Thank You House Beautiful!

A word of thanks to Sophie Donaldson and House Beautiful for including me in the February issue’s ‘Room For Improvement’ article.

I was asked to choose a favorite paint for the story, which highlights colors that have a big impact in transforming rooms without requiring a major renovation.

I chose Farrow & Ball’s ‘Railings 31’, with this commentary;

“Paint is your best friend if renovations aren’t possible, but you can’t be shy! Skip bland and go straight to daring, like this strong gray. I use it on the mullions of colonial-style windows, and the transformation is stunning. They instantly look modern, as if they were steel casement. At night, the mullions seem to disappear into the darkness, and all you see is the view outside. Magical!”

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Interior Design Master Class

Pared-back silhouettes, tactile surfaces, and an artful ensemble— including Richard Alvedon’s iconic portrait of Dovima, primitive pottery, and an African mask— creates an aura of magic in this Brooklyn Heights dining room. Photo courtesy Thomas Loof

Alchemists have existed in every major civilization—along with great artists and artisans— all engaged in an attempt to transform base metals into gold. Similarly, a good designer possesses a knowledge of elements that when amalgamated create magic in an interior.

Two of my favorite elements are fine art and objects.

Every surface of an interior is important, but the alchemy of design comes into play when the designer introduces and orchestrates fine art and objects, humble or precious, simple or ornate. Art in the interior is the great transformer, the secret formula for achieving superlative design.

The selection and placement of art in an interior is extremely important, possibly the single most important decision a designer will make. You can arrange and rearrange things almost infinitely, creating fresh, startling design perspectives and tableaux. The talismanic power of an object is enhanced by its position and the objects adjacent to it. The whole, forged by the intuitive selection and arrangement of objects in an interior, is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

I often assist my clients in purchasing art—in some cases forming the nucleus of their collection—and I emphasize to them how important it is to mix things of great value with other kinds of artifacts. I encourage clients to buy the very best art and objects they are willing to afford, but caution that if everything they purchase is at the highest level, the provocative potential—the poetry— of juxtaposition is neutralized.

Marking the transition between the living room and dining room of this Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan is Frank Gehry’s Wiggle chair, which echoes the curves of the Danish rosewood pedestal table. Hervé Van der Straeten’s Tornade lamp and a vintage Italian armchair by Guglielmo Ulrich speak to the Austrian midcentury chairs in the dining room. Photo courtesy Gross & Daley

The quality of interior design cannot be quantified; it does not have a price tag. Art and artifacts evoke a moment in time. It doesn’t matter if it is “original”; it might be a nineteenth century plaster cast of a Roman bust or the real thing. A beautiful object possesses an aura, an energy you cannot fake.

Art and objects alone do not make the room, although they may ignite its magic. The culmination of all the endless design decisions can be the most perfectly understated background, giving the illusion that nothing, neither heavy-handed nor weak, was done. The designer must learn to distribute resources to create design alchemy, a process which need not be enormously costly, but may pay great dividends to the client in the future in terms of increased value. Yet this is merely a fringe benefit: the presence of art creates an added value. Clients of relatively modest circumstances may be willing to spend a surprising proportion of their money on art and objects simply because they perceive their incalculable aesthetic—and even spiritual value—in the interior.

Seeking visual relationships between artifacts of different eras and places is important to the alchemical process. A gifted photographer will uncover an affinity between two things that may have escaped me, see something I haven’t yet seen, as in the white, curving swathe in the middle of Richard Avedon’s photograph of Dovima and the elephants and the adjacent tall, white, curving vase on the mantelpiece. Sometimes between like and unlike, there is a hidden correspondence, as in a “fancy” gilded X-legged Regency stool that is nevertheless clean and modern in its lines, which might be felicitously juxtaposed, say, with a modern gold-leafed Carlo Scarpa vase. Although sometimes I transmit my own sensibility to my clients, I am always open to the inspired object, be it Bauhaus or Baroque. The fascination of form is to be found in all eras— all styles—but there is one caveat: eclecticism in the wrong hands is permission for chaos.

