Monday, October 16, 2017

Snedker Studio's Marbled Wood Flooring

As part of Copenhagen's Snedker Studio, textile designer Pernille Snedker Hansen creates marvelous painted wood floors using the ancient handcrafted art of marbling (the technique used to create classic endpapers for books). By swirling paint onto a fluid surface and dipping planks onto the paint, the marbling design is transferred.

Her Refraction Series #1 fits together beautifully and can be configured in a bookmatched pattern...

...and Refraction #2 can be configured into a chevron pattern.

I think her Wave pattern might be my favorite. She says her aim with this technique is to invoke old-growth tree rings and this pattern feels wonderfully organic.

And for some curves, the Arch series creates a pleasing, rhythmic pattern.

Here's how she does it!

I would love to use these incredible, one-of-a-kind planks for a project. Anyone?
Happy designing!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Re-post: Four Easy Steps For Autumn Décor

Since I love autumn, but also because my blog metrics tell me this is a very popular post with lots of hits, I am reposting my 2013 piece about autumnal décor:

This is the time of year when the air chills, days grow shorter, and we turn to our indoor lives. Since the temperature is dropping, we desire warmth and comfort, we desire insulation from the elements, and we desire to cocoon ourselves in special places that allow for beauty and contemplation of the season. Below are four very simple--and inexpensive!--ways to bring a touch of autumn into your home.

1. Nature
This is the easiest, fastest way to achieve a rich, fall texture in your home. And there are a few ways to work with nature.

A trip to the produce section of your local supermarket will yield a bounty of decorative objects. Think of buying a bag or crisp red apples to put in a basket or on a wooden platter as a centerpiece for a table. Pick up a selection of pumpkins (large, medium and baby pumpkins) and gourds to arrange on an end or hall table. Red or purple grapes and fresh cranberries can be put into decorative glass bowls or vases. Even things like stalks of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, or deep hued purple eggplants can be effective in centerpieces or tableaux. Another wonderful element to use in autumn décor are nuts: walnuts, Filberts, hazelnuts, pecans... just pile them up in an amber colored glass dish or scatter around a table setting.

A trip to the florist or nursery can provide you with some beautiful autumn color in the form of cut flowers like autumn colored chrysanthemums or potted orange marigolds. You can also find dried flowers and greenery like hydrangeas or eucalyptus to use in vases or other containers (I have a lovely antique ceramic German beer stein that gets some dried hydrangeas around this time of year.) Many places sell colorful Indian corn as well to add to the mix.

Finally, the most accessible way of obtaining natural elements to use is to forage! Autumn leaves, twigs to bundle or gather into bouquets, pine cones, sheaves of wheat or grasses can be found almost anywhere. Keep your eyes peeled and if you see a pretty fallen branch with a bit of moss on the sidewalk, snap it up!

2. Candles
Candles add a wonderful ambiance any time of the year but they seem especially appropriate in the colder autumn and winter months. Display pillar candles on a platter surrounded by nuts and pine cones, put them in lanterns, arrange a bunch of candles of varying heights with apples and mini ceramic pumpkins on a dining table. If you have a non-operational fireplace, candles look wonderful grouped in the firebox, giving the same visual cue as a log-burning fire.

3. Texture
For added interest, turn to earthy or rich textures:
* woods like oak and birch (candle holders, branches, bowls)
* burlap (a rustic table runner or cloth)
* velvet (pillows, drapery)
* blankets or throws in thick woven materials or faux fur
* rich patterns like paisley (pillows, throws, rugs, tablecloths or runners)

4. Color
At this time of the year, we are naturally surrounded by a rich palette: rust, crimson, purple, russet, mustard, forest green, umber, sienna...Use these hues as inspiration for objects in your own home.

It is easy to change out pillows, add some earthenware vases, and display some autumn colored fruit.

The addition of a throw and some white mini-pumpkins along with branches and dried vines in rustic jugs on the mantel above a warming fire sets the stage for fall.

Warm autumnal tones and a large scale paisley print look cozy and inviting.

Branches with brilliant rust and brown leaves placed inside honor the crisp days of the season. Notice the blanket of leaves, apples, and a gnarled piece of wood at the foot of the arrangement.

Gourds, decorative mercury glass pumpkins, an antler, and lanterns with glowing candles make a textural, interesting grouping. Image from Pottery Barn.

Branches and a selection of pumpkins in various hues are displayed with antique rakes in an almost minimalist tableau.

This casual table setting includes cinnamon sticks on forest green glass mugs (a lovely touch), apples, pine cones, leaves, and a coarsely woven cloth in natural hues of linen and taupe.

I set my Thanksgiving table every year with some gourds, red leaves, and a dried floral arrangement studded with eucalyptus, dried lotus pods (I love their shape) and pheasant feathers. I also use my grandmother's pressed glass turkey candy dish filled with an assortment of nuts (although some years, it holds cranberry relish!). Photo by Jeff Fiorito.

