Archive for May, 2009
Yesterday I mentioned that there are two things that I always stop to think about – one is lampshades and the other is framing. Two things to think about: how do you select a frame to go with your artwork and secondly, how do you mat it.
I love frames. I’ve done empty frames mounted on walls to create a graphic pattern. There’s something surreal about an empty frame. Because of my photography collection I’m always framing something new and I try to look at the art and see what it calls for. Does it call for a plain 1 x ¾ inch frame or does it need a metal leaf finish like gold, platinum or silver or maybe mahogany or bleached wood?
At the beach all my frames are bleached wood, white or silver. In the city I have a larger percentage of black, mahogany and some gold leaf frames. If it’s drawings – unless it’s old-master drawings – I like them floating on a mat, which gives it a more expansive look. If I’m doing it over mat I usually do 3” on all four sides. I know a lot of people like to make the bottom mat slightly larger but I like the evenness all round. If it’s a more formal photograph I like platinum-finished photograph, I like a silver double bevel which brings up the image, if not, I do a mat out of rag board (a double-double), which gives it some separation from the mat. In selecting mats I try to see the different tonalities, how they work with the artwork and part of the selection process is to decide what you want the mat to do – to blend in with the photograph or stand out from the piece of art.
A piece of art cheaply framed or with wrong proportions and scale can detract enormously from the piece. I know it can be expensive, but if you’ve already invested in the art, you should finish it properly. It’s like buying a wonderful dress and wearing it with cheap, wrong shoes.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in framing was using glass instead of Lucite/plastic. It was an expensive photograph and the piece fell of the wall and when the glass shattered it destroyed the photograph. That was a hard lesson to learn.
How you hang your piece is also important – two hooks on either side of the frame or a wire in the back. I’ve found that the best way is to hang it from two hooks instead of a center one. Like this it prevents it from going crooked and another secret of the trade is to put rubber tabs in the lower part of the back of the frame so it won’t move on the wall.
Do you have any hanging suggestions or mishaps to share?
There are two things that always sort of make me stop and think when I’m doing it. One is lampshades and the other is framing. Working out the proportion of the shade to the lamp to not make it too short, too squat or too big – and that is something that really has to be done with your eye. I prefer lampshades that are slightly slanted to straight ones that I find can easily look old fashioned. When you need to choose a shade, if you have a chance to bring the lamp to a shop that sells lampshades that’s the best thing to do as you can try different shades. Too small of a lampshade is like pants that are too short and show the ankle, and too big just looks out of proportion, so be sure to step back and look at the lampshade on the lamp to ensure that it’s a pleasing proportion.
More about my thoughts on framing tomorrow…
What do you put on the floor of a house when dining is for 26 people, half of the time and 14, the other half? With children running, spilling and scuffing and where a lot of maintenance is a luxury that the homeowner cannot afford? I was lucky to have them love the idea of using terrazzo floors, which we did throughout the whole first floor with carpet areas in the den and in the TV room. To make it look less like the typical building terrazzo we created a very monolithic and monochromatic coloration in the aggregates, playing with different thicknesses of feature stripping, from an 1/8th of an inch to a ¼ to a ½ inch, the floors became an enormous addition to what was not an enormous house. I always have a big problem if the client does not want wood, carpet or stone floors, but in this case terrazzo was a perfect answer. Have any of you used terrazzo or the new composite floors that get installed and polished like terrazzo, but no longer have to be concrete and an inch and a ¼ thick? It reduces the weight and makes it a lot cleaner installation. I’ll be posting photographs once it’s finished and in final condition.
Thirty years ago I was working with a fashion designer called Willi Smith who was a good friend and an incredibly talented fashion designer. Willy was looking to be able to work at home and do his fittings on models at his apartment, so he wanted to be able to see the model head to foot. So, to comply, I designed a mirror 4’ x 8’ that we sat on the floor and leaned against the wall. That was the first time I did an over-scale leaning mirror on the wall and it was a revelation to see how it could alter a space, compared to one that’s hanging on the wall.
For the first 15 years I did it, clients would ask “Aren’t you going to hang that?”. Thank god that no longer happens and the trend has now entered mainstream where you see it at Pottery Barn and other catalogue stores.
So from the 60s and 70s when mirrors were used on walls to open up a space, I think the use of a reflective surface has changed a great deal. It’s now seen in a much more architectural way and the approach is now seeing through an opening onto another space compared to a whole wall of mirror. I find this to be a much more interesting way of using it and I think it becomes an architectural element compared to a decorative one.
The over-sized mirror’s frame can be anything from heavy-duty gilded traditional frames to a simple bolection moulding. Some of the things you have to be aware of are: how big are you making the mirror? What size can you fit into the space. Once it passes a certain size it has to be a knock-down frame that can be assembled in the space and the mirror itself has to be constructed in parts and assembled on the site. So besides the impact that this frame could have on the space, it’s the engineering (size, elevator size, how wide are your openings) that will make it work. Another way of getting that reflection you want is by using polished stainless steel panels which can again bring a different perspective to a space. If you’re dealing with a long hallway a series of mirrors the same size will break up the tunnel quality of the space like we did for the spa at the Lorien Hotel & Spa in Alexandria, VA.
