Here’s another photo of the condo apartment I’m in the process of finishing for an empty nest couple. This sitting area is part of a large open space that also encompasses the kitchen. I’ve continued the cool, clean look of the rest of the home. The wool-textured rug provides a plush platform for the comfortable sectional sofa. The two leather ottomans are both practical and decorative—they add additional seating if required and fit under the sideboard perfectly. The original mid-century cocktail table is by Isamu Noguchi, the free form 3/8 inch glass and two piece ebony base giving a soupçon of oriental flair to the scheme.
I thought it might be interesting to post updates on my Tudor project as it progresses. Today the subject is spindles for the two staircases. At some point characterless mid-century spindles had been installed, totally wrong for Tudor style. For the rear staircase we chose a simple, classic design, squared on top and bottom, with just enough detail to provide visual interest. We painted them to match the trim. For the more imposing front staircase, the spindles are bigger, thicker, more detailed and a lot of work to stain. Every element in a design is important, and the sweep and drama of the stairs are punctuated by the elegance and detail of the spindles. I’ll post photos of the finished staircases.
Spoke to my sister today about the dazzling Cartier exhibit in Paris. This video takes you on a tour. Not as good as an actual tour, but for those of us who can’t make it to Paris, it’s the next best thing. King Edward VII of England called Cartier “the King of jewelers and jewelers to the King.” This exhibit shows you why.
Here I am looking at a paint sample on the ceiling of a remodeling project I’ve started here in Short Hills. The painter needs my approval, but I don’t like the look of it. It’s too yellow, too harsh. What looks right in the studio can take on a whole different hue on site, especially with a Tudor. There is much dark wood and smallish windows, so paint really needs to make the space glow. Then there’s the door hardware. At some point most of the original pewter hinges and locks were replaced with brass. The hardware must match and be as close as possible to the original. The authenticity of even the small fittings creates a sense of unity and integrity that’s vital to the design. Projects like this are special because it’s largely a blank slate. I can see the finished design in my head, and filling in the puzzle pieces is what I most enjoy.
Just finished a condo apartment for an empty nest couple. The look is contemporary, clean, uncluttered. The off-white palette is anchored by a wool and silk rug; raffia wrapped cocktail table, tailored sofas and breezy sheers on the windows. I’m also very partial to the sculptured white vase on the table. The large 8 candelabra chandeliers add an upbeat positive energy and complement the subtle yellow tone on the ceiling. Antelope pillows on the sofa work with animal skin patterned chenille fabric on the chairs to provide a contrast to the monochrome solids.
You can just make out the entryway, with gold paper above the chandelier on the ceiling, injecting a sense of occasion as you enter. The oval table can be opened for dinner parties and the abstract painting is by Joanne Rafferty.
I’m happy with the result. There’s a cool, relaxed calmness, an easy elegance that suits my clients perfectly.
These days, if you want to know which are the longest rivers in the world, or the highest mountains, you just google it. The answers appear quickly and painlessly. It gives you some idea what we’ve gained, and what we’ve lost, that a similar query back in the 1820s might have been resolved by opening a beautifully made volume of finely detailed comparative maps, like the ones featured here. They compare the lengths and heights of the major rivers and mountains in a graphically engaging, thought provoking way.
No question that today the information is much more readily accessible on one of the digital devices that rule our lives. You would have had to go to a library, and a specialized one at that, to see these magnificent books. They would have been available only to the select few. On the other hand, the visual drama of the finely detailed illustrations is so imaginatively presented that they make a far more absorbing presentation of the data than you’ll find on Wikipedia. What many consider to be the dull subject of geography becomes a visually stimulating quest to find answers to basic questions of the natural world.
My interior design sensibility sees the decorative possibilities, of course. These artifacts of a lost world would be impressive on an elegant display table or simply framed as artwork. Either way they are fascinating examples of what was possible when innovative publishers were pushing the boundaries of what was then the state of the art medium called print.
I’m working on a lighting scheme for a large home in Short Hills, which is a challenge I particularly enjoy. It’s always stimulating to look at the entire canvass of a home and put the puzzle pieces together. For lighting, as in most interior design, it is the integration of the pieces that creates a harmonious composition.
Recessed lights on dimmers accomplish the boring but essential job of letting you see where you’re going. Then there’s the light you need for specific tasks, like reading or working. There are many kinds of fixtures that provide the strong, focused light to accomplish this, either freestanding, or on tables, or attached to the ceiling. Then there are the more interesting choices, light that gives character to a space. For this I often feel like a theatrical lighting designer, using sources and qualities of light to affect mood and atmosphere. Sconces on either side of a chimney or hallway offer a dramatic halo of light, as well as providing elegant sculptural design. Chandeliers add to ambient recessed light, but they can do so much more. They can be dominant design elements, especially in large dining rooms or living rooms or entryways, where their size and height add a sense of majesty. Finally, there are decorative table and standing lamps, whose pools of light define the texture and color of a room, while mini spots bring out the detail in paintings or other artwork.
