Monday, February 27, 2017

What Is Button Tufting?

There are some funny terms in interior design, and I believe the term "tufting" falls into that category. The word can produce a quizzical look on faces, but the concept is quite simple. Tufting refers to depressions at regular intervals on a piece of fabric or leather (such as a cushion or on a piece of upholstered furniture) by passing a thread through it. This can be left as thread, but most often this technique is seen as button tufting. The most famous example of this is on the classic Chesterfield sofa, previously featured here.

The iconic Chesterfield sofa features button tufting arranged in a diamond pattern which imbues it with a very sophisticated and traditional look. But if a button tufted sofa is arranged not in a diamond pattern but in a linear pattern, the effect is quite different. As you can see by the example below, what we end up with is a more contemporary feeling along the lines of a Mid-Century Modern piece of furniture.

Tufting can be also be used on headboards to add further softness and luxury to a bedroom...

...or on benches...

...or on chairs...

...and of course, on pillows and cushions!

Happy designing!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wallpaper: Porter Teleo

I love wallpaper and I am not ashamed! I know many people shrink from the mere mention of it, but I have discovered that those people have bad memories of ugly wallpaper from their grandmother's house in the 60s or 70s. Of course contemporary wallcoverings are light years from grandma's foil bathroom. There are incredibly innovative and beautiful wallcoverings being made now and this post is part of a continuing series of the world of wallcoverings. Take for example the fantastic wallcovering company Porter Teleo--they have been on my radar ever since I saw the inimitable Kelly Wearstler using some of their wallcoverings and fabrics in her projects.

The Porter Teleo site tells their story:

"Porter Teleo is a line of hand printed, hand painted wallcovering and fabric developed by artist Kelly Porter and interior designer Bridgett Cochran. The patterns are created by employing a variety of fine art processes, such as woodblocking, painting, and chine colle.

The product enlivens the best of fine art and high design, presenting a bold, distinctive color palette with refined aesthetic. The unique styling is drawing from ancient Japanese screens, antique architectural ornamentation, and the hand of artist Kelly Porter.

Only the finest materials are used in the process - from the richest pigments to handmade Japanese papers. The wallcoverings are of the highest quality, and the splendid result offers tradition with an eclectic flair."

Their Brushstrokes pattern comes in several colorways...

...while their En Plein Air resembles large, abstracted poppies.

I adore how Floral Graffiti drips and runs down a wall...

...and Out Of The Box looks like a loose Mondrian painting!

Signs and Signifiers brings to mind the work of the great artist Cy Twombly. The scribbled-yet-organized look compliments modern interiors beautifully.

And the exquisite Tangled pattern looks bold, bright, intriguing...

Stairway by Kelly Wearstler

If you don't want to do an entire wall in a Porter Teleo pattern but like their work, how about papering a nook...

...or for high impact, perhaps a ceiling?

There are so many different types of wallcoverings out there now, and so many different ways to use them!
Happy designing!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Focal Point: A Key To Successful Design

Every successful room needs a focal point to help center and ground the space. Building a room around a focal point or feature lends an air of balance, variety, brings to a room that extra something special.

Some rooms have architectural features that are clear focal points like fireplaces.

If a room does not have a ready-made focal point, often it will have a "feature" wall. This is usually the wall that your eye naturally falls to when you enter the space. Bedrooms often have a long(er) blank wall that seems a perfect spot for the bed. This is more often than not the feature wall. Your focal point can be a luxurious padded wall that acts as a headboard, below...

...or a full wall of drapery to soften the room...

...or take the idea of fabric on the wall and allow it to become a canopy.

A grand piece of statement art above the bed can create a wonderful focal point, bringing in extra layers of color and texture.

Or turn the piece of art into a wall mural for extra impact.

Many times a space does not have a focal point in the room...but outside of it. Windows can be natural focal points as well, drawing the eye out to a view beyond. Arrange furniture and furnishings in the room to take advantage of this!