Bare twigs in simple glass cylinders (available at any craft store or florist) are anchored by what looks like a mix of wild rices. Berries, moss and lichen covered branches, pine cones and mini pumpkins complete the festive look.

Hazelnuts act as vase fillers for copper mums. Brilliant.

The simplicity of a single leaf on a white plate still expresses the richness and bounty of the season.

Now that you are acquainted with some simple, available ingredients, I hope you are inspired to gather some of these elements and honor the textures, smells, and sights of the season. And remember my helpful guidelines for creating a tableau, previously here: think about the shape your grouping makes; include tall, medium, and low objects for a variety of levels; odd numbers work best; and most importantly, contrast brings interest (rough next to smooth, light next to dark, large next to small).

Have a wonderful autumn and happy designing!

Monday, October 2, 2017

History of Furniture: Charles Eastlake

For this installment of The History of Furniture, we are going to look at a specific sub-genre of the  larger Victorian style category. We have previously looked at what is known as a Victorian style sofa here, as part of the Know Your Sofas series. Strictly speaking, the term "Victorian" really only applies to a style in architecture, art, clothing, and interiors in Great Britain and not the United States, since Victoria's reign, from 1837 to 1901, only covered that realm. People use the term for a certain style of architecture here in the United States for homes that are actually more aptly termed "Italianate" but that is for another post.

During Victoria's reign--which was quite long (a record broken by the current Queen Elizabeth II)--several styles came and went. Interestingly, nearly all were revivals of some sort. The decades of her rule saw a Rococo Revival, a Gothic Revival, a Renaissance Revival, a Jacobean Revival, and digressions into styles known as Orientalism (look for a future post about Olana, one of the most famous Orientalist homes in the United States, coming soon) and an Egyptian Revival.

The Victorian style's hallmark is massive, heavy, phenomenally complex and ornately carved pieces of furniture but the sub-genre we are going to look at today deliberately eschewed this heavy ornamentation for a sense that was more aligned with the cleaner lines of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Originally a proponent of Jacobean and Gothic Revival, Charles Locke Eastlake was an English architect and furniture designer (1836 - 1906) who believed that furniture and decor in people's homes should be made by hand or by machine-workers who took personal pride in their work.

The Eastlake style is derived from a book he published in 1868 called HINTS ON HOUSEHOLD TASTE IN FURNITURE, UPHOLSTERY, AND OTHER DETAILS. In it, he outlined his ideas for the reformation of the typical heavy, detail-laden tastes of the Victorians in favor of a lighter, more organic approach. He used incised wood, and geometric shapes as detail.

You can see how he avoided the scrolls and curlicues of Victorian Rococo in favor of straighter lines. There is a much more rectilinear sense to the pieces themselves in addition to the details they sport. Orbs, bobbin shapes, and bead shapes rest alongside minimally incised designs of leaves, vines, and simple rosettes. In this way, the Eastlake Style can certainly be seen as an important stepping stone toward Arts and Crafts, or American Craftsman in the United States along with its distant cousin, Mission Style.

Many years ago, I had the honor of refurbishing and reupholstering an heirloom Eastlake-style chair for a client. I think the traditional Victorian crimson makes the chair look like it must have in 1898.

Happy designing!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Legends of Design: Elsie de Wolfe

In this series of blog postings about Legends of Interior Design, I would be remiss if I did not, at some point, mention groundbreaking designer and mother of the modern interior design profession, Elsie de Wolfe.

Born Ella Anderson de Wolfe in New York City in 1865 (although her Wiki page wonders if she was born in 1859), she was educated in Scotland and was even presented at court to Queen Victoria! Anecdotes from her childhood suggest that de Wolfe was headed for design greatness early on: in her autobiography AFTER ALL, de Wolfe recounts how she threw a temper tantrum when her mother redecorated a room with a heavy, dark, William Morris wallpaper, hurling herself to the ground, beating her hands on the floor, and crying out, "It's so ugly! It's so ugly!"

Upon returning to the United States, she participated in many amateur theatrical productions and through that circle she met Elisabeth “Bessie” Marbury, nearly a decade older. Marbury had already created for herself a successful career as a literary agent and theatrical manager, with Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw among her clients. The two became lovers with Marbury encouraging and supporting de Wolfe in a career as a professional actress. Elsie de Wolfe loved couture fashion and the pair would regularly travel to Europe every summer to buy clothing collections from celebrated designers of the day (Elsie had it in her theatrical contracts that she would be allowed to wear her own couture clothing for stage productions, and her high-end fashions eclipsed her mediocre acting, making her a much-copied model for high society women in New York) and it is there that de Wolfe became enamored with 18th century design and French Louis XVI furniture and interiors. Considered gauche and passé at that time, this style was the exact opposite of the prevailing Victorian tastes of the day which relied upon heavy velvet drapery, dark moody interiors, and bloated ornate furniture. In contrast, de Wolfe was drawn to the delicate Neoclassical fluted legs of smaller framed chairs and settees, the light white and pastel colors, and a general sense of airiness.

