classic lines, shops judiciously, and, like any good architect, sticks to a budget.

Define your style for me.

Preppy with a twist. When I was in high school, I wore my grandmother’s old cashmere sweaters from Hong Kong—you remember the little knot buttons—with my school uniforms. In college, I paired the same sweaters with jeans and my L.L.Bean boots. I don’t care whether something is expensive or not. I mix Target with Prada. I am all over the place.

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry?

I went to a little jeweler on 47th street and had all these old trinkets we found in the attic melted down—old watch fobs and ugly old watchbands. Our house is called Overcreek, so I had O’s made for my daughter and stepdaughter. I like recycling.

Do you have a favorite designer?

I have a budget for my once-a-year Prada shopping trip. Everything that I bought there through the years has stood the test of time. I used to love Balenciaga before it became a little weird.

Do you have a signature accessory?

I love my Hermes Raincoat and my Hermes rubber bag.

What about a signature perfume?

Cabotine by Madame Gres. My friend Daniel from architecture school always used to come up to me in the studio and say ‘my Aunt Imelda used to wear the same perfume.’ His aunt was Imelda Marcos.

What do you use on your skin?

I just discovered Fresh. They have a wonderful cleanser made from soy. And I use the Sugar Lip Treatment. It tastes good; it’s divine. I’m a lip fanatic and I don’t like having chapped lips.

Who inspires you?

Marian McEvoy is a great inspiration. She’s truly grounded and unpretentious. And she just has good sense. If you’re giving a party, Marian knows whom to seat next to whom. It’s great to have a friend like that. And my husband is a great inspiration as an intellect. He’s from a family of lawyers so he’s very analytical, which I appreciate because I’m more of a jump-the-gun person.

How did you meet him?

Through Katie Ford, the head of Ford Models. She actually dated him a couple times and it didn’t work out. She seated me next to him at her 50th birthday, thinking I would like him. I did!

Your biggest indulgence?

Kenneth Hair Salon in The Waldorf. It’s reasonably priced and a true ritual. I go there every week and a half for my manicure and pedicure, cut and color. They order lunch and serve drinks. Kenneth is still there. Old man, old ladies, very old world.

What’s your secret favorite place?

We Care Spa in Desert Hot Springs, California. It’s a Master Cleanse spa. You go for a week and you cleanse your body by drinking their special concoctions. My husband and I try to go every August. It’s not expensive and you feel great at the end. You can finally see the whites of your eyes again.

Of course if you’re not eating or drinking, how expensive could it be? Do they have exercise?

Very light yoga. You jump on little trampolines. You do a lot of walking.

What is your exercise routine?

Anything I feel like that day. It could be Pilates or a very long walk run with an audio book on my iPod. I do Bikram yoga twice a week.

Secret favorite spot in New York?

Quartino, an organic Italian restaurant on Bleecker Street.

What is your passion project?

I am making a room in my house into a jardin d’hiver—a winter garden—inspired by the same sort of room in Yves St. Laurent’s home in Normandy, designed by French decorator, Jacques Grange.

What is your favorite wine?

Pinot Noir from Oregon.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your career?

Always service the client.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about money?

Save it for the investments that you are sure about. For me that’s real estate and renovation.

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