A word about Mr. Right, the Gentleman in the Parlor

  • May 15, 2010 5:26 pm

Detail from a Chinese Reverse Painted Mirror from the Art from Antiques Collection by Susanne K. Williams

My adorable husband  shall be called Mr. Right unless he forgets his Faustian bargain with me, and then, perhaps, he shall become, for a very brief while, Mr. Not Quite Always Right.  I  look forward to making his  home office as dark and booklined and handsome as a gentleman’s club in Pall Mall. But for the library I’d like to create an alternate vision : I’m thinking black as the predominant color with touches of turquoise, teal, orange and green inspired by this divine detail taken from a 19th century Chinese reverse-painted mirror. I can already see his green leather reading chair and ottoman ready by the fire at one end of the room, and a projection screen set up for countless comfortable hours of Netflix viewing.   A small wet bar cum refrigerator is in the plans. It’s only what he deserves.

La Belle Michelle

  • January 15, 2009 3:10 pm

As far as I’m concerned Michelle Obama can do no wrong-she has an unerring fashion sense. What a much ado about nothing re the Narciso dress on election night. She looked stunning and she knows how to send a message. Anais Nin, in one of her exhausting biographys, describes arming herself in a dress of red and silver in order to go forth and conquer. There’s dress for success and there’s dress with intent.

Mrs. Obama seems to be interested in pushing the envelope in terms of first lady appropriate fashion. She clearly loves to dress up and express herself with clothes and accessories, and she looks great because she is so clearly comfortable in what she has chosen. Clothes, as with interiors, always look right if they are expressing the personalities of those who wear them and live in them. The wonderful tightrope of simplicity and edginess is perfectly drawn, and seems to express Mrs. Obama’s love of drama and creative ideas with straightforward and clean silhouettes; there’s always a sense of fun and exploration that are artfully balanced.

What I also like is how Mrs. Obama’s clothes reflect a real confidence. She’s not being overly careful nor is she testing the waters of public opinion-she’s dressing for herself and clearly enjoying it. I’m thrilled and tickled to see this new fearless and glamorous role model come to such prominence and can’t wait to see all her new ideas as her style unfolds.

When Bad Design Happens to Good People (at long last)

  • December 17, 2008 6:34 pm

So why does it happen? You’re really sophisticated; you have great friends, you like good food, you buy nice clothes, what’s the problem? It’s not personal! Design is a combination of talent and knowhow, and I’mnot at all sure in what order or emphasis. To design is to break down the universe into patterns, textures, colors, and mass. I do think there’s a huge spatial component that is innate; good designers actually feel space-that makes it easy for them to understand patterns and mass. Textures and colors are something that I think people can be trained to think about, see, feel and play with.

Good design, to me, is all about the working with the modulation of various elements. For instance, understanding how large furniture needs to be in a room, the rightness of it. Interesting design is when you you can manipulate the elements so they are pleasing and thenpush them around to make something unexpected, or personal, or new.

As with any of the arts, and I do believe that designing can be counted as one, you need to know the classics of the discipline;a painter needs to know art history from the very beginning to have to references be second nature. No design is brand new. There are always elements taken from before and recombined with new ideas. But design looks dry and hollow if it’s used without a knowledge of its past links. Palladian Windows in McMansion construction look ridiculous (and sound pretentious) if used out of context of Palladio’s original intention to create an architectural tempo.

From what I’ve seen, bad design happens to all these nice people because people think that creating a comfortable home is something that should come naturally. Particularly now, when there’s all this self help in the form of cable shows and shelter magazine, homeowners must feel they have all the tools they need.

But they dont’! They’re not professionals. If you have a legal problem, would you consider handling it yourself? Probably not. A medical problem? A plumbing problem?

I rest my case….

Finger in the wind

  • December 17, 2008 2:44 pm

A couple of nights ago a friend asked me what I thought the new design trends were. There’s a definitely interesting color scheme we’ll be seeing more of in fashion: pale pink or a color I’d call “face powder” with or without the accent of black. I think of these pinkcolors as being predominant in the 1920’s or 30’s, the colors of lingerie and also boudoirs. Years ago I collected many articles of clothing like dance pants and also bedspreads all made of silk in those beautiful pinks with a faint yellowish cast, the color of seashells. You noticed it again in the 70’s when those fascinating hard to describe colors were around, misty mauves and strange pale greens. Remember SarahMoon’s photographs??? And now it’s creeping in again. I wonder how interior designers are going to use it. It’s not the bright blueish pinks we’ve been seeing over the past few years.

I also see a continuation of exagerated effects. Lots of design is big, really big. Look at all the wonderful costume jewelry around. Sculptural looks to clothing with large silhouettes. And I wonder if with the sudden consciousness of our over indulgence of the last few years we start seeing things in miniature: small-scale prints, smaller furniture, slim silhouettes in clothing, marshal-scaled design.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing more somber colors, something befitting the global, hunker-down mood.

Art and Conflict

  • April 27, 2006 11:29 am

“(Islamic culture), as expressed in art exalts unity in variety; the bringing of many brilliant, unlike parts together to create an even more brilliant whole. Harmony in tension is the goal.

- Holland Cotter on an exhibit of Ottoman Textiles
NY Times, 7/16/2004

“Nostalgia is a very complicated subject for me, Im attracted by nostalgia but I refuse it intellectually. It interests me to be modern, and so I refuse nostalgia, but still I have it. So you see contradictions and oppositions are maybe what makes the work contemporary, because nowadays we are all composed of opposites.

- Miruccia Prada in “The Age of Prada, Guy Trebay
NYTimes
11/3/2004

Prada suggests that the process of refining the contradictory elements that inspire us is something that defines modernity. For any artist or designer the act of resisting whats merely seductive or comfortable, tweaking that through your personal lens and adding in the torrents of received stimulate is exactly that process. And as for any art theres that element in the mix- the alchemy that projects a shape or form were ALMOST ready to see, something recognized in the collective consciousness, something comforting, yet new.

Late 20th century decorating seems to be characterized by the style of the Mix. Were in lockstep with fashion and music with that. No one always wears the same length skirt anymore, ditto the matching shoes and handbags, and the word mix defines what we have on our Ipods. Weve been experimenting with full-blown nostalgia while jumbling it with a Pantoned modernity and the onslaught of goods from the World gallery. We love soft luxurious things, worship collections, but dream of stylized empty-feeling rooms, a mirage for the best of us.

I have no doubt that this particular teeter-totter of opposites may be giving way to a new synthesis of elements. My finger to the wind is not giving me many signals right now: the riot of enormous floral patterns and brilliant colors is just a blip heading towards oblivion. Super-sized Baroque patterns can only have a limited shelf life. But maybe theyre easing our eyes towards other distortions of scale. Stay tuned.

COMING UP NEXT:
When Bad Taste Happens to Good People

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