Monday, August 25, 2014

Sizzling Ceilings

In interior design, ceilings are an oft-overlooked element. But all it takes is a tiny bit of imagination to come up with a show-stopping ceiling treatment. I have a client now who has an uplit tray ceiling that is just begging to be gold leafed!

This amazing ceiling below was designed by Verner Panton (stay tuned for a post about the iconic molded plastic chair he designed, seen at the dining table below) for a private residence in Binningen, Switzerland.

This stunning ceiling treatment utilizes what appears to be a mandala type of ethnic design that feels Indian, despite the Portuguese bed. It's just gorgeous...

I am not at all a fan of cutsie-wootsie nurseries, and especially gender-specific nurseries. But this bee motif for a baby's room is clever, whimsical, and charming without being clichéd or imposing gender stereotypes on a human soul that is unformed and full of possibility.

Coffered ceilings offer the perfect canvas for stencils or wallpaper since each compartment can contain a smaller design.

New York artist David Wiseman created this breathtaking three dimensional ceiling treatment of a cherry blossom canopy.

A ceiling of flames on a gilded ground in another Indian/Moorish room...

This vaulted ceiling is made all the more special with the addition of gold leaf squares.

Interior designer Elizabeth Gordon created a simple yet supremely luxurious ceiling feature for the home of comedian and television personality Joel McHale: some beautiful, exotic wallpaper on the ceiling framed with decorative moulding, but the real attraction is the marvelously unexpected starburst mirror reigning over the cool, sophisticated space. Photo used by permission.

This fascinating design around this ceiling light fixture is reminiscent of Secessionist design from the early twentieth century (think Gustav Klimt).

Even something as simple as painting a bold color in coffered areas of a ceiling brings fun and interest!

Don't forget your ceiling and...

...Happy designing!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Provençal Style

I just came back from a few weeks in the south of France for the lavender harvest and it was glorious. I was in Provence last winter on a truffle trip—learning about truffles, hunting them (no more pigs, they now use trained dogs who are so sweet as well as smart), cooking with chefs using truffles, eating truffles in everything—and I really wanted to go back in the summer for the lavender harvest. And just like truffles last winter, I learned all about the different species of lavender, saw a harvest and visited a distillery, cooked with chefs using the fresh buds and stalks, and ate lavender in everything!

Provence in the summer is a beautiful sight with seemingly endless fields of lavender or sunflowers, greenery, and the sun warming all the galets or stones protecting the grapevines in the vineyards. I returned to the same mas I stayed in last time, a gorgeous eighteenth century farmhouse. In the Provençal dialect, mas means a farmhouse, but not in the way we understand the word here in the States. In the south of France, a mas is more akin to a villa in Italy. But not a chateau which is a much more grand type of dwelling, a manor house.

And the Provençal style is quite distinct and different from any other French style. It is lightyears away from the Mansard roofs of Paris. Because of its history (Provence is so called because it was once a province of the Roman Empire and bears remnants and echoes of that culture), and proximity to Italy, Provence has much more in common with northern Italy than France.

The first thing one notices in Provence is how much like Tuscany it all seems (or Northern California, where I live) with rolling hills, gentle (and not-so-gentle) mountains, valleys, and plateaus, all perfect for vineyards and viniculture. There's not a lot of flat land for pastures and grass, hence cattle are not really prevalent. Provençal cuisine does not include much dairy. But goats prosper in the rocky terrain, so goat cheese is important. The other feature Provence shares with Italy is olive trees! Instead of dairy in cuisine, you will encounter a lot of huile d'olive. There is a heartiness in Provence, a feeling of being truly connected to the region, the land. Stone and plaster buildings with shutters of dusty blues, pale aquas, or deep warm tones dot the countryside or cluster in ancient villages.

Photo above by Jeff Fiorito/Fiorito Interior Design

Photo above by Jeff Fiorito/Fiorito Interior Design

Photo above by Jeff Fiorito/Fiorito Interior Design

A common feature of a mas is the gravel courtyard.

When we move inside, we see the classic Provençal hues of cream, taupe, linen, and putty with a few other light, bleached out tints. White washed ceiling beams become part of the design scheme. Conspicuously absent from most Provençal interiors I have seen are antiques of the precious or delicate variety (and no crystal chandeliers!). One might see a hearty old chest or a Louis XIV chair here or there, but they are more than likely "lived in." One sees carved wood or aged metal, and a unique painted wainscoting effect (see the green bedroom below). Casual slip-covered furniture seems to be the norm.

Kitchens are generally places that did not used to be kitchens since the concept of a "kitchen" as we know it today did not really exist in the 1600s or 1700s when most of these farmhouses were built. Storage rooms or attached stables have been turned into gourmet spots. Consequently, the contrast between the rustic stone walls with terracotta-tiled floors and the sleek, new European appliances and hardware is delightful. You might even see a few tagines which speak to the influence of nearby North Africa!

This type of color and design scheme naturally makes bedrooms and bathrooms areas of ease and tranquility.

If you yearn for a bit of Provence in your life, call me... I'd love to recreate here in the States what I have come to know and love in the south of France!

Happy designing!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Engaging Entries

Every house should have an entryway that announces the personality of the homeowner... an entryway that is playful, engaging, welcoming, or dazzling. If you don't have an actual entry space or foyer, or if your door opens into your living space, you can still take a cue from some of these photos. Perhaps a colorful rug--I love the huge floral pattern in the eleventh image down--or even a small chest as in the eighth image down can function as an attractive landing area for keys, mail, sunglasses.
This is the entrance of the Beverly Hills home of power couple Dave DeMattei and Patrick Wade.
This is the traditional yet colorful entryway at the home of beer heir Joe Pabst.

Happy designing!

Monday, August 4, 2014

History of Furniture: The Tulip Collection by Eero Saarinen

Finnish American designer and architect Eero Saarinen is perhaps most famous for his design, which was created with structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel, of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, more commonly known as the St. Louis Arch.

But within the sphere of interiors and furniture design, he created one of the most iconic mid-century furniture collections, The Tulip Group (also known as The Pedestal Collection). In 1955, Saarinen set out to design a collection of furniture that would eliminate, as he put it, "the slum of legs" found under ordinary four-legged pieces. His training as a sculptor and architect helped him develop a concept that was clean and spare. The chair is named for the tulip because of its similarity to the flower.

Made of cast aluminum and fiberglass, the design is sleek and utterly modern. In fact, the chair was adapted for use as seating (with a modified back) on the bridge of the Enterprise on the original "Star Trek" television series!

The collection also features a table (which comes in varying dimensions), a stool, and a side table.

Although its origins are Mid-Century Modern, the chair can look good when paired with other, unexpected styles (see my "Contrast brings interest" post)!

The chair is available from Knoll.

Happy designing!