Archive for the 'Tables' Category

10
Dec
07

Design Past, Present and Future

It took a 19th century near death experience to get him there, but once Ebenezer Scrooge finally caught his clue he declared that he would keep Christmas past, present and future always before him. In the interior design world I get the impression that most people are a combination of past, present, and future with an emphasis on one more than the others.

I love contemporary design, I really do. Clean, spare lines and an emphasis on materials totally enchant me in public spaces. But for some reason I can only live with a little of it at a time in our home – a danish modern coffee table in our hearth area, a sputnik lamp, which I have yet to hang in our guest bedroom (makes me wonder if I’m subconsciously resisting it even when I love it), and our newish sofa.
New Sofa

The first two of these could hardly be considered contemporary since they were made in the 60s. And the sofa has traditional, even if spare lines.

Sometimes I wonder why I can’t shake a traditional bent. Not that I’m unhappy with our home. Quite the opposite, I love it. This Saturday John and I were sitting in the kitchen drinking our morning coffee, Sam (our wood stove) quietly blazing before us.
Sam

We were talking about how we’d rather be hanging out in our house than in any hotel we could possibly think of (at least at that particular moment), which is a good thing since we pour our spare change into the house and not into big vacations. It is full of stuff that means something to us – family treasures or finds. Auction scores, those trophies from furniture safari’s with John’s mom.

But I like to think of myself as progressive–socially, spiritually, politically. Even when I work in art museums, though I love the earlier pieces, I prefer to spend the bulk of my time with art less than a century old. Why then, when we built our new house five years ago, did we look at southern, country antecedents? Am I a closet conservative?

I suppose part of the answer can be found in how I was raised, not just the regional influence (the Arkansas Ozarks), but the people who did the job. We never had a ton of money so we learned to value the things, fine or not, that we saw at our family gatherings. Plus the 70s had that whole “back to our country’s roots”, folk thing going, which my Aunt Judy turned into a subtle, but elegant homey art form that totally worked.

Then there was my friend Felley’s mom, also named Judy. I know it is a chronological impossibility, but I’m convinced that Margaret Mitchell based Melanie Wilkes on my friend’s mother, who even looks for all the world like Olivia de Havilland, I swear. In addition to her sweetness, charm and patience (I always showed up at her house after school ready for a snack and was never, to my recollection, rebuffed or disappointed), she also had an incredibly refined, but remarkably approachable sense of style.

She was never self-conscious enough to speak in such terms,  but I learned from Miss Judy to think of interior design as one of the three essential tools of hospitality–the other two being good food and genuine thoughtfulness, two things my mom could have written the book on.

For Miss Judy, every furniture purchase or placement choice seemed to be with a visitor’s comfort and timeless style in mind. Those two things became fused together in my psyche because of her, I think. One of my sweetest memories is of sitting on her fabulous, dark blue chintz Chinois floral patterned sofa with her as she talked me through my smorgasbord of adolescent problems.

Then there is my own mom. She also has great design sense, but the most valuable lessons I learned from her were to keep it fun and to never be afraid of color, especially red. And when you get stuck, call a designer (luckily she has a friend and next door neighbor who is one). And never apply your lipstick with the aid of a compact mirror when you’re in public. Oh wait, that was what my sister learned. Sorry.  

So maybe it’s because I’m so attached to these people, ideas and memories that I keep my feet rooted in a traditional style. From a design point of view the south is frequently criticized for being retardataire. I suspect my own observations may point to why that is, if it is. I guess for me the past is a vital part of the present and the future. Maybe there’s nothing I can do about that, and maybe I should stop feeling the need to apologize for it.           

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14
Sep
07

Cool Bigness

This is the last post for awhile that will poach from September’s Elle Decor. (Sorry, but Margaret Russell puts together an awesome spread.)

Table with Birds of Paradise copy

Here’s their view of a vignette from John Shea and Ray Booth’s Chelsea pad. I posted it because I’m trying to work larger scale objects (like the round balls on the table) into our house and proving to be a little wishy-washy in my commitment. I’m working to train my eye, but finding interesting home bigness can be a challenge. While John and Ray have traveled to Ibiza and Fire Island for their objects d’art, I’m lucky if I get up to the Home Goods store on 86th street.  I keep saying more extensive travel will be a part of our lives someday, but as Dolly Parton says, I better Get to Livin’.