And finally, homes and especially apartments often lack any kind of focal point, whether it is an architectural feature or a window. In these cases, use art to create a focal point as we discussed in bedrooms above. Jay Jeffers used an exquisite Asian image to draw attention to a wall...

...while interior designer Joshua Greene used a gorgeous, modern, abstract painting to anchor an arrangement in his living room.

Happy designing!

Monday, February 6, 2017

History of Furniture: Ancient Greece

We practically need a time machine for this installment of the History of Furniture since we are heading back, far back in time, to ancient Greece.

We have the Greeks to thank for so many things: the concept of democracy, science, philosophy, advances in architecture...and some lovely furniture!

They invented the kline which is a type of sofa or day bed. Klinai (the plural) were made with a woven bottom (probably of leather strapping) and four legs, then covered with woven throws and pillows stuffed with hay, leaves, or feathers. Like the Egyptians, the Greeks often made legs of chairs or klinai into the shapes of animal legs or feet. But klinai could also have simple turned legs.

Thankfully, we know a lot about Greek furniture from extant images from frescoed walls and vases.

While the kline as the ancient Greeks knew it might not be in service today, we do have a lovely piece of Greek furniture still in use in the form of the Klismos chair.

Klismos chairs were originally made of wood with seats of cane or of woven leather. The swooping delicate line of the chair comes from its saber legs which curve out. The back rest continues the curve upward but in the opposite direction, giving the silhouette of the chair a beautiful "S" curve. A low, concave panel supported the sitter's back. While there are really no extant klismos chairs to speak of, we can find plenty of imagery showing its shape and construction not only from the Greeks but also from the Romans who emulated nearly every aspect of Greek culture.

The chair was quite popular during the classical Greek period but fell out of usage by the Hellenistic period. Some theorize this is because the chair's delicate saber legs contributed to instability, causing the piece to splay out and break. One would think that with a design flaw that serious, the chair would never have been widely used to begin with. I feel the decline of the chair simply has to do with changing tastes of style and fashion. Whatever the reason, it seems that the shape is too exotic and alluring to resist and the chair saw a huge rise in popularity in the late 1700s when all of Europe was interested in Neo-Classicism. Greek and Roman sites were being excavated, pottery was being unearthed and images of the klismos chair were discovered!

Klismos chairs are now a very chic and interesting alternative to a traditional chair.

At the start of this post, I mentioned that the Greeks contributed toward advances in architecture and they are perhaps best known for the Greek Column. There are actually three different orders--or types--of columns. It's useful to know these orders not only for architectural purposes, but because these columns can be incorporated into interiors or into furniture designs!

While it is commonly believed that the Doric column preceded the Ionic column in time, there is no real evidence to support this. Archaeologists have found Doric and Ionic columns from roughly the same era. But for ease, let's start with the Doric column first.

A Doric column is the plainest of the Greek columns. Although the shaft itself has some detail in the form of fluting (always twenty channels), the top is simply rounded, topped with a square abacus. Often Doric columns have no base, but some have a plinth for the fluted column to stand upon. It is the shortest of Greek columns, sometimes looking a little squat since it is thicker at the bottom than the top which allows the distribution of the weight from above.

Next is the Ionic column. I remember the name of this column because it starts with "I" and in a funny way, the top of the column appears to have two "eyes." These are decorative scrolls or volutes. This column, like the Doric, is also fluted but it is fitted with four more than the Doric, bringing the total channels of the Ionic column to twenty-four.

Finally, we have the most elaborate--and slimmest!--of all the columns, the Corinthian. Marked by a capital with two extravagant rows of acanthus leaves and scrolls, the Corinthian gets its name from the ancient Greek city of Corinth.

Of course many eras since have copied these ancient Greek styles in what has become known as a Neo-Classical style or Neo-Classical Revival. We will examine some of these in future posts. But in the meantime, happy designing!