HELP WANTED

Help Wanted.  Serious applicants only need apply.  I'm looking forward to working with you, future Design Assistant!  This could be great.

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WEST VILLAGE GUT RENOVATION

Gut renovations -- aptly named to describe the stripping down of a space to its bare bones and starting fresh, the visceral fortitude forged with each decision leading up to the finish line -- are exhausting.  But the payoff is the drama of the before and after.  Particularly when the "before" describes a dilapidated warren of rooms that are  nearly impossible to recognize as a home, the "after" feels like a hard-won victory.

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LABOR OF LOVE - UPPER EAST SIDE CARRIAGE HOUSE

Last February I was contacted by a friend of a friend of a friend to help make an NYC carriage house, with gorgeous bones but a sad face, a livable home for her family.  The intention was to essentially stage a quick makeover to tide them over until a much more comprehensive renovation in the future.  

To that end, my client re-used most of her existing furniture, and my task was to assist with the big picture and fill in where necessary: architectural elements, easy makeovers for some existing pieces, and some new things for each space.   Not unlike most projects, it only grew as time went on.  Many were involved.  It took on a life of its own.  And my fearless client took on huge chunks of the project herself -- an unenviable choice.  The family is all moved into the house now.  A labor of love, the project will never be completely over.  For now, I am very happy to share some snaps!


LIKE THE PRESENT

The novelty of 2015 is already yesterday's news, but around here, we're still basking in its freshness.  Last year's surprises and new beginnings are this year's foundation, and I'm excited about diving into the great projects lined up with familiar and new clients.  

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MAY [I]S FULL OF PROMISES / ON TO THE NEXT

Here in Beacon, it felt like winter would never relent; and while there's still a little chill in the air, the light has certainly shifted.  

One of my projects, 121 Restaurant, has reached substantial completion, is open for business, and we're working through punch list.  

I head to Texas today, where I get to spend a week with the family who raised me.  

I see light at the end of the tunnel of residential construction projects that have been underway, and I can turn at last turn some attention to my poor website.  

Time is ripe to sow new seeds of creativity for some great new projects, and I can also get back to tweaking those furniture prototypes that have sat latent since March.

Bonus: when I get back here, the gorgeous floors that severely needed to be refinished in my house will be refinished at last.  (Thank you and shout out to my DH).  And ....  stay tuned for what next!

ALL I WANTED WAS TO BREAK YOUR WALLS

Since the moment I set foot in my client's then-potential new space, I could not *wait* for demolition to begin.  

Well, it has.  And the wreckage is as cathartic as ever, which means her remodel is that much closer!!!


PROGRESS | HOME OFFICE

DIY home renovations are labors of love, and this Valentine's Day/ President's day, my husband really took it up an extra notch helping me pull my office together to a point where I could move back in and set up shop. And we still have tons to do in here, but in the interim, I have a place to work, in my home - and we celebrate small victories :)  

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ABOUT FACE ::: TECTONIC SHIFTS

Just as babies become the toddlers who grow up to be wallflowers or leaders or parents then grandparents, changing a litle bit every day -- so too does our world change bit by bit.  But every now and again, something huge happens.  Like when tectonic plates inching along crash at last, completely changing the landscape forever. 

Side note: Check out this sweet video that captures the aging of a young girl over a hypothetical span of 70 years.

http://vimeo.com/74033442#share

Like the way cubism, and the representation of multiple planes simultaneously in a single picture, forced so powerful a shift in artistic perspective that its influence extended beyond two-dimensional art into sculpture, architecture, and also the non-visual arts-- literature, philosophy, music.  

Villa Muller

Visiting Adolf Loos' Villa Muller in Prague was that for me - a pivot point.  

Authors like Beatriz Colomina (among many others) more eloquently describe the intensity with which Loos wields architecture - and the juxtaposition of rich and complex interior compositions against a stark facade - as a tool to comment on the human condition and the split between our private and public lives....

Anyway, I remember taking in the sumptuous materials, the spatial genius, the surprisingly vivid colors; and I was stumped by the presence of this table lamp that seemed so out of place. 

 

Villa Muller table lamp.jpg

But I've come around since then, and perhaps Loos foreshadowed the work of Thaddeus Wolfe, whose glass Assemblage pieces illustrate the impact of cubism in three-dimensional art forms.  Loos' table lamp, with its geometric forms, symbolizes "a profound reorientation towards a changed world."


