Monday, August 19, 2013

The Art of Tableau: Four Tips For A Better Display

I love to style a space and create tableaux. It has always been one of my favorite aspects of being an interior designer. I suppose it plays to the inveterate "collector" in me, to be able to group things together, to display objects of beauty or curiosity, or to assemble pieces which would ordinarily not be noticed on their own. Creating a tableau, or a "tablescape" as some call it, is one of the quickest ways to set a tone for a room. It's almost like creating a three dimensional piece of art, a sculpture if you will.

Here are four key things to keep in mind when creating a grouping or a tableau:

1) Think about the shape your grouping makes and how that works with what is around it.

2) Include tall, medium, and low objects for a variety of levels.

3) Odd numbers work best. (This works for things like pillows and furnishings as well.)

4) And remember Design Mantra #1: Contrast brings interest (previously here)! Put rough next to smooth, organic next to man-made, antique next to modern, light next to dark, large next to small.

In the examples below by Robert Couturier, notice how the table lamp and the objects grouped around it make a general pyramid shape. The trio of vases (odd numbers work best!) make a little tableau in and of themselves with differing heights, colors, and textures. They also create a pyramid shape echoing the overall arrangement. In the next tableau, the large black marble bust on the left balances out the grouping of smaller objects to the right; the two groupings are mirrored by two framed pieces of art above.

Above tableaux by Robert Couturier

The following collection of organic and ethnic elements is unified with color and texture but the arrangement is that of an inverted pyramid, a concave shape: the table lamp at the left and baskets at the right are large anchor pieces for the progressively smaller objects in the center.

The tableaux below by the fabulous Kara Mann are great examples of levels. In the first one, Mann creates a great waterfall effect from the chandelier to the peacock to the palms to the chest to the seat, drawing the eye down and up. In the next, she has arranged boxes and books in a step arrangement, from the surface of the table up to the skull and shade of the table lamp.

Above tableaux by Kara Mann. Photos used by kind permission.

This next tableau may be simple but it is bold, strong, and very effective. Two slim pyramids are balanced by a painting of an echoing shape: the painting's size and negative space are a good match for the pair.

Tableaux can tell stories, they can add drama or humor, they can be minimalistic or ornate, they can feature pieces of art work, objects from nature, even personal mementos from exotic vacations or charming pieces from childhood. So grab a vase, a book, a branch or seashell, be adventurous and have fun creating your own tableaux.

This is the first in a series of tableaux posts. Look for more in the future.
Thanks for reading and happy designing!

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Master Suite by Fiorito Interior Design, Part One

The proliferation of television design shows over the last decade or so has given many people a false sense of what interior design is and a very skewed view of how it functions. One of the ways such shows have misinformed the public is in the life span of a project. With so many shows being about transforming a space over the course of a weekend, or even over a 24-hour period (which is literally impossible to do while maintaining any semblance of quality in material or workmanship), the public are not aware of just how intensive a process interior design can be. From first meeting to a completed space takes many months. And it should. Another one of my design mantras I have developed over the years is: "Design is a process." And that process does not need to be, and indeed should not be rushed. When making structural or even cosmetic changes to a home, you want someone who will take their time, someone who will work with you to develop a space unique to you, a space that will function exactly how you want while still being beautiful.

To prove the design shows wrong, I am here to tell you that I have been working on a Master Suite extension since last autumn. After initial meetings with my clients to discuss the possibilities inherent in renovating their master bathroom, they decided they wanted to include the bedroom portion in the renovation as well. We were already in communication with a General Contractor, and through more conversations and meetings, the homeowners decided they wanted to add an extension to their home to buy more space for a new, much more luxurious master suite. At this point, the project splintered off. I met with the GC to go over space planning and possible layouts for the new space. Since the scope of service would now include the need to build out the foundation of the house, and to change the roof line, my GC brought in a structural engineer and an architect to finalize the design that was created by me, the homeowners, and the GC. While the building shell was being handled, I had several meetings with my clients regarding the interior of the bathroom and bedroom. In order to refine a design concept for the 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. After sourcing some initial materials and finishes that would embody our inspiration, I met my clients at a tile and stone gallery to begin the process of choosing stone and tile. We also spoke about style direction for things like lighting, and sink and shower hardware which would support our inspiration.