Everyone seeks rooms that are inviting and pleasurable, designed for living life in all its complexity and depth. Art and objects may cause a visitor to pause; they may, at the same time, prompt an inhabitant to see a new visual relationship, previously undiscovered, a dense web of relationships and resemblances, an interior world endlessly enriched and enriching. And the result is pure gold, brought forth by design alchemy.

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ASID New York Metro Chapter

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After a year getting my feet VERY wet as the President-Elect of the New York Metro Chapter of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers), I took the helm as the new President in October at a beautiful and well-attended party at the new Jonathan Adler showroom on 58th & Third Avenue.

While my involvement with ASID has me taking on a lot of responsibility, the resulting opportunities have been remarkable — up to and including the chance to meet hundreds of new people in the interior design industry.

As one remarkable person once said “it takes a village”, and she was totally correct on this (and so many other things.) My involvement with ASID has had me engage with a very broad range of people – allow me to call it the NYC interior design community village — in lots of different capacities and for a wide variety of reasons. I have learned an immense amount in the process, and with more challenges and opportunities ahead I’m excited for the future of my tenure.

I consider myself a Change Agent so the opportunity to turbo-charge, (or maybe that should be turbo-change) the New York Chapter of ASID is something I am well suited for!

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The single most legible change is the entirely revamped chapter magazine DESIGN – created with the wonderful team at ASPIRE DESIGN AND HOME. I was very vocal in my opinion that the old magazine looked like it could be a periodic pamphlet for the Dry Cleaning Association – our first of four quarterly issues created almost out of thin air is a REAL design magazine; the process of creating the first issue has left me with a heightened respect for my friends in the magazine world.

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My Interview with Carl Dellatore, Editor of ‘Interior Design Master Class’ from Rizzoli

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I first met Carl Dellatore three years ago this month; after having followed his blog for some time I’d asked him to visit with me at my office to talk about the work he was doing around developing content strategies. We’ve been working together ever since.

At the time, in addition to working with designers and vendors on crafting digital presences that advance their brands, Carl expressed a wish to study design formally, but was challenged by how to go back to school at his age. I made the suggestion that he begin with Edith Wharton’s The Decoration of Houses first published in 1897 — still widely regarded as the first book to read when embarking on a career in interior decoration.

What follows is a Q&A that explains what happened next… Continue reading

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Melvin Dwork – An Honorable Man

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I don’t recall when I first saw the interior design work of Melvin Dwork, it might have been in the 1970’s in Architectural Digest; his work had a big impact on me. I remember it to be current with both minimalist and ‘high-tech’ sensibilities, but it also included select antiques (and even some color) to create spare yet rich environments that were ‘his alone‘. Time and time again I would be drawn to his work…

Continue reading

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Thank You InCollect!

A word of special thanks to Incollect for publishing a well thought out interview we did together several weeks ago, in which I answer questions like;

Your academic and professional training is very much rooted in architecture. While you were studying at RISD were you planning on becoming an architect? 

How has your architecture-driven background influenced your work as an interior designer? 

Are there any design movements, periods, etc. that you are particularly fond of or find yourself returning to again and again?

What is your favorite room to design? What about that room appeals to you? 

What is your favorite part of working with a client on a project?

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The article also includes images from some of my favorite projects — if you’re interested in learning more you can follow this link to the full article on the Incollect website.

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Lindsey Adelman: 10 Years (with love) and Counting!

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For creative people, inspiration can be found almost anywhere.

At the Rhode Island School of Design all students are required to look at nature, not just a passing glance but to REALLY LOOK, to understand what is at work on a structural level. This is encouraged in a magical place now called the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.  Edna Lawrence founded the Nature lab in 1937, and it has served as inspiration for many, many generations of art and design students at RISD.