With every movement come faddish elements as well, and geometric forms are trending pretty hard right now, and the fullness of time will reveal each piece's lasting power.  With everything frozen with this winter storm, a little time capsule of related eye candy we can come back to later seemed appropriate:

EVERYMAN'S NYC APARTMENT RENOVATION

Interior design doesn't save lives - but if, by giving a client surroundings that are comfortable and encourage a happier, more successful life, then I believe it serves some sort of civic duty.  It's an intimate process getting to know how clients live, what their pet peeves are, their comfort levels with high vs. low maintenance materials, the colors that turn them off, whether they cook often or rarely, do they hate brass - key details in narrowing down the infinite number of options out there.  

*Related: I've created a handy bundle of links you can access here with information about doing renovations in NYC. *

When honing in on design decisions, since it's often just as useful to know what a client does NOT want, at the beginning of a project, I'll usually present a couple of options for the layout and materials as a starting point to gauge the direction in which to steer the project.  

I'm currently working for a lovely client, a young woman with a big personality in a small frame, to renovate her one bedroom apartment in a classic West Village walk-up in NYC.  Her project comes with all the challenges you'd expect: it's just under 400 s.f. and needs to house all the programmatic requirements of a high-end apartment: 

  • The kitchen needs updating: a full-size fridge/freezer, we'll add a dishwasher and disposal, a new range and fan, new sink and faucet, and a wine fridge if there's room.
  • It has a washer/dryer, which is a luxury for sure, but takes up valuable space.
  • We're taking out a wall.
  • New floors, new cabinets, new tile.  New ceilings, new walls, mouldings.
  • The bathroom is tiny - let's make it feel less tiny.
  • It's a co-op building.
  • There's no elevator, and it's on the fourth floor, so demo and construction will be a bit of a bear.

So there's plenty for me to sink my teeth into.  

I presented three plan options last week, and there are pros and cons in each, spatially; I await professional estimates of the cost implications as well.  Since it's not her home, the insight I would normally get from the client directly can only go so far. I saw the space again after presenting the options below, and I am working a revision I think negotiates some of the different advantages best. 

 

My goal is always to make choices that are timeless - and still tailored to specific preferences.  I am always conscious of budgets - which can be fluid if a client has a deep enough emotional connection and the means to make an exception.  In trying to develop a design that is generic enough to appeal to the widest audience, the risk is that the wow factor desired by having me involved at all would be diluted.

Meanwhile, I welcome comments.  Stay tuned. 

 

GET YOUR VITAMIN D : CLERESTORY WINDOWS

The days have been getting shorter for some time now, and having Thanksgiving under our belts reinforces the fact that we are into winter, the season of vitamin D deficiency.

I was passing through Grand Central last week, on a gray and misty morning, and the sun was coming through the clerestory windows in the main concourse with all the drama of the old John Collier photograph that is iconic for the space.


Even on a gray day, what little light there was made hard angle to the space below.  It was a welcome reminder of how natural light - i.e. from the sun - can be a powerful architectural element when strategically employed.

Having a whole room bathed in light is sumptuous, for sure.  Often times, however, bringing the light into a space requires some architectural gymnastics.  And sometimes, you just want a room to feel more closed for privacy.  Sometimes we seek sanctuary from the visual clutter outside; but we don't want to feel imprisoned.  In those cases, clerestory windows are the answer to our sun-seeking prayers. 

Clerestory windows refer to any windows above eye level, and would historically refer to the upper levels of Romanesque or Gothic cathedrals which were often pierced with fenestration to bring light down to the people.  One of the most dramatic examples of Gothic architecture, the Cathedral of St. Catherine at Amiens (right), has clerestory windows that are nearly a third of the interior height!

In modern architecture, the clerestory is more often horizontal.  Having window up high means you gain wall below -- in residential design, those walls are then freed up for art, kitchen cabinets, built-in bookshelves, a cozy bedroom.  In public buildings, you can maximize the use of the internal volume while still bringing in natural light.

The iterations of a clerestory window are infinite, and can adapt to a multitude of architectural languages.  In all versions, the void - the absence of wall - becomes something with unexpected presence and natural grace.  So many beautiful examples to admire and emulate.  

In designing the Canova plaster cast museum, Carlo Scarpa said, "I wanted to cut up the blue of the sky."   Until the sunshine stays longer again, I say bring those heavens in.  

