Saturday, August 28, 2010


I recently wrote a short article for a local Salt Lake antiques magazine (Wasatch Antiques & Collectibles)  about getting the younger generations interested in antiques. I was responding to this article:

The article notes that baby-boomers cannot interest their children in their precious, long-loved antique collection built up over a lifetime.  No one under 50 has any interest really, in collecting.

As a Gen Xer who very much enjoys antiques, I felt the need to comment.  Of course, my small Sotheby's class was always looked upon as an oddity when we showed up at Antiques fairs and conferences.   We were, afterall, 20 '20-somethings' surrounded by a sea of over 50-somethings.  I know I am far from the norm, however I do feel there is hope yet for the antiques trade and my generation.

So this was my take:

Last month while reading Michael Ivankovich’s article regarding the younger generation’s disinterest in their parent’s antiques, I began considering why my love of antiques was in fact so strong at my age. As a thirty-something interior designer and appraiser, I am very much aware that many of my generation do not appreciate the beauty of a well crafted cabriole leg or the lines of a rococo revival silver teapot. However, I am confident many Gen X and Y-ers could become devout followers. So how to accomplish this? In my opinion, two simple changes in approach will encourage my peers.

1. Start with what they already find interesting.
Don’t force your children to embrace your 18th century porcelain collection right away. Encourage their stylistic eye. Perhaps ‘antique’ is a relative term, as we often gravitate to what our parent’s find mundane. There is an increasing interest in Mid-Century Modern among my generation; an interest many of our parents generation just don’t understand. Those Eames chairs, or Eva Zeisel ceramics you consider uninteresting or even unattractive, may be the key to your children’s collecting sense. Encourage and develop their interest in Mid-Century, and use their burgeoning interest to develop their connoisseurship. Teach them what connoisseurship is, and why antiques matter. With time and a bit of age under their belt, your children’s tastes will likely mature and expand, and they may in fact, find your neoclassical card table divine after all.

2. Make antiques modern.
How many 20-somethings find the typical ‘old brown furniture’ of the 19th century appealing? Not many. However, seen in a different light, ‘dull’ can be transformed into ‘trendy’. In the design world there is an increasing interest in the Dark Nostalgia and Neo-Victorian movements. Interior designers such as Roman & Williams are creating moody spaces in period buildings full of antiques mixed with slick contemporary accents. Our generation longs for a connection with the past, but the past with a twist. A recreation of our parent’s house with our parent’s antiques is not appealing. A few of our parent’s best pieces mixed with high-tech, contemporary objects create a totally unique and fresh space. Case in point: my own sofa. To the great confusion of my friends, I purchased an American Empire sofa from City Creek Antiques for my new home. It was not an object many of my generation found any interest in; it looked as though it belonged in our grandmother’s houses. However, with the selection of the right fabric, the sofa was transformed, and is highly desired among my circle of friends, all of whom live in contemporary spaces with contemporary furniture. So, with only a slight shift in perspective, there may be hope for your collectables and the industry as a whole.

 What do you think of this issue?  Is the antiques trade doomed?  Or is there hope for us young'ens?  I would love some other perspectives on the topic.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


 Due to the popularity of the posting of my own home, I thought I would feature another one of my design projects, even though its been on my company website for some months. Blogging is always a different experience, right?

So here is the lovely home of a great client in New York City, completed in 2009.

Of course its always good to start with a nice space.  And this certainly was, in particular for Manhattan.  However, this was a very WHITE space.  Now, don't get me wrong, I love white rooms, but this apartment was too white.  It needed some softening.  It came across as just a bit institutional.

The entry hallway:

The dining area:
The living room:
After a coat of lovely subdued taupe (yes, taupe is my favorite neutral by a long shot), the furnishing began.  And they were clients after my own heart...we had very similar tastes and the project rolled along very well.  There is a nice mix of beautiful, high-quality, unique pieces (like the stunning dining table & custom uber-long window bench) mixed with more standard but still great looking items such as a chain store sofa custom upholstered, and several Ligne Roset pieces like the pop chair and great sideboard by the kitchen.  And here are the final results.....

A nice general shot of the living/dining space:

the awesome dining table with a stone top from Holly Hunt and light fitting which casts the most amazing shadows at night.  I do think every room needs a WOW the sofa in my place, and here it would have to be this great dining table.  It really makes the space.

I just love the legs of this table...and with the Classic Donghia klismos chairs...sigh...

Ok, just ONE more of the table...

a bit closer on the living room, with a classic noguchi coffee table and ligne roset rug...and suspended ceiling light in the right corner...its a glass tube with frosted strips and lights inside, kind of a glam take on the fluro bulb... and it plays so nicely with the custom sheer drapes at night...

The other side of the living room...instead of a TV there is this great art piece where the artist drove a motorcycle through paint on metal plates.
And just a few details...the branch lamp, also Holly Hunt...

And lots of great artwork is great having two clients who know so much about art and one in the gallery industry!

And a great thanks to Nicole Gunther for the fabulous photos!

Thursday, August 12, 2010



As the design of my home finally pulled together after months of work, it was finally time to consider those last minute touches which can be so much fun and so frustrating at the same time.
When looking for interesting vases in various consignment and thrift shops around Salt Lake, I found a nice large round one, almost a pure sphere, with a lid. I purchased it for $12 and thought it might be a nice unusual shape for my living room coffee table. I got home, set it down, took off the lid, and it hit me. A fish bowl. It looks like a fish bowl.