DSC04766In discussions I had with fellow RISD alumnus and lighting designer Lindsey Adelman while mocking-up an enormous custom chandelier in a Greenwich Village home project, her profound connection to the innate understanding of structure, learned in the Nature Lab, became very clear to me.

Lindsey’s lighting designs are a wonderful combination of fine engineering and hand-craftsmanship, culminating in fixtures that have the essential structural characteristics found in nature.

But there’s more….

Lindsey has a remarkably easy and warm personality that allows for (and likely creates) goodness in her sphere. She has developed a remarkable studio culture in the last 10 years where everyone is a participant and is invested in the process and the result. This inherent dignity of creation is part of who she is, and what she brings into our world. There are many who have and will try to make copies of her inspired work, but the spirit of the makers will always be missing.

I am thrilled for Lindsey’s success, and amazed at how she maintains her own creative center while inspiring those around her, navigating through  her world with dozens of employees/collaborators, and a family life with grace.  Recently I was thrilled to help her celebrate her first ten years in business at an inspired party held at the Jane Hotel Ballroom.

This FANTASTIC video was part of the evening’s celebration! (I highly recommend you watch it full screen)

Some Relationships are Better Than Others from Lindsey Adelman Studio on Vimeo.

 Director: Lindsey Adelman

Director of Photography: Lauren Coleman

Producer: Mitsu Hagiwara

Sora Photography Phantom Team: Tomoya Hara, Kazushige Sunahara, Satoshi Motoda, Sasha Burkett

Edited by: Jonathan Turner

Music by: Headlock

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Interior Design Master Class by Carl Dellatore

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This week I learned that my good friend and colleague Carl Dellatore’s eagerly anticipated book, Interior Design Master Class, is officially finished and off to the printer. I’m both grateful and excited to have been part of Carl’s project from its inception, and to be included in the incredibly talented roster of designers who have contributed to the book.

In my capacity as the President elect of the ASID New York Metro Chapter, I have been working with the New York School of Interior Design on an event to celebrate the book. If you’d like to be kept abreast of the event – and of other events being scheduled around the country – you can join the book’s mailing list by following this link.

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And the book is available for pre-order if you’d like to be one of the first to receive a copy.

(cover photography credits clockwise from upper left: James Merrell, Nelson Hancock, Christian Garibaldi, Pieter Estersohn, Eric Piasecki, Steve Freihon)

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Creative Collaborations: Designing Signature Product Lines


As some in the design community already know, I’ve been the President elect of the New York Metro Chapter of ASID since October of last year. I’ll become the President later this year in October.

But in the interest of raising the bar on activities within the organization I’ve been working with New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) President, David Sprouls, and his fantastic staff on a lecture series presented at the school. The latest event was held last Wednesday evening, and was titled ‘Creative Collaborations: Designing Signature Product Lines’.

The panel included 3 accomplished interior designers — Barry Goralnick, Alexa Hampton, and Laura Kirar — all of whom have been developing products for a variety of home ‘furnishing categories’ and a variety of manufacturers for years. Also on the panel was Kate Verner who is a creative strategist, brand manager and business expert in the luxury home industry.

I had the great pleasure of moderating the event.  It was very fun and, at some moments, quite funny — and was very well attended both by students of the school as well as many members of the design community.

NYSID videotaped the event, so if you weren’t able to attend I’ve added the entire clip here for your consideration.

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Art Adventures: B&W Wonders at The Armory Show

Hogo Crosthwaite, Mexico "Fire Cart" 2012 Pierogi, Brooklyn

Hugo Crosthwaite, Mexico “Fire Cart” 2012 Pierogi, Brooklyn

Each year I allocate at least one entire day to immerse myself in the wonders at The Armory Show and VOLTA art fairs where historically I am looking for works for my clients – or myself – however, this year the experience was purely for pleasure.

I took photos of dozens of works that caught my eye for a variety of reasons. Reviewing the images I saw different ways to bring some order to the rich chaos; this post focuses on works that are Black & White both representation and abstract… Continue reading

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