MARIA PERGAY : STEEL ON MY WISH LIST

For years a piece of furniture by Maria Pergay -- any piece by Maria Pergay -- has been high up on my list of coveted items.

Today, Christie's is having its auction Arts Decoratifs du XXe Siecle, and Lot 63 (below) represents a unique result of a collaboration with Maison Jansen: a table with two layers of glass enclosing decoration in stainless steel. 

 Christie's estimates the gavel will come down somewhere between $54K - $81K USD. 

Christie's estimates the gavel will come down somewhere between $54K - $81K USD. 

I first encountered her pieces when I was working at Studio Sofield and shopping for entry chair options for the NY flagship of Tom Ford.  We presented the Ring Chair, pictured at left (which was ultimately passed over in favor of the Lalanne that sits there now);   the curves of the stainless steel were mesmerizing...

Maria Pergay is known best for unleashing stainless steel's softer, more sensuous qualities that often take the back seat to its more industrial connotations. Her pieces merge fantasy and modernity, bringing warmth and softness to the cold material.

Something other-worldly surrounds Pergay's work, which is furniture, and some.... Each work, to Pergay, is "An expression of — what can I say, maybe like it came from Mars or the moon?"  Brigitte Bardot's alien beauty sits well with the lines of the lit tapis volant!

Pergay, born in 1930, began her career designing store window displays before releasing a collection in 1968 that was snapped up in its entirety by Pierre Cardin.  She is alive and well, still actively producing new work and enjoying revived interest in her oeuvre, including recent exhibitions at Demisch Danant in New York, Place des Vosges in Paris, and Design Miami.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth, the department stores in NYC have unveiled their holiday window displays, reminding us that it is gift-giving season...
I'm not holding my breath that whoever secures the bid on the glass and steel dining table on auction at Christie's will just feel like giving it to me -- 
but I'd be happy with just about anything attached to a pouf rouban (image below) ! I'd be fine with the green one too.  

If you're craving more information, check out these tomes:

GET COZY : CUDDLE UP WITH THESE THROWS

"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize..."

(Clairee, Steel Magnolias).  

Cozying up with a throw -- on the sofa, in bed, with a good read, or your favorite snugglebug -- is a natural response to temperatures dropping outside.  In more temperate climates, the warmth factor is less relevant than the cushy effect. 

Throws are great accessories in any room because they function exactly as accessories do: they add visual interest, a layer of texture, and reinforce your vibe for a fraction of the cost of the staples that anchor how everything works. 

So while some of our wardrobe changes may arise from weather conditions in real life, some lucky you's out there may be just getting to replacing your summery florals with a more wintry color scheme to get into the spirit.  

In the same vein, swapping out or adding in a throw brings some flair to marking the seasonal shift.  

You can't go wrong with cable knit...

Whether your look is light and airy, or a little moodier.  Changing the scale of the knit adds dimension too.

A solid color gives a neutral palette more depth; or it brings a pop.

For me, the ultimate is fur.  In a crisp modern space, in a feminine sitting room, in a whimsical yet organic living room.It screams cozy, and there are sustainable options for the real thing as well as faux. 

Or toss in some pattern to bring in some subtle funk.

Feeling inspired to accessorize? They make excellent gifts too.  Check out some of the selections below, get your weekend going, and you're on your way --- wishing you all a great weekend.     

DINING ROOM PROGRESS

I have always wanted to do an ombre dining room, and at last, one is starting to come to life. The bones of the space gave me the perfect slate to work with -- granted, kind of an ugly brown-egg kind of slate, but no more!  Hello soft-powder pink walls.  More to follow.  

Happy Monday!

DOORS : WINDOWS -- THEY CLOSE AND OPEN

So this post is more about doors than windows -

Besides the fact that they close and they open (as the sayings go), doors can be a source of beauty or frustration depending on whether their function (or dis-function) can recede to the background of everyday life and allow the materials, the hardware, the environment come to the fore to give us a surprising source of pleasure.  

 Happy Friday!

BLACK::: LEATHER

Perfect black leather – classic cool.  Mercurial and beloved, it conjures extreme connotations: it is classic—and sexy.  Refined—yet erotic.  Tailored, but essentially badass.   Black leather – when done right, it never goes out of style.   When fortunate, it makes a serious statement.  

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