Monday, April 14, 2014

Art, Salon Style

If you are like me, you love art. And if you are like me, you have a plethora of framed pieces and not enough wall space to display them all! But I have a solution which looks to the past for inspiration. American ex-pat author Gertrude Stein ran one of history's most famous--and talented--salons from her Paris apartment. She (along with her brother Leo) was an avid art collector, but was also a patron of a huge collection of famous artists, and was often gifted with works by said artists. So her walls became an ad hoc museum, with works by Matisse, Gauguin, Renoir, and Picasso grouped, squeezed and crowded together. Here is a photo of Stein's actual apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus, on the Left Bank.

I love how pieces which are hung salon-style speak to a kind of casual, bohemian, yet cultivated dedication to art. It is marvelously eclectic and affords an opportunity to introduce color, texture, and pattern into a room without making a permanent statement with something like a bold sofa or busy rug: the excitement comes from the walls. And the best part is, it can be changed and rotated as often as you wish!

The look can be cool and elegant such as this cohesive grouping below, all in similar tones and shades of neutral hues. The mismatched frames though, bring a bit of variety and a lovely, engaging tension.

But more often, a grouping exhibits the kind of serendipity and exuberance of an art connoisseur. (Photo by Marili Forastieri.)

I love the collection of 1940s and 50s oil portraits on the far wall in the living room of one of the guest houses at Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi's former home. (Photo by Roger Davies.)

Then of course there is the effortless, casual sense of an embarrassment of riches...

When approached with a classical eye, it works in a bedroom suite as well.

If you are worried that too much on a wall will look heavy, look at this arrangement by Tamara Kaye feels light and breezy.

And if you have a huge wall or large open space and don't know what to do with it, salon-style art can serve to cover a lot of acreage, and draw the eye upward, accenting wonderfully tall ceilings, as seen here in Kate and Andy Spade's Southampton Artist Colony by interior designer Steven Sclaroff. (Photo by Marili Forastieri.)

And finally, a salon-style collection does not have to be classic or traditional. Look at this playful, graphic Modernist collection, all in matching white frames, in this stark white bathroom!

If you have a large art collection, or if you are planning on collecting, consider hanging your pieces salon-style!

Happy designing!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Know Your Chairs: The Barcelona

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a legendary architect and one of the founders of Modernism. But aside from designing the structure, he often designed the furniture and furnishings that were to go in his buildings as well. Such is the case with what has come to be one of, if not the most famous chair designs in history: the Barcelona Chair.

In 1929, Mies (as he was referred to...sounds like Meez) was tapped to design the German Pavilion at the International Expo which was being hosted in Barcelona, Spain. This pavilion was to exemplify the new Weimar Republic, and according to the Commissioner of the Expo, Georg von Schnitzler, to give "voice to the spirit of a new era." So Mies designed a glorious building of steel, glass, travertine, marble, and red onyx. The result was a breathtaking space, spare, low, and radically new and utterly modern. It was not to house any trade exhibits but was to remain empty. The building itself was seen as the exhibit.

Mies designed some equally spectacular, minimalist furniture to occupy this radically minimalist space. The Barcelona chair was composed of tilted planes affixed to gracefully curved steel X legs below. The original chairs, along with their accompanying ottomans, were made of tufted ivory colored pig skin but subsequent versions were made of leather. The classic color now seems to be black, but can be made in white, black, or brown leather to fit with various color palettes. Although there are many unlicensed knockoffs and "versions" whose proportions are not quite right, the venerable modernist furniture manufacturer Knoll owns the rights to the authentic Barcelona Chair. Visit their site,, to order.

Without any forward thought or regard, the pavilion was destroyed in 1930, almost immediately after the Expo closed. But thankfully the structure was rebuilt between 1983 and 1986, using extant original plans and photographs as a guide, and is permanently on display at an alternate site in Barcelona. Visit the official site below for information about location and how to visit.

The Barcelona chair compliments nearly any d├ęcor scheme from ethnic and eclectic to, of course, modern, whether mid-century or miminalist. You might find the Barcelona to be a good fit for your space.

Happy designing!

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Master Suite by Fiorito Interior Design, Part Three

I am proud to present finished photos of a Master Suite project I started in the fall of 2012. While it was under construction, I wrote about it here and here, showing structural photos and installation progress: take a look to catch up and see the fascinating evolution of the space.

This project was not a simple cosmetic facelift or even a down-to-the-studs gut job. This was a full-on extension/addition that required me to work closely with the contractor and architect. The back portion of half of my clients' home was blown out to make way for a much larger master bedroom and bathroom. And all the disruption, construction, and wait was well worth it.

But before we ogle the reveal images, let's take a look at what the space looked like when I initially encountered it. You will see why my clients were eager to be rid of what they (and I) considered to be a very un-masterful master bathroom.

Like many California ranch homes built in the 1950s, this master bathroom was not really a "master bath." The concept of a "master bath" as we know it today didn't really exist then. My clients, who only three years ago purchased the home from the family of the original owner, were saddled with a small, dysfunctional space. Chief among the dysfunctions: a vanity only 30" high (my clients had to stoop quite low to lean on the counter), and an inconveniently placed window that forced the too-low vanity mirror to reflect only the waist and partial torso--not the face--of anyone standing in front of it.

