It has been said that the perfect project for an interior designer involves a client with great interest in three main topics- art, architecture and design. When this trifecta is achieved, great things will be sure to come. Luckily for us, such a client manifested himself in the form of a dear friend with a stunning, beautifully restored Beaux-Arts apartment and an eye for strong and meaningful art- all that was missing was the design component.
Having a client with a “good eye” is a wonderful place for us to start a project. Their current possessions and art give us insight into their tastes and interests and allows us to develop a plan on how they can get to the “next level” with their home. I like to think of these special possessions as clues that help us to develop the vocabulary that will eventually become a full blown design language. The enormous floor to ceiling French windows, Nero Portoro Art Deco marble fireplace mantel and intricate plasterwork ceiling in the “Millionaire’s Pattern” on the ceiling of the living- all original- set the tone of a space that is built for entertaining. The client saw this potential and felt a connection to the space. He already had a few treasured Art Deco furniture pieces, a start to a great art collection and yards of rare books but needed help pull it all together, make it comfortable and make it interesting.
This interior was not pulled from a catalog or shown together in one presentation but was developed and curated over time. Our meetings were long discussions on balance, scale, appropriateness and what would add depth to the collection as a whole. We wanted the space to be representative of design styles throughout the decades that played off one another and showed similar restraint in detail, attention to quality construction and possessed a certain frivolity.
A key item missing from the living space was a rug. A nationwide search was conducted to find a piece of the highest quality with the most interesting design that would be representative of “today.” After sampling several full-size options in the space shipped in from vendors far and wide, it was decided that the best choice was a wool and silk hand knotted carpet from Turkey that was only just a small sample. It is one of a kind and was custom colored to add saturated tones picked from the artwork just ordered for the entry hall and the wonderful Hungarian art deco cobalt velvet chairs they client already owned.
We then began our time travel and looked to the 1950’s to find an incredible Fontana Arte Italian glass and brass table that feels as if it just appeared from space to serve up your cocktail. Chicago designer Richard Himmel’s c. 1960 Lutece curvaceous sofa gave us inspiration to fully upholster the Bill Sofield for Baker sofa from head to toe in a Jim Thompson velvet, covering what had been a dark wood frame that looked a bit too harsh. The set of Dan Johnson brass and mahogany arm chairs (c. 1960) received a facelift in the form of a deep indigo hair-on-hide from Edelman Leather. From the 1970’s we referenced Brutalism’s rustic refinement in the Donald Drumm torch cut iron dining table bases and cast metal candelabrum in the fireplace. The deconstructivism of the 1980’s gave us the inspiration for the design of the chaise longue near the fireplace. Its almost spartan simplicity of line is counterbalanced by the complexity of its construction, veneered in rare sycamore and upholstered in fabrics by Rubelli and Dedar. Contemporary art work collected with assistance from Jennifer Norback Fine Art adds the finishing touch to round out this highly personalized space for our friend and client.
The result of this designer/client collaboration with attention to all aspects of the “perfect trifecta” was many memories of great cocktail parties, quiet evenings at home and intimate dinners. The owner has taken this approach to the next project in his future- a steel and glass, modern home in the woods, where the plan includes incorporating everything that is in this apartment and then some. We can’t wait for that phone call.
Photos courtesy of Marshall Erb