When I’ve done it in bathrooms I’ve used frosted mirror so you don’t have to see all those areas we all try to hide (except for the mirror straight ahead) and you can choose from the many different types of mirror (bronze, grey, regular) – each one gives you a totally different effect.
Today one can find large scale mirrors at very reasonable prices from the catalogue companies like Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn – not always to a large-enough scale to my taste, but that’s mainly because of shipping costs.
In my opinion, a frame mirror should be looked at with a different perspective, not from the traditional way of using them. Which ways have you found that the use of mirror has broken the mold and stepped this material out of its traditional way of being used?
Before I left for Paris I received my new book on Vincente Minelli (Hollywood’s Dark Dreamer) – I’ve been waiting for this book to be published. He is to me one of the most artistic movie directors in all of Hollywood – movies like An American in Paris, Ziegfeld Follies, The Band Wagon – he made poetry on screen and I can’t wait to read the book and get some inside stories from when these movies were made.
The last one I just finished reading was The Lost City of Z and for me as a traveler, this was one great adventure. Reading about what this man went through in mapping out the Amazon right after the turn of the century was quite amazing. His commitment to mapping out a whole part of the world that was unknown was real blood and guts. I hear that they’re about to make the movie – I think Liam Neeson would make the perfect lead role.
What are you reading? Anything good that I need to know about?
Name: Lauri Trapani
City: Arlington Hts.
I am a designer and have followed your wonderful work for years. What I am wondering is: how do you get your clients to incorporate every detail of the design you envision? I find that the project gets to a somewhat finished stage and they are thrilled and don’t see the need to go farther or add more. As a designer I want it to be “perfect” and I know that going to that next step will make a huge difference. I am faced with pushing them to spend $ they don’t feel is necessary or leaving it as what I consider an unfinished project.
Hi Lauri – thanks for the kind words. Over the years I have found that by presenting the total concept, from beginning to end, you make it easier on yourself and your client. Like this it makes it much harder to separate the items because they’re seeing the complete concept, which is at the same time priced out with renderings and plans and elevations and they don’t get involved in the smaller details of the plan. Present the entire idea and follow through with everything at one.
Last week I went to see Exit the King which earned its lead actor, Geoffrey Rush, a Tony nomination for his amazing role. Susan Sarandon is the co-star in this and it was great seeing her back on the stage as well. While the play was rather esoteric and somewhat weird, I really enjoyed it. It’s about a man, a King, who has lived for 400 years and from the beginning of the play, Susan Sarandon who plays his wife, keeps saying to him “You have an hour and 45 minutes to live”, “An hour and 30 minutes to live”, and so forth, which lead to the conclusion of the play. His performance was amazing as he aged in front of your eyes whitout a change of make-up or costume, but just by his demeanor and performance. He certainly deserves the Tony for that.
After over thirty five years in the industry you can bet that I’ve had my fair share of good and bad clients. I was thinking about this on the weekend. What are the responsibilities of a client and the designer in the client/designer relationship?
Neither way is it a one-track deal. It requires responsibilities from both parties. From the clients’ part it is to know exactly what they want. To have done their homework and know that they understand the work of the firm they’re choosing, because if you choose the wrong person it’s not the designer’s fault. It’s yours. It’s no different to going to a lawyer or doctor – you need to know about what it it is that they do before you make that decision.Have a list of things you require and a realistic budget to cover the cost of what you want (i.e. your ‘wanna’ list).
From a designer’s point of view you have the responsibility to have a clear contract that tells the client exactly what you’ll be providing and a professional way of presenting and expressing your creative vision to the client. Also vital if you want to maintain a successful client/designer relationship is a professional office that will run the job in the smoothest possible way as well as a clear and comprehensive billing method – and hopefully talent!
So many problems that I hear about designer/client relationships occur when people weren’t clear in what they wanted and designers expressing what they needed from the client. Save yourself a lot of headache and money and energy by following the right process.
As a client or as a designer, what would you like to add to this list from your personal experiences that you think would help somebody else?
(I don’t know if you’ve seen this but we’re being put out there for others to vote on whether or not this blog is worthy of being called ‘the best or worst professional blog’ – be sure to share your opinion and vote!)
I love the white walls that are often showcased in your designs and wonder how you come to pick that perfect white. There are so many! Is the the light in the room, or the way they match with specific furniture… I would love to have white walls in my new home but wonder how to pick that perfect shade.
Hi Nathalie - I’m a creature of habit, andI find that Benjamin Moore’s Super White gives you the most neutral white. I never match the whites as it’s never going to look the same in any way – it depends on the light and time of day. As long as it’s not a pink white against a blue white, I try to not be too anal about it.