A year ago I posted about an exciting new job in Galveston, Texas, reuniting me with clients (husband and wife surgeons) I worked with 15 years ago. Since my first visit, they’ve learned how difficult it can be to renovate a historically registered home. A leaky roof had to be restored to the original specs, involving much work and not inconsiderable time and expense. This was further complicated by storms which affected the construction timetable. The work has now been completed and I’ve started the design process in earnest. I just returned from a second trip, where I fell in love all over again with the multitude of gorgeous details in the home—the stained glass, Baccarat chandeliers and Zuber wallpaper—as well as my clients intriguing art collection. The paintings are all twentieth-century American, mostly abstract, with a few eye-catching portraits. Having so much evocative art will be an important design influence, and one of my jobs will be to make sure the art and the design elevate and enhance each other. See my post about designing the home of noted abstract painter Regina Bogat, to further explore how interior design can showcase a modern art collection.
As I measure my clients living room, I’m filled with the sense of excitement that accompanies starting a new project. I’m also taking the measure of the design possibilities. The bountiful natural light, tall ceilings, generous glass area, including six French windows opening onto a terrace with ornamental balustrade, get my design juices flowing. First thoughts: remove the sheers on the upper windows, remove the appliqués on the crown molding, use one paint color for both the walls and trim, and rework the onyx fireplace with an overmantel piece. Much more to come…
It’s fun to take a substantially sized space and give it a warm, comfortable ambience. While not losing any drama or grandeur, the room gains a livable grace.
It’s been a busy summer of installations, and today I’m at the home of clients I’ve mentioned who are downsizing after their kids flew the coop. Much is left to do, but they have the minimum they need to move in. The dining room table is bench made in England to a standard of quality that is especially satisfying in our tech-obsessed world. The room is still missing a large wool area rug, and in the photo I’m deciding whether or not contemporary shades (not like the one I’m holding), might work on the chandelier. Living room furniture has yet to arrive, but my clients chose the art that will hang either side of the fireplace. Their contemporary collection is compelling, and the furnishings will complement the drama and intrigue of the art. The family room is more complete, awaiting a new cocktail table, hearth screen, and art above the fireplace. The installation was smooth, made doubly so by the charm of clients I’ve worked with for many years. Talk about combining business with pleasure!
I’m working on a condo for a couple in downsizing mode. The kids are grown, and their large home was simply too large. This is the family room, adjacent to the kitchen. You can see from the floor plan that we will add a bench seat sofa (one long cushion), two swivel chairs for TV viewing, and a recliner across from the fireplace. My choice of recliner is super comfortable without the unattractive, heaviness of the genre. The bay windows, which are duplicated on the kitchen side of the room, will become banquettes with cozy pillows and small facing tables. The floor plan also includes two pieces under the low windows on either side of the fireplace. These could be chests or perhaps interesting sculptures. An area rug will define the seating space. We’ve already painted, choosing a simple white wash for the tray ceiling, to showcase the wood grain.
In the tradition of past work I’ve done for this lovely couple, the result will be visually stunning and as comfortable as an especially well-fitting shoe…if I do say so myself.
Found time today to accessorize my client’s living room. Added 2 large ceramic textured blue green lamps, a grey lamp with patterned shade, boxes made of seashells, ginger jars on the mantel along with pear-shaped glass balls in a jellyfish design. The sea-themed accessories follow the classic contemporary beachy design. It’s all about textures rather than color, with the pillows featuring different tones in a neutral palette. We did replace the fireplace surround with black absolute granite, to add a strong note of contrast. Still need to sort out the electrics to make all the lamps function and we need some artwork for several key walls, but we’re almost there.
Today was D-Day for my client: the arrival of furnishings and furniture for the living room. The rug padding and area rugs cover the wood floor. The sofas, chairs, ottomans and cocktail tables follow, and, voila!, the bones of the room are in place. I’ll be returning in a few days for the placement of lamps and accessories, and we’ll discuss some artwork suggestions for the walls. But for now my client and I are reveling in the joy of seeing the room beginning to take shape.
“Whimsical” is Cole & Son’s brilliant new wallpaper collection inspired by classic children’s stories. I think the designs are appropriate for more than just children’s rooms. In the right bedroom a few of the soothing, dreamlike patterns could work well. I always try to use impactful paper in powder rooms, and these imaginative designs are perfect. The charming whimsy of the “Whimsical” collection puts a smile on my face, and I’m sure I’ll find clients this year who’ll agree.
Here I am, submerged in a sea of handmade rugs. The breadth of options can overwhelm, but armed with the palette of fabrics and colors I’m using, like a good detective I search relentlessly for the perfect solution. After exploring a mountain of choices, often in multiple showrooms, I track down the rug that fits the scheme. It might be an Oushak, Sarouk, Tabriz or Peshawar, from Turkey, Spain, Pakistan or Tibet. Finding the correct size in stock is important, because custom sizes can take many months.
I spend a lot of time and effort on rug searches because they set the table for the design. Few single elements are as instrumental. Beautiful rugs are works of art, and occasionally they become the inspiration for an entire scheme. So it’s important to get this design challenge right.
Last year my daughter Nathalie’s artwork and poetry were featured in an exhibit at the Queens Museum in New York dedicated to those suffering from Neurofibromatosis Type 2, a degenerative illness that took the her life 4 years ago. Through the help of a friend, the exhibit is now showing at the Tufts University Art Gallery in Boston. I know Nathalie would be happy that her work is reaching a wider audience. She had to deal with huge challenges in her brief life, and her art was a vital ally in the struggle to give her life meaning. As she said in a video that was part of the original exhibit—art is “my way of being happy. I’ve gone through a lot of shit, and I think art just sort of heals me.”
I have never been accused of being a techie, quite the contrary in fact, but even I’m excited by a new project that takes one of my favorite activities—going to a classical music concert—and converts it into a virtual reality experience. The program is called VAN Beethoven, due to the specially outfitted van driven to public event locations throughout LA, where the lucky participants are immersed in a performance of a Beethoven symphony performed by the LA Philharmonic. The interior of the van is a mini concert hall. You put on your VR headset and, as the LA Phil describes it, you are “transported to a 360° 3-D performance” of Beethoven’s Fifth. I never thought I’d want to try one of these new-fangled VR headsets, but for a chance to experience one of my favorite pieces of music in a revolutionary new way, I’d make an exception. A short video can be seen here which explains how it was all done.