Good designers use light as a painter does, arranging shadows and pools of illumination, hard edges and soft washes. But while a painter may convey all manner of emotions, for me the goal is for my client to feel the comfort and serenity and contentment of a home that fits like a glove.
When my husband and I parked onPat Bell’s driveway in the early evening darkness last Friday we were immediately drawn like moths to the brightly lit interior of her Victorian home. But it wasn’t only the light that drew us in. We could see a tapestry of images and colored objects lining every inch of wall space. Pat opened the door and we entered a home that I can only describe as a magnificent work of art, comprising hundreds of individual works of art. The density of the pieces on display is extraordinary, on walls, sills, table tops, display cases, easels; every conceivable surface plays host to Pat’s collection, presenting the eye with a flood of impressions.
The dominant media is photography, but there are a profusion of paintings, sculptures, a magnificent glass collection, and much more. As an interior designer what most impressed me was the way Pat has integrated her furnishings and color choices with her collection, so that they complement each other perfectly. We spent a lovely hour being led through the space, including the large indoor swimming pool that looked particularly attractive in the freezing temperatures.
I should mention that Pat is our financial advisor, and very fortunate we are to work with her. She is also a brilliant art collector, and she has created a unique showplace, a space where the interior design is indivisible from the artwork. I am looking forward to my next visit. I need more time to take it all in.
I spent this morning at the D&D building in Manhattan. I don’t spend as much time in this warren of furnishings showrooms as I used to. Reps come to me at the studio in Short Hills with the latest styles, there’s the internet of course, and also the D&D itself has seen better days. Nevertheless, I met a client to show them some fabrics for their boat—which I’ll elaborate on in a post to come—and decided to take a look around. A few vignettes stuck out.
This photo illustrates the mantra that the devil, or in this case the elegance, is in the details. The upholstered fabric on the wall merges with the same fabric as a drapery, leading to the circled fabric used as an edge to the drapes. The only real color is in the highly detailed blue pillow, with a border cut out of the fabric and a contrasting welt on the edge. The bench is done in light textured linen. Very understated, very neutral, yet full of pizzazz.
Here we see how rich colors, plus busy textures and patterns can create an intimate sensual ambiance, perhaps for a ladies boudoir. The pillow matches the upholstered walls, with a contrasting blue welt, and the quilted fabric covered chair would be perfectly at home in a country chateau in the Loire Valley.
Brunschwig and Sons, one of my favorite fabric companies, recently renovated their showroom at the D&D, and I had a déjà-vu moment as I entered this tented room. I designed a room like this too many years ago, and I’d love to do another. Everything is done in the blue and white patterned fabric—valance, upholstered panels, window treatments and tieback curtain, even a panel above the valence arcing to the ceiling. Talk about atmosphere! The tented room is a graceful, stylish and sophisticated design choice, though it does require a client with a certain flamboyance.
Colors take a cue from woodsy surroundings, with a TV hidden in a cabinet at the base of the bed so lake view is not impeded. The hanging bedside lamp avoids clutter on the night table.
High, beamed ceilings, built in photo heavy bookcases and soft, golden colors provide a wistful tone to this prewar Manhattan apartment on Fifth Avenue.
The buttery tones on the walls, the sheer panels on the windows, the ikat fabric covered chaise and upholstered headboard combine to encourage a warm, contented glow.
Toile fabric behind the bed disguises an off-center window and covers the skirted table, while the built in shelving unit is framed and lined with fabric to display treasures in this jewel box bedroom.
A boudoir in the French style, the interior design is centered on a petit point rug in blue and cream and rose, echoed by the Colefax fabric on the roman shade, the shams on the bed and the cotton print on the Louis XVI Bergere chair.
I’m working on 5 bedrooms in two projects at the moment, so I thought I’d share a few thoughts on the room most of us probably spend more time in than any other.
The restful, soothing mood of a bedroom starts with paint colors that tend to be pale and understated, though a highlight wall with a more vibrant color can sometimes be appropriate. And I have on occasion gone with bolder colors for young adults or guest bedrooms.
Lighting should come from many sources—recessed overhead on a dimmer, floor lamps, table lamps and hanging lamps, offering multiple options for both the quality and intensity of the light.
Wall-to-wall carpeting is the usual flooring choice, with area rugs used as highlights for color. Polished wood flooring can a viable option (especially with radiant heat), the color and texture providing a rich underpinning to some schemes, with accent area rugs echoing the room’s design motifs.
I’ve created quite a few master bedroom suites, extending the bedroom’s utility with a comfortable seating area, to hang out with the kids or watch TV or read in a cozy nook by the fire. Speaking of TVs, the most unobtrusive way to incorporate the ubiquitous flat screen is by hiding it in a cabinet, popping up only when needed. I’ve also placed TVs in a recessed wall. The thinner and more unadorned the TV is, the better, so it essentially becomes a frame without a picture.
For me, every choice in a bedroom revolves around the idea of refuge, a haven where you can fully relax, where there are no bad vibrations, so to speak. My job is to create a space that produces nothing but good vibrations, a place where the outside world is banished, where comfort and security and the joys of an aesthetically pleasing environment prevail.