What about a fish instead of flowers? In fact, I thought, it would be more economical since a fish (only $8 for this lovely and brightly colored guy) would cost about the same as one bouquet of flowers, and (hopefully) last quite a bit longer. And they are so much more fun...all that swimming around...all our friends with children have instant baby-sitting as toddlers are completely transfixed.  And in my constant nods to the past, it would fit in perfectly. You see, I am not the first to look to the living creature to make a visual impact.

Of course birds were long used as fashionable parlor decor, and the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists alike loved a brightly colored bird to coordinate with their surroundings.
 (above by Frederick Carl Frieseke, an American Impressionist)

(above by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai, the Hungarian Expressionist)
Henri Matisse with his birds:
 Probably my favorite bird in late 19th century decor would have to be in Manet's wonderful painting at the Met:

In the 1860's fish tanks became all the rage in England, with highly elaborate aquariums to display them in. Often together with flowers and other living things.

The 'Fishbowl Fantasy' by Edward Goodes, 1867:

In addition to his birds, Matisse also loved fish...

And more recently, designer extraordinaire Philippe Starck used fishbowls in his Royalton Hotel design in New York City. I was lucky enough to see this amazing design in person prior to its renovation by Roman and Williams, which is nice, just not nearly as cool as Starck.

See all those bowls along the side wall? (You can see them a bit better below on the right side) They all contain one betta fish in bright purple/blue jewel tones to match the carpet. And they swim around behind a mirror placed in the bowls just to make you feel as though you are losing your mind after a few gin and tonics. It really it a bizarre experience watching those fish seemingly disappear from sight and then reappear in the bowl a few seconds later. Bravo Philippe.

But my all time favorite use of the living creature as decor would have to be the gilt and jewel encrusted tortoise. While not much discussed these days, since it would seem quite cruel, the jeweled tortoise was quite the popular parlour ornament to the most dandified strata of British and French society in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Anyone seen Brideshead Revisited?  In addition to the stunning shots of Castle Howard built between 1699 and 1712...

 also features a jewel-encrusted tortoise! 

Of course this guy is actually pretty low level, many would have so many jewels affixed to them that they would in fact be rendered almost immobile due to the weight. This, of course, is not something I condone, poor little guys. But it was a different time.

These tortoises were allowed to wander through grand mansions, while the gems on their backs would glisten in the candlelight, creating a continual shimmer of colors.
French author Joris-Karl Huysmans made the encrusted tortoise infamous in his book Against Nature published in 1884. The book focuses exclusively on the main character who who hates Parisian high society, and only wants to lock himself away with his books and stange, beautiful objects.

Here is the illustration from an early printing showing his tortoise:

See its glow? 

Anyhow, I was able to pick out a Betta fish that happened to match my decor just perfectly.  All the coral/pink/reds I had scattered around tied in perfectly with little Maxentius.  Yes, I named him after a Roman Emperor.  Why not?  He is quite regal, isn't he?

Of course there are some more unusal type of bowls available these days...the fish condo by Teddy Luong

Or this cool melding of many bowls by Vanessa Mitrani:

But at the end of the day, I do like the classic round bowl.  Do you have any color coordinated pets?

Next week I will give you a tour of a NYC apartment I renovated last year....hope to see you then!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Well, it's finally time. I am finally letting you into my own home in hopes that everyone will want my unique style sense and will flock to Christa Pirl Interiors in droves. Well, maybe one or two of you?
Designing one's own place is always a challenge. Many would think it would be completely liberating for a have complete create a space that embodies your every design philosophy. Well, in fact that is pretty damn intimidating and daunting. No matter how much we complain about our client's restrictions, restrictions can be quite helpful.
There are so many things I love, so many colors, periods,'s SO hard to pick something that will be your calling card as a designer. Your own home is your signature, it is to be your ideal. Just a little pressure. Just a little.
Anyway, despite the budget constraints, I feel pretty good about my first fully designed home which will hopefully be the first in a long line of fabulous homes. Hopefully including ones in New York, London, Paris, Hawaii...
So for the full effect, here is the before:
A pretty typical and dull condo. At least there is molding in the living areas and decent baseboards. That is a big plus. However, everything - moldings, baseboards, window frames, ceiling, and all walls - are all painted a lovely beige. The beige that seems to exist pretty much everywhere in Utah. Well. That was just not going to do. Not at all. So I painted.
Left = old, Right = new.  While it might not look like much here, it is a whole lot. Revere Pewter, I LOVE YOU!
The dark brown corporate carpet also needed to least in the living and dining areas. So I installed wood flooring. Sigh. Much better.
The bedroom was also drapes on all the windows...and new furniture throughout. That is the GREAT luxury of moving so much for so long; you have nothing worth keeping when you are finally settled. Temporarily settled. The below photos, as noted last week, were taken by the highly talented Michael Tallman The Living Room:
THE (in my opinion) sofa to die for:
The sofa before (little bit of an improvement, don't you think?):
The cocktail center:
The bar counter where we drink the cocktails:
The bedroom:
And yes, of course my desk is always this clean...
The bathroom eye candy...artwork picked up on the Trans Siberian in Moscow and Beijing:

The dining room:
And just for another comparison, here is the sales show apartment for the condo development...
Certainly pleasant, but, well, just a bit dull.  At least I hope most of you find my renovation more appealing!
I, of course, would love any comments or thoughts...preferably kind ones...but I will take them all! And I will go into more detail about sources and, of course since it's me, the history of all the antiques in separate blogs in the near stay tuned!