Inspired, de Wolfe set out to banish the dark and heavy Victorian gloom of the Irving Place home she and Marbury shared. She had dark woodwork painted white, up came the patchwork of Persian rugs on the floor, and heavy velvet drapes were replaced wth light muslin curtains. This bright, light transformation was like a breath of fresh uncluttered air for all their society friends including Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Stanford White, and J.P. Morgan's daughter Anne. Below are before and after photos of de Wolfe and Marbury's dining room.

Based on that success, de Wolfe began getting requests from her friends to refresh their spaces as well but it wasn't until 1905 that de Wolfe became known as a true, professional interior designer--the first well-known interior designer in the world. Architect Stanford White was designing The Colony Club, a women's socialite club on Madison Avenue started by suffragettes, and brought de Wolfe in to design the interior spaces. At the time, her Trellis Room at The Colony Club, designed to give the illusion of an outdoor garden room complete with ivy on the walls, chintz fabric, wicker furniture, and lighting to mimic daytime, was a stunning achievement.

Thus a design legend was born, albeit accidentally. While the profession of interior design can be traced back as early as 1900, de Wolfe was first famous designer to make a name in the industry. For this reason, she is known as the mother of interior design. She was one of the forces responsible for moving tastes away from the Victorian (she once did an all-white room, quite radical for the time--and was the first to pair animal prints such as tiger stripes on French antiques!). She went on to design houses for some notable clients including Amy Vanderbilt, Anne Morgan, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Condé Nast, Paul-Louis Weiller, Cole Porter,and Henry Clay and Adelaide Frick (de Wolfe designed all the interiors at the Frick House which now houses the Frick Collection in Manhattan).

When she moved to Beverly Hills in the 1930s, she employed a young artist she had met at a dinner party to help with the design of her new home...a young man named Tony Duquette who later became an interior design legend himself. Stay tuned to hear all about him!

Happy designing!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ceramic vs. Porcelain: What's The Difference?

When I am designing a bathroom or kitchen for a client, I naturally specify tile as a finish material and clients often speak about ceramic or porcelain tiles. Many people use those words interchangeably but the truth is there is a difference.

For this transitional guest bathroom, I used Strands porcelain tiles by Emser in a vertical orientation
for the shower walls and a Crossville Cotto Americana stone-look porcelain tile in black for the floor.

Ceramic is a name for any material that is made from either white or red clay, then fired in a kiln and glazed. Porcelain tiles fall under the ceramic category but are generally more dense, harder, and most important, impervious to water. Therefore, all porcelain tiles are ceramic but ceramic tiles are not necessarily porcelain.

Although it may look like aged, patinated metal panels, these shower walls
are actually covered in a grey shimmery field tile by Porcelanosa.

Because of its water-resistant nature, porcelain tiles are used in wet areas like bathrooms and areas that are prone to liquid spills like kitchens. And tile applications in outdoor areas certainly need the extra protection of porcelain tiles considering the constant exposure to the elements. In fact, to be called a porcelain tile, the body must not absorb more than 0.5% of moisture. This makes porcelain tiles virtually impervious to water. And what makes porcelain such a durable, hard material is that the clay is compressed and compacted under tremendous pressure and then fired at a higher temperature than ceramic (between 1,200 and 1,400 Celsius, or 2,100 to 2,500 Fahrenheit).

This modern master bathroom features shower walls clad entirely in a very large format
porcelain tile which replicates the look of a light Calacatta Gold marble, giving the room
the elegant feel which comes from natural stone without the porosity or tiresome upkeep.

The strength of porcelain tiles also make it a good choice for kitchens--I tell clients if they drop a plate or glass, the chances of denting a wood floor or cracking a ceramic floor is greater than if they have a porcelain material. Porcelain is naturally tougher, more scratch resistant, more durable, and more resistant to stains. And if you choose what is called a through-colored porcelain tile--a tile whose body matches the color of the glaze on top--any small chips or nicks will be unnoticeable!

Happy designing!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Abstract Lighting by Sonneman

River stones inspired the new Abstract series of LED lights by Sonneman. The organically shaped white metal panels diffuse the light, making these fixtures intriguing additions to any space. They are modern but their simplicity would allow them to fit into transitional or even traditional design schemes. And the sinuous lines speak to the natural world, something that is making its way into our homes more and more with biophilic design.

“Driven to discover new insight and to test boundaries, our creative process achieved a new wave of sculptural expression,” says founder Robert Sonneman. “In our pursuit of technology-driven design, we took functional decorative to a fresh aesthetic with new forms and materials.”

The Abstract Rhythms series comes in different sizes and configurations...

...while the Abstract Panel sconces come in 18 or 14.5 inches.

Happy designing!