Archive for September, 2009
A Reader Asks:
I think I’ve followed your work since the very first published room. Your style is very recognizable – even from a magazine across a room – and it is absolutely wonderful to my eyes. I know people lob around the word curated, but I think I’d prefer you to speak to us about connoisseurship and “the training of the eye” that is so lacking in many of the interior designers that are published today. This to me is all about self-education and a knowledge of the world’s cultures and design histories. So few interiors speak to the mind that assembled them and do not stand the test of time. What’s your secret to a sense of timelessness? Thank you.
Maybe because I have no formal education I have always put myself in situations where I was able to start to cultivate a point of view, whether it was walking through a museum and picking paintings that I liked and exploring why I liked those particular items, or looking at periods of rooms and deciding what I liked and disliked. I’ve always analyzed my answers and thought about why certain things appeal to me and others don’t. I’ve never tried to over-think my creativity.
I’m a firm believer in going by my gut and so on one side refining my visual experiences through travel, museums, watching old movies and being aware of what’s around me. Maybe that came from being a child that was very much a loner, so I became my own friend and the world around me had a dialogue with me that I collected experiences, visual information, references that, through the years, I keep applying to my work. Plus by having an enormous amount of travel behind me, I’ve helped to break the barriers of acceptable elements to use in my work and gained the freedom to not be limited to just the things that most people know, which can be English or French or Italian elements.
The more I’ve traveled, the more I have lost my inhibitions in creating eclectic mixtures of elements. There were never any rules – an advantage of having no formal education – so I made my own rules up based on what appealed to me. I never went by guidelines created by other people. You say timeless rooms and I think that the reason that they read timeless is because of all the different elements that are being brought into the space. It’s not the look of the day, though there may be some elements incorporated into that, it is not a recreation of a particular period in time, though there may be elements of that period incorporated in there too, but there’s nothing really nailing it to any particular period or style. There’s a mixture of elements in upholstery from Edwardian to contemporary. There’s a mixture in ethnic periods, but I’m really never trying to be in any particular era but the one we are living in right now. And all these elements are always put against clean, sharp, usually undecorated backgrounds where the architecture can come forward in a very fresh way. Backgrounds are clean canvasses where all the elements play against.
Name: Tessa Lindsey
City: Salt Lake City
Thank you so much for your blog. I admire the way you create intimate table-scapes. I want to know about the metal stands you have used to display objects. I have, for example, a collection of wooden-block batik stamps that I want to display at various heights. I have looked for ready-made sources on-line (museum and display purveyors) but haven’t found anything. Would you point me in the right direction?
I have mine made in Thailand because I had the same problem and so, when I travel, I always end up in Thailand and bring them with me and have them mounted there.
Maybe your local museum could give you information about where they get theirs made?
Yesterday I had a prospective client come in whose desires and expectations match the work that I do to the proverbial ‘T’. She was positive and really connected with the point of view that this office has. And maybe because I had put on that positive way of thinking yesterday (though the appointment had been made a week before), it sort of slapped me into the reality that they’re not all oinkers out there. There are people who agree with one’s point of view and it reminded me how good it feels when somebody comes to you, admiring what you do and being excited about the possibility of working with you bringing with them the sense that together we’re going to do some wonderful work. I think that there are times when one starts to believe that there aren’t people like this out there, but again, keeping a positive point of view opens the door to having people who think that way come to you.
Name: Robin Canty
I get the most amazing visual rush each time I see a dissimilar pairing/grouping of furniture playing off one another in the rooms you have brought to life. Its as though each piece is lovely and unique from the other, yet when you combine them, you achieve something greater than the sum of the parts.
I follow you work online and have purchased and read your books, and this has helped me make choices in my office conversion loft home of three years.
Yet I am still at a loss in achieving this concept in my living room area. I have a treasured persian carpet in shades of azure blues, creams and reds (little hidden antelopes prancing in the borders) and a black leather and chrome modern couch. The floor is concrete painted black with a matte varnish. I love each piece individually and even more so together, but over the past three years I have not found the right table to place with them to continue the harmony of dissimilarity. I would almost rather have a temporary cardboard box to set my tea on than a permanent coffee or side table that does not harmonize or overpowers the couch and the rug. I want something unique in its own right, yet gracious to the other pieces.
I would be very greatful for your opinion on my table dilemma as the couch, the rug, my tea cup and I are currently in design limbo!
All the elements that you’re talking about are very one-dimentional in tonality, dark rug, dark floors, dark sofa. Think of trying to bring lighter elements to the space to sort of give it a sense of balance. Maybe dark woods like Mahogany could work, but my sense is that with the black floors, dark rug, dark sofa, the space needs some relief. Maybe try some African pieces, or how about something Chinese to bring a different slant to the space? You’ll see different pieces from different parts of the world on the VW Home website. Look through these for some inspiration.
There’s something to be said about a half-full glass approach to life. I have been, due to certain bumps on the road, starting to feel negative lately. I don’t know if any of you have read The Secret, but it talks about putting out there what you want and disregarding the negative. If you think about the negative too much, that’s what you’ll get.