While that was happening, the plans had been submitted to the city for permits. Finally this past spring, we were ready for construction to start. As you can see, this is a process that requires care, thought, skill, and planning as well as the talents of many individuals.

Workers dug and poured a new foundation to tie into the existing foundation of the home.

The back of the house was ripped off and framing for the addition began.
The bay window is the home of a future jetted soaking tub.

The water closet was all that was left of the original bathroom, and that got demo-ed before I left the job site that day.

And now we see walls and windows installed, and a lath in place for stucco. Also note the new steps leading from the arched French doors of the Master Suite as well as the new roof line with all new cement shingles.

This all may seem rather unglamorous and humdrum, but it is absolutely necessary. It is literally the foundation for all the glamour and fun to come. For the next installment, I am excited to share with you some photos of the progress of the interior and how this suite has been transformed so far. This is always the hard part for me as a designer: the goal is now tantalizingly near and I am chomping at the bit to see it finished and styled. When that happens, I will definitely share those photos with you as well.

Thanks for reading and happy designing!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Contrast Brings Interest

When I meet with clients, one of the first things I want to find out about them is their personal style. What you like and want around you is what makes up the visual vernacular of your life. But sometimes a personal style can be difficult for a client to pinpoint or narrow down; people often feel that they have a mish-mash of clashing styles in their lives without any curating. In design, there are no absolute right or wrong answers. There are many ways to reach a goal. With this in mind, I have a few classic design mantras I have developed over the years and one of them is that, within an interior design context, contrast brings interest. Sleek or organic? Antique or modern? Matte or gloss? Light or dark? Wood or stone? How about both! It is precisely the play of stainless steel next to aged, reclaimed timber that makes a statement. An antique Louis chair is supremely present in a sleek, modern room. It is the same with food: think of salted dark chocolate, caramel and sea salt, strawberries and balsamic, and prosciutto and melon.

Take a look at the following examples. The conversation going on between these seemingly disparate pieces is intriguing and engaging. "Contrast brings interest."

These iconic Verner Panton molded plastic chairs look fantastic next to a chunky old farmhouse table. Design, styling, and photography by Emily McCall. Photo used by permission.

Slim console tables, abstract art, sculptural ottomans, and chairs with a Deco shape play off the classic architectural elements (ornate crown moulding, wall panels, wainscoting) of this Georgian room by London-based Studio Indigo.

Australian interior designer Karen Akers used clean-lined pieces and a minimalistic style for this otherwise traditional Arts and Crafts home. Photo by Tom Dalhoff.

Many elements are at play here to create a fascinating, rich room layered with styles and textures. A mid-century desk, worn vintage industrial chairs, a Biedermeier settee, a Rococo mirror, and an organic burl wood cocktail table stand out as museum pieces in a light, bright room.

A carved Louis XV settee on parquet floors is delicious surrounded by modern art. Of particular interest is the combination of round-backed neo-classical Louis XVI chairs with sleek black Panton chairs at the rustic dining table in the background!

And finally interior designer Jessica Helgerson proves that turn-of-the-century (the prior one, not this recent one) American four-square homes needn't be boring. Using a crisp black and white palette, she boldly furnishes such spaces with cool, modern pieces. The old and the new benefit from being in close proximity to each other.

So when you are trying to figure out how pieces go together (or don't) in your own space, remember that, used judiciously and creatively, contrast brings interest!

Thanks for reading and happy designing!


Hello and welcome to my blog! I am Jeff Fiorito, Allied ASID, Owner of and Principal Designer at Fiorito Interior Design located in Northern California. I have started this blog as a way to share inspiration and advice, and as a way to share updates, photos, and information about client projects I am working on.

The world of interior design is enormous and varied, full of gorgeous sights, textures, colors, places, products, shapes, and even smells. I am constantly excited and renewed by the marvelous things I see, and the wonderful elements I can bring to my clients to enrich their lives.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about anything you see or read here. And please feel free to contact me if you are in my area and would like to discuss ideas for your home. I'd love to talk with you!