Speaking of Home Goods, Dave and I were there trying to solve my living room rug dilemma in a more affordable way. While waiting in line we saw a woman with a foot-wide acorn made of leaves and pinecone husks in her basket. We were dismissive and joked quietly about the squirrel big enough to hide it. Days later, having completely forgotten our conversation, I bought THREE of them.

Giant Acorn

Giant Acorn

Dave had to remind me that I’d dogged them out just a few days earlier. I have no idea why I like them now and not then. See? Wishy-washy.

18
Jul
07

Patterns, Color and Winterthur Revisited

I’m intrigued by how good designers mix patterns. Henry F. DuPont’s, Winterthur, is a great place to see a seemingly infinite number of ways to do it.

I took John there for his birthday a few years back because I knew he would enjoy the craftsmanship of some of the finest examples of wood furniture in the U.S. As DuPont turned his estate into a survey of high quality non-native American furniture (approximately Empire and before), he also created a giant canvas on which to layer his talent for putting rooms together (and gardens, but that’s another post).

Julie and I have been exchanging comments lately about color in neutral rooms. While the elements of DuPont’s dining room are a little more reserved than Julie’s more worldly style, the basic idea of using color with a neutral background is here—the fabrics carry the color.

Dining Room

The architectural elements are allowed to shine on their own with a neutral coat of paint (more of an oyster than the pinkish color you see here), and maybe a few highlights (see the trim on the doors). The rich wood of the furniture also gets to play a major role.

I like that the drapery fabric and the chair covers are the same medium sized pattern. Sometimes I think I’m afraid to use a fabric in other parts of the same room. I don’t know why (maybe it’s an attempt to avoid the catalog look). But a few repeated fabrics, even a vibrant stripe like this one, can give a room unity of design, calming the space. If I remember correctly the stripe and the large pattern of the rug are the only two fabric patterns in the room and the differences in scale work well together.

floating staircase

The stair hall (not a great picture, sorry) is an even more refined space, with light and airy Federalist pieces, which play nicely with the floating staircase – delicate, but sturdy. Anyway, the green of the settee fabric, which in another application might be considered bank-ish or too heavy handed looks downright understated in this setting.

chinese parlor 2. jpg

There’s nothing understated about the Chinese parlor. I love it, with all of its game and tea tables everywhere (mostly, if not all, American Rococo, aka Chippendale), and that great (in every sense of the word) wallpaper that makes you feel like a character in a giant storybook. The whole room is a big, elegant play room for grown-ups, but really, wouldn’t kids be happy here, too?

chinese parlor

I’ve never worked with pattern on the scale of this wallpaper, but I like it, especially that DuPont made it work with two large rugs and the large pattern in the two different green damasks. The sturdy forms of the furniture ground things. And now that I look at it so do the drapery and sofa fabrics, which even though they are a damask pattern read as a solid when seen next to the wallpaper.

If you are a furniture/design or even a garden buff, Winterthur is well worth a trip for inspiration.

02
Mar
07

A Good Find

A Good Find

I don’t typically recommend Restoration Hardware (or Resurrection Hardware as Dave calls it) for unique finds, but sometimes I’m surprised by what I see there. I got a set of tin circus plates for some friends at Christmas time that I nearly didn’t mail because I liked them so much (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done that). This pair of mirrored nesting tables have a modern lightness I like and their distressed finish would free me up from having to keep the room hermetically sealed.

I love mirrored pieces. I just don’t like the idea of keeping them clean. Our house will never be dust and smudge free so we need sympathetic furniture. This finish would work, I just don’t need small tables at the moment.

I saw these a couple of weeks ago, and they were marked down 50% to 250.00 for the pair. I hope they went to a good home–they could go to yours. Let me know if they do and I’ll rush over for a cocktail and fake smoke. Dave and I found the most convincing fake cigarettes at Turandot in Broad Ripple.