Thursday, October 28, 2010


Sorry guys, anyone looking for fun and creative halloween decorating tips better head over to  However, if you want to see a spooky German version of the Art Nouveau style, stick around.

I was recently lecturing on Art Nouveau to my interior design students, and while going through some old notes, I came across a little-known building called the Elvira Studio in Munich.  Built in 1898 by architect August Endell, it is a bizarre take on the popular French style.  Being October 28th, I felt this building would be just perfect for a halloween themed blog.  Of course the name of the feminist photography studio and artist gathering place does a lot for the halloween feel, but just wait til you see these spiderweb-like window mullions...I swear I can feel the spiders.  The building was not exactly the most popular on the fact it was often called the 'dragon's castle' or the 'chinese embassy'.  It was not considered Art Nouveau by the locals, instead it was lovingly catagorized as 'Octopus Rococo'.  And I think that is actually a pretty fair description.  Alas, it is no more, while Elvira did survive two world wars, the studio did not make it past 1950.  Luckily the below photos survive.  Please enjoy and have a good halloween!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


My father has been collecting masks his entire life, and has ended up with quite an impressive collection.  Of course he had the benefit of travelling around the world on a regular basis for business, and was able to collect a most impressive mix of masks, heads, and relief sculptures from a wide variety of far flung places.  And what a great way to fill a large blank wall!  Of course proper configuration is most important, and takes the eye of a designer.  I look forward to inheriting these one day....hint, hint!

While this collection includes highly impressive objects, this is certainly an idea that could translate to a number of different collections.  Why stick to paintings when there is so much that can be hung on a wall?  Mirrors, plates, clocks....any number of objects.  Here are a few inspiration images:

Love this arrangement of plates in the DWR catalog:

Plates at my clients home:

Collection of mirrors:

So many possibilities, too few clients....

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Many houses these days have living rooms with extremely high ceilings.  Often times such large expanses of wall created by these ceiling heights are left empty and a bit sad looking.  I am a huge advocate of the Victorian/European style of hanging art....the old school museum style hanging (otherwise known as filling up the wall space as much as possible).  While some might find it cluttered, I find it interesting and quite visually stimulating, especially when done correctly.  It can really be a great focal point in a room, and with one wall full of art, your other walls can remain empty without looking empty.  And its a great option for people with somewhat mediocre art, since it puts less emphasis on one particular piece, and instead leads the eye quickly around the group.  Here are a few historical precedents:

Two paintings of the paintings galleries at the Louvre once upon a time (perhaps a bit much for our times but still a cool effect):

Here are some Victorian homes:
The Dewar House in England in 1910:

The Long Gallery in Althorp Hall, Northamptonshire, UK:

And the Library, also in Althorp Hall:

The gallery at Lyndhurst, the greatest Gothic Revival home in the US:

And why shouldn't we look towards such Victorian homes? They had similarly high ceiling heights with lots of walls to fill, and knew how to fill up those walls in a dramatic way.
One of my current clients always wanted to create such a gallery wall, and we decided to go for it on her very high living room wall... to, if I must say so myself, great effect.


While my client did have the space fairly well filled prior to our change, the focus on one large piece was not as effective visually as the collection of images. And I must mention, the artwork in the collection is far from mediocre.


After this sucessful project, I am re-inspired by the gallery wall idea, and plan on creating a similar wall on a much smaller scale (with much more mediocre art) in my own bathroom. And I shall be recommending it to several other clients.....stay tuned for more gallery walls!

Friday, October 8, 2010


Sure, Victorian furniture is likely the absolute least popular of the historic styles, and probably rightly so.  Much of it is gaudy, overly carved and decorated, machine-made instead of handmade, yet, it has its own certain appeal.  At least after a while of looking at it and learning about it.  I absolutely dreaded my impending Victorian lessons during my masters program at Sotheby's...until we actually saw great examples of the furniture in person.  Even the most gaudy pieces had their own je ne se quoi.  And as Neo-Victorian design comes into its own as a style, I am sure such furniture will be given new life.  It already is beginning to gain some popularity, and in academia, such furniture is finally being given a second look.  So here I share a few photos of Belter furniture in particular, some of the most gaudy of the Rococo Revival Victorian furniture.  Enjoy or be horrified, or like me, a little bit of both.  

I mean honestly, how cool would this sofa look in a really minimal the one over-the-top exception?  Upholstered in all white perhaps?

A quick history lesson:  Belter was a German craftsman who emigrated to New York and set up shop close to the great Duncan Phyfe. Belter was fascinated by the technical side of furniture manufacturing, and created a whole new way of making furniture. He used thin strips of wood which were glued together with the wood grain alternating direction. By using thin strips of wood instead of solid pieces, he could bend it into these elaborately curved backs you see above. Belter could also more easily carve into these strips, hence the very elaborate decorative carving. He was a pretty inventive guy, however the technology might have gotten the better of his artistic eye on occasion...

Here is the Rococo Revival Parlor at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC filled with a full Belter suite.  Go see it next time you are in NYC; you will have a totally new appreciation of this stuff....

Friday, October 1, 2010


As you all know by now, I love anything antique mixed with the uber contemporary (or somewhat contemporary). I recently did a talk for ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) about using antiques in new ways, and I thought I would share some of the images I found which were most inspiring.

Of course anything as elegant and refined as the below deserves a nod. Diaz-Azcuy is a very sophisticated LA-based Cuban architect and designer, who creates highly contemporary spaces, often incorporating antiques.

I LOVE the Saarinen table with these wonderful Empire style chairs.  Here is another shot:

You can tell he is an architect as well as a designer just by looking at him....he has those obligatory heavy round glasses.  If you want a good architect, never hire one without glasses, SOME kind of funky frames are pretty much a necessity in the field (and the perfectly round are the best). 

Here are just a few of the giants of architecture with their dark, round frames:

Philip Johnson

I.M. Pei

The list goes on and on, but lets get back to design...

Ann Getty is another designer I am drawn to.  She is based in San Francisco and does some of the most fabulous full blown, over the top historically inspired spaces:

Yet she also does a wonderful job at mixing the old and new:

And then I must throw in a project featured in the latest Interior Design issue.  I love the idea of this night club in Manhattan by the firm ICrave.  I hate clubs, but this one I would at least tolerate once, just for the design.  I just hope these were not GOOD antiques!

Love the idea of getting an artist to embellish a tired sofa.

This is my kind of recycling!