A separate water closet with a pocket door was also the spot for a very narrow shower. That, my friends, was a master bathroom in 1956. And so my work began.

In order to refine a design concept for the soon-to-be larger space, and thereby narrow down material choices, my clients and I had a brainstorming session: we spoke of an elegant Old World/ European bedroom and bathroom, a luxurious bath that would reference a Roman spa, and finally the idea of a Hammam was brought into the mix. We blended these ideas together in oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, and a tiny mosaic vine pattern in beautiful Bursa Beige marble from Turkey and white Thassos marble from Greece. The extension of the house allowed us to create a true master suite which includes a greatly enlarged bedroom area, and a generous sized bathroom with a jetted soaking tub, a very large walk-in shower, a double-sided fireplace (facing the tub on the bath side), and a luxurious 8' long vanity with double sinks and a storage tower.

The vanity wall is covered with the imported mosaic vine pattern. The custom Larson Juhl framed mirrors are flanked by gorgeous hand-wrought scones from Hubbardton Forge which echo the vine and leaf pattern in the mosaic. And the vanity itself features an  LED strip in the toe-kick which allows my clients to see in the middle of the night without having to turn on a shockingly bright overhead fixture.

Photo by Bernardo Grijalva

At the other end of the master bath, a luxurious jetted tub nestles by a fireplace in the bay window area. Views of the garden can be seen while soaking in bubbles...

Photo by Bernardo Grijalva

Photo by Bernardo Grijalva

The over-sized walk-in shower features a paneled wainscoting effect which I designed to be executed in Crema Marfil marble. The vine mosaic continues in the shower, topped by green onyx squares. A rainshower head and a hand-held spray on a bar provides showering options. The shower floor slopes gently in one direction toward a hidden linear drain; this allows the floor to be read as a continuation of the main space, without being interrupted by a center drain.

Photo by Bernardo Grijalva

I have a few more finished projects coming up which I will be sharing with you soon. New posts are always scheduled every Monday!

In the meantime, happy designing!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Things Are Looking Up! Three Types of Ceilings

Ceilings are often the last thing anyone thinks of, since they hover almost outside of our peripheral vision and can effectively be ignored. Our focus is usually what is closest to us: the objects around and under us. But ceilings afford a great opportunity to introduce a special design element that can actually become the focal point of a space.

A common ceiling element is the tray ceiling. This feature is comprised of a shape--it can be an oval, a square, a rectangle, even an octagon--inset into the ceiling plane, above the ceiling line. Often a soffit or slim hidden space is built in to camouflage a light source. When the light is on a dimmer, it provides a marvelous option, because the light can then serve as ambient or decorative lighting. And as we can see from the image below, if you have a tray ceiling installed, you will want to highlight it with paint, a pattern, a different material like wood, or perhaps even gold or silver leaf (which would bounce more cool or warm light onto the room below).

Another popular ceiling style is the barrel ceiling. You can see why it is called a barrel ceiling since, when viewed from below, it appears as if one is inside a curved barrel! As with a tray ceiling, it only makes sense to highlight this great and unusual ceiling shape with paint, metallic leaf, different materials, or moulding. And just like a tray ceiling, lights can be hidden in a soffit around the edge of a barrel ceiling to draw attention and to introduce a flattering indirect source of light.

Our third ceiling style is called a coffered ceiling, and has been in use since the Romans, but now we generally associate this look with Elizabethan or Jacobean interiors. There is something about a coffered ceiling that can be very Old World and evoke England, or even Italy or France. I must take a moment here though to address a misnomer: I have heard, and seen in writing, people refer to this ceiling as a "Crawford" ceiling. That is a mishearing--or mondegreen, if you will--of the word "coffered" which means to be composed of boxes. When people speak of what is in the coffers, meaning how much cash they have, they refer historically to a locked and heavy, solid wood chest where people used to keep valuables or money. The point of this ceiling is that the cross beams create boxes or "coffers" in which a decorative element or even a painted panel may be inserted. There is no such thing as a "Crawford" ceiling.

Generally speaking, a tray ceiling is a good option for standard height ceilings (eight feet is a standard ceiling height) since it will extend the feeling of the room upward, making the room seem taller. A barrel ceiling will achieve similar results. As you can imagine, a tray or barrel ceiling requires actual construction since your ceiling must be opened up. Coffered ceilings on the other hand are best if you have a higher ceiling line to begin with... something around nine or up to twelve feet. And this option does not require any true construction since the elements are installed outside of the ceiling (unless you want wiring in or lights on the beams, which could require some minor holes in the ceiling). There are so many more ceiling designs and fantastic materials that can be used to create beautiful, beguiling ceilings... I'll be covering them in future posts so stay tuned!

Happy designing!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Equinox 2014

In honor of the Spring Equinox on March 20th, here are some ways to bring spring into your home:



...and bunnies and bird nests.

Happy Spring and happy designing!