Over the weekend I was browsing through the book again and said to myself, ‘Enough of all this negativity; enough of eating sugar and fattening things, enough of beating myself up for whatever reason, enough of putting too much energy into things that only give you back negatives’. So, today I feel positive and when I got to my office building this morning, the elevator opened right there – I didn’t have to wait. A clear example of positive thinking!
So if you feel like you’re being beaten up and that everything is working against you, put a positive out there and it will come back to you – hopefully, with the same positive energy. If you’re looking for positive reinforcement, try The Secret. It sounds a little hokey, but what the hell. If it helps, why not use it?
Name: Dana Benson
Thank you for taking questions, it’s very generous of you.
I have a chocolate leather sofa by Ralph Lauren which I love. Currently, it’s with a vintage Karastan 9×12 area rug with main colors of navy and red w/design along with a pair of Baker chairs upholstered in a chenille red/gold pattern. I have white slipcovers for them but don’t care for the white with the rug. The coffee table is a kitchen table cut down-so it’s oversized- and stained walnut.
I’ve been inspired by your “Learning to See” and I want a new, modern look. I want to keep the sofa, but do I lose the carpet and go with jute or sea grass? Would the white slipcovers work with that or do I get natural linen slipcovers made for the chairs?
Thanks so much for your thoughts. I’m ready for a change!
Hey Dana – Here’s a change-provoking thought:
Why don’t you do a sisal rug, keep the white slipcovers on the chairs and have a white slipcover made for the sofa in the natural linen, and then add white pillows.
That should change the look of your room completely.
What is the difference between assisting a client in doing their home and designing a client’s home and what are the implications of both? I feel that when a client says ‘Assist me’, it is a not-too-subtle message that you’re there to give them assistance in them designing their home, as opposed to the other option where you truly are the designer. There’s no right or wrong, because we all serve different functions, but I think one has to be very clear about the client’s expectation as well as one’s sense of self as a creative person.
Why don’t you all talk to me about the pros and cons and of how you see yourself in the client/designer relationship?
I went to Bergdorf Goodman last night to attend the launch party of “Style And Substance – the Best of Elle Décor” by editor-in-chief Margaret Russell. Beside it being a design-studded event – and Margaret looking her movie-starrish self – the book is truly a compilation of so many different, wonderful design spaces that it is a must-buy for anybody who’s interested in design. The book is divided into sections like Living Rooms, Dining Rooms, Kitchens, etc, which is great for anybody who’s doing a room and need some design inspiration.
Bravo, Elle Décor, bravo!
How does one create one’s own style? I often get asked this question and thought we should probably discuss it here.
Speaking for myself, it wasn’t a conscious effort to “Create My Look” but rather just me allowing myself to go with a particular flow that felt right. Honestly, I was never really willing or capable to do forty different looks and I only focus on the ones that my instinct tell me is the right thing to do.
That’s not to say that I couldn’t create a traditional room, but my instinct would be to immediately give it a contemporary feel by bringing in some other pieces. Maybe because I approached it like that from the beginning it slowly but surely set in motion what has become ‘My Style’. But now, 35 years later, I’m always consciously trying to give it a different twist, to rethink what may come naturally – an upgrade, a reinterpretation, a new surprise. But it’s always coming from my gut, not from over-analyzing.
So if you feel that you’re trying to hone in on what your style is, a good exercise is to take imaginary rooms and design them. I know that clients have their needs and their wants and likes, but do it for yourself. Try to see what you come up with and once you start to see a direction, try to then take that direction and tailor it to the client’s requirements. You will still maintain your style, but adjust it to the client’s needs and likes.
What has worked for you in creating ‘Your Look’?
G’day. Hope you can give us some advice on our living room.
Basically, our theme is modern zen. One side of the wall is painted olive green. Our console and shoe cabinet are walnut color and clean cut. Flooring is laminate, latin teak print.
We feel that’s still something missing to bring out that kind of feeling, maybe you can advice what we should add in or take out. Tks a million.
Zen is a state of mind. After saying that, if one thinks of what zen represents – it’s about tranquility, areas to focus on that will bring you a sense of balance and tranquility, softness of color, a sense of calm, comfort. So I think that when I look at the pictures of this space, it is quite austere, there’s really nothing for your eye to focus on in the way of a beautiful Japanese setting, or something that, in your mind, gives you a sense of calmness. More natural elements like a sisal rug would a) focus your seating area – you need something for the sofa and b) add warmth to the space. Above the sofa something like this screen from VW Home would add a focus point. Maybe as you come into the room a screen would give it more unity or a sense of intimacy. It doesn’t look like you have much sunlight in the space, but maybe a tree or something that gives you, again, a sense of nature would be great. As you face the window, to the right a large (4 x 8′) mirror would help reflect light and open up the space some more. Try school house shades in the window (they go from floor to ceiling), which would make the window feel much more vertical and if you bring the shade up halfway through the window, you get the sense that the windows go right to the floor. I would suggest a translucent fabric to still let light through.