Rooms are emotional to me. They always have been. And very few things can elicit emotion as quickly, or as powerfully, as a well placed piece of art. What we respond to says so much about us individually, making the question of what to hang on walls a true gray area. Can a home’s art really exist in a separate silo from its overall architecture and design? Or, as designers, can we build in a certain freedom to collect while also balancing a room’s colors, textures, overall feel and purpose?
As a designer, my job is to create a collection of spaces that unfold, room by room, to tell an individual and unique story intimately connected to the lives of my clients. Art has a natural role to play in that story. I’ve had the privilege to provide backdrops for works by the likes of Picasso, Warhol, Cy Twombly and Ruth Asawa. The daunting part is how to feature each piece, creating those interesting juxtapositions that catch eyes without competing for appreciation. It’s a fine line. Hanging a petite Picasso alone over a silver-silk paper painted with gouache florals wasn’t the obvious choice, but proved to be a magical one over time. There’s a magic hour when the sun sets on that side of the house and the sky’s pink light reflects to cast a warm copper glow behind this single important piece. It’s truly a religious experience…That perfect pairing of decoration and art coexisting beautifully together!
As a designer I buy art on many levels, whether working with the curator of a seasoned collector or selecting works to introduce younger clients to the art experience, The challenge of both is to find what feels essential to an individual and their room (without pandering to the color of the couch!)
Some gallerists may wince at a decorator’s involvement but the best find collaboration helpful. Recently, I experimented by asking to meet with a client’s curator from the start. We met before renovations began. I assured her that our plans for the house wouldn’t dictate the art on its walls, but wondered if it wouldn’t be helpful to share our dreams for the space visually via pinterest boards. We never spoke specific palettes so much as the effects of color, space, light and mood. As dedicated as I was to creating supportive spaces, this curator valued the visuals helpful in sourcing art that our client not only felt a connection to, but that felt in sync with the daily rhythms of spaces designed to serve him. Seeing her discoveries fueled our designs in turn, while introducing me to a few new art crushes.
I’m inspired by the daring, unique language of contemporary artists like Nazafarin Lotfi, Yves Dana and Valerie Jaudon… But to be honest, after years of scouring flea markets, my favorite artists are the ones who remain anonymous, Line studies of nudes in folios long forgotten, portraits in oil on an aged canvas….. There’s a sullenness about them that moves me and I feel I’ve liberated them somehow by placing them in a new setting honoring that moment in time.
I’m always on the prowl myself for that favorite art “find” that excites me. I love the breadth of exposure Art Basel offers, and the juxtaposiitons of the Venice Biennale where contemporary artists start their ascent to prominence against ancient settings. I’ve even designed a super slim lit easel (right) to place newfound art treasures front and center. It’s for those moments of discovery when a work feels so much a part of my story, so essential, I’ve just got to draw it in closer!
T.V.’s get a bum rap these days. Yes, we all need to unplug. And gardens are a natural choice for seeking quiet moments of zen. But outdoors is also the only place where my family freely lays down its numerous screens and devices to watch a film together. Something about pulling a lever to reveal a big screen lowered from the eaves of our poolhouse creates a sense of escape so apart from the day’s usual barrage of images. It’s not the everyday ritual of our parents hovering around the home’s only set after dinner. But it draws on the best of that. Togetherness without routine… and with an ever-changing backdrop.
A center table can double as a dining surface, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true. For a table to take center stage, it needs to look as stunning isolated in space as the art and objects it displays. A client’s art-filled home inspired our new Millepied table, with a lustrous brass base reminscent of contemporary sculpture and an antique black mirror top for extra shadow play.
What is smocking and why is it inspiring you?
It’s part nostalgia, and part architecture. As a kid, the fronts of our Easter dresses were usually smocked. I never really thought about why until seeing smocked details pop up on some pretty modern runways.
Both pretty and practical, this embroidery technique alllows garments to be form-fitting and flexible. In the days before elastic, it was a beautiful solution for cuffs, bodices, and necklines. For me, it’s another example of fashion’s genius for manipulating materials.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the parallels between smocking and Directoire trelliswork, which inpsired our Corinth Table for Arteriors (right), as well its possibilities for upholstery, furniture joinery, interior surfaces and more. Next month we’ll release a wall paneling series where planks of wood are seemingly “cinched” using nailheads! Buy
Clean, crisp and cushy is sometimes a difficult equation. Channel tufting is one of my go-to solutions, helping cushions as large as those on a family room sofa hold its firm shape while also delivering sink-down comfort. Mostly, however, I love mixing channeling with smooth surfaces, as we did on our new DeMille sectional, where tufting relaxes a tight seat and back pillows can still be moved and fluffed.
How exactly can design and art work together? For me, it helps to think of every room as a frame for living. Some art is better appreciated inside that frame while other pieces ask to stand in bold contrast. In this room that meant adding soft-hued woods to accentuate the atmospheric effects of two very clever Uta Barth photos, each showing different light shifts on the empty wall space over a modern sofa. And around the corner, the surprise of a bright psychedlic nude over a Regency rosewood chest. Because you really can live and laugh around serious art!