Two Ways In to a Challenging Space
In show houses, a designer is often faced with details they can’t touch, change, or paint out. Sometimes, that means features worth amplifying, and sometimes they’re elements better swept under a room-sized rug. They’re then faced with two options: go with the flow, or paddle furiously against the current.
Pulling a palette from elements traditionally associated with the Christmas season in a more supporting role (the warm clove browns and citrusy oranges of pomanders, the rusty underside of magnolia leaves ) they pushed these Yule players to center stage. Beige damask upholstery (on high-backed fireside chairs, nicely scaled to the room’s soaring height) carried on civilized conversation with the stone, while the citrus notes managed to quietly upstage a floor that could have been the loudmouth guest at the Christmas party. The traditional choices they made (a large contemporary artwork the only exception) made the powerful pre-existing details of the room all seem deliberate choices, not afterthoughts.
It's not always a bad or boring starting point of a showhouse room that proves a challenge... sometimes flexing your design muscle in a room that has gorgeous features isn't easy, either. And that was the case for Jolie Korek. Her room, with original paneling, leaded and stained glass, fireplace and window seat was full of character and notable detail before the very first tchotchke.
Ms. Korek took an opposite tactic to how the two gentlemen of Thiergartner worked their magic. She went full-on modern in a room with the details and dark spirit of a medieval mead hall, in her room honoring Hanukkah (including a Star of David painted on the ceiling) and the event's benefactor, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, with bright ribbon-pink reference notes.
She worked hard to bring a bright contemporary vibe, pulling out all the stops: lots of installed lighting, a TV-in-mirror piece of technological magic, a vibrant over-dyed vintage carpet from ABC Carpet and Home, a heroically-scaled bulls-eye canvas, infilling the built-in bookcases with light wallcovering, sleek tablescaping, a lightened floor and lots of white accessