Monday, June 30, 2014

Wallpaper: Timorous Beasties

This installation of ongoing posts about the wonderful world of wallpaper focuses on the company Timorous Beasties, which was founded in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons who met studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. Their irreverent takes on staples of patterns in wallpaper and fabric have gained them a prestigious place in the world of home furnishings. In addition to wallcoverings and textiles, they now offer cushions, lampshades, rugs, and ceramics.

The traditional Scottish thistle gets a special treatment, looking like an illustration from a 19th century botanical book, but with an edge. The large scale of the pattern brings it into the 21st century!

Their Classic Hunt pattern sees British hunting scenes solarized and overlaid onto a windowpane check. Again, the scale and the fact that the toile-like scenes are solarized make this pattern edgy and modern.

Classic Hunt has a companion in spirit, a pattern Timorous Beasties call Open Season.

In a pattern called Grand Blotch Damask, a traditional damask pattern gets turned into a psychedelic Rorschach test. From far away, it resembles some kind of sumptuous Victorian (or even Art Nouveau!) wallcovering but up close, it is an explosion of graphics.

Speaking of Victoriana, Timorous Beasties have taken the 19th century British penchant for specimen boxes full of insects, fossils, geological samples, and botanical oddities and created patterns with butterflies and moths. The Butterfly and Moth patterns below are stunning, again, because of the scale!

The Napoleonic bee gets a make-over in a pattern called Imperial Apiary.

Ex Libris (Latin for "from the library") is one of their newer lines and is designed to look like the beautiful end papers of old books made from Florentine marbled paper.

And what would a riff on classic European patterns be without a few tweaks to the old toile de jouy. They have created toiles based on several cities including London (shown below--you can see the Gherkin, St. Paul's, and The Eye), New York, Glasgow, and Edinburgh.

I've said it before and I will continue to say that this not your mom's or grandmother's wallpaper. There is an exciting array of wallcoverings being made now. If you are considering something new and interesting for your walls, think about wallpaper...

Happy designing!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Bust Candles by Cire Trudon

This post is a riff on last week's post about busts, seen here. For years, I have been walking by the Paris storefront of Cire Trudon, the oldest wax manufacturer in the world (cire means wax in French), and admiring their bust candles. Founded in 1643 by wax merchant Claude Trudon, this venerable company made candles for Versailles, Louis XIV, and through the end of the monarchy with Louis XVI. They subsequently provided candles for Napoleon and the Empire. In fact, Napoleon gifted his newborn son, Aiglon, a single Cire Trudon pillar candle adorned with three gold pieces featuring the profile of the Emperor. That candle model is still available for purcahse; called The Imperial Pillar Candle, it is in the fourth image down. And their bust candles come in different designs: Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon, Louise and Alexandre (the children of architect Alexandre-Théodore Brongniart, famous for designing the Stock Exchange building in Paris and transforming the Père Lachaise Cemetery), Benjamin Franklin (well, he was Ambassador to France), and the figure of a slave. The windows of the Paris store often feature busts burning down, melting into drips and puddles...

Above photos by Jeff Fiorito

Above photos from Cire Trudon

Imagine a Continental-themed dinner party with a centerpiece of a Napoleon bust surrounded by smaller busts and a few glittering glassed candles. And you don't have to go to Paris to buy: visit their e-shop at: and conjure up images of French palaces in your own home.

Happy designing!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Bust-ing Out!

A classic bust can be an unexpected, strong design element whether in a traditional or contemporary room! As a three dimensional art object in a space, it can break up the monotony of two dimensional art. Busts can bring interest, color, and texture...

Happy designing!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Master Bedroom: From Blah to Aaaah by Fiorito Interior Design

An uninspiring bedroom bored my clients. They longed for a special place to retire at the end of a long, stressful day but were completely stymied and did not know how to accomplish that. The bedroom needed to function as a retreat from a hectic life with two young boys, and busy careers but what they had was a bland room without any soothing qualities whatsoever. And no time to invest in making it the oasis they craved.

They were happy with the pieces of furniture they had, so I decided to build on what was already there. Now, I am not usually a fan of matching pieces of furniture, but in this case, I got a second night table from the same line. While the bedroom was of average size, creating a sense of symmetry makes a larger cohesive unit for the eye to see. The result is a more generous expanse. This was helped with a set of sky blue porcelain lamps, creating a more grand sense of "place."

Hesitant to have anything over the bed since we live in earthquake country (there's nothing worse than being woken up at 3AM by an earthquake only to have a piece of framed art over the bed jump off the wall and conk one on the head!), we hung sumptuous chocolate Dupioni silk panels with a slight sheen behind the bed. This accomplishes two goals: 1) to visually extend the headboard and draw the eye upward (another way to make the space seem more "grand") and 2) to introduce more fabric into the space as a way to soften the room and create more of a cushioned, comforting feeling.  Custom made bedding in soothing aquas and rich chocolates, along with a vintage oil painting and a modern etching of Pacific seascapes completes this now tranquil and luxurious room.

Have a space that is troubling you? A spot you just can't tackle? Give me a call!

Happy designing!

Monday, June 2, 2014

San Francisco Decorator Showcase 2014

I recently attended, as I do every year, the San Francisco Decorator's Showcase which takes place at a different mansion, usually somewhere in Pacific Heights in San Francisco... and this year, the Showcase was situated in the Classical Revival house that was built for legendary San Francisco resident Alfred Sutro and his wife Rose in 1908. The six bedroom, six and a half bath mansion just sold for $18 million and boasts amazing views of The Presidio below and to the San Francisco Bay beyond. Some standouts from the amazing collection of interior design talent follow.

The entry reception area by Jonathan Rachman featured a mind-boggling floor covering: a custom area rug composed of brick-sized pieces of hair-on-hide stitched together and dripped with melted gold paint. The otherwise neutral space had touches of gold almost everywhere. The inspiration for the space, says, Rachman, was Kate Moss and the Lorde song "Royals." I liked the whimsical white and gold ceramic anatomically correct heart sitting on some books on a console table!

This living room by Heather Hilliard was deceptive... it looks plain in this photograph, but in person it was full of texture and light, looking out into the green backyard, the blue skies, and the blue of the Bay itself. Hilliard's design did not compete with the view but only served to enhance it. The walls were done in a delicious lime paint which is burnished to a glass-like finish, much like Venetian plaster. The color of the paint changed in layers, giving the stunning impression of geological strata.

The Music Room by BAMO featured an incredible, modern chandelier (Le Pentagone by Jonathan Browning Inc.) anchored to a golden-bronze-y ceiling. I attended the Showcase this year with some clients and we all fell in love with the very simple but effective window treatments in this room: roman shades made of a very loosely woven linen banded with fabric tape of a Greek key design. I will be designing a version of these for said clients soon!

When SageraBrazil Design proposed their design for the dining room, they were instructed to retain the hand-painted wallpaper that is original to the house! Other designers may have seen this as an impediment to their design, but George Brazil and Cecilia Sagera-Hill embraced the garden-theme of the paper and created a delicately verdant dining room that feels like one is dining al fresco.

The wooden library which features an original carved coat of arms for the Sutro family was done by Geoffrey De Sousa in a neutral palette to let the wood and views of the Bay sing. The massive blown glass shade over the library table is the draw in this space.

I love art hung salon-style and this Artist's Home Studio by Matthew MacCaul Turner used art to great advantage. Since the space was imagined to be used by an artist, the raw wood floor was splattered with paint, as a real studio would be, which became an art piece in itself.

Lisa Bakamis created what she calls The Soaking Lounge, a bathroom sanctuary for a teenage girl. This space was full of disparate elements that puzzled me... I am not sure how a teenage girl would respond to the heavy, rustic reclaimed wood walls and live-edge wood counter, the gritty rope-hung industrial pendant lights, or the slate flooring. But interestingly, these things only served to make the colorful butterfly wallpaper and the pink tie-dyed curtains stand out even more. The space was uneven, but I include it here because when all is said and done, it is an intriguing mix... one that pleased me somehow. And I especially liked the leopard-print smoked mirror tiles from Ann Sacks.

The Woman's Office, so named by Laura Larkin, featured an amazing product on the ceiling: a sort of quilted-rubbery wallpaper that looks like antique plaster work!

One has to be careful when creating a theme room for children: it can get out of control and end up looking like a nightmare version of Disneyland. But these next two children's rooms really hit the right notes. The first three images are from The Little Roamer's Room by Regan Baker. Just like the dining room with its hand-painted wallpaper, this room sported the original wallpaper based on a design by Diego Giacometti. Baker used the motif of animals as a springboard for an adorable room organized around the idea of camping in the wilderness and all the adventures that entails. The array of stuffed animals in this space was supremely cute...

...and the next child's room was called Little Boy Blu [sic] designed by Shelley Cahan and featured a chalkboard ceiling with hand-drawn blueprints of a fighter plane!

One of the last spaces that visitors walked through on the self-guided house tour was the kitchen designed by Steven Miller; the space has been named House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year. It might not seem like a likely color choice for a kitchen, but this glossy, sleek, all-black space was quite stunning and sophisticated while still retaining a sense of a traditional kitchen thanks to a more conservative door profile. I have been hearing my industry talk about the continuing decline of stainless steel as a finish choice for appliances and this kitchen's black refrigerator, ovens, and dishwasher certainly made that case. Additional sparkle was brought in with mica-flecked wallpaper, and slate and hematite-colored back splash tiles laid in a herringbone pattern. But the most striking feature was the geometric recess in the ceiling that held an LED light feature lined with actual quartz crystals. The coordinating lounge area adjacent to the kitchen made a nice transition to the outdoors.

If you live in Northern California and missed this year's Showcase, be sure to visit next year. Geoffrey De Sousa mentioned to me that this and the Kip's Bay Showhouse in New York are the two most important interior design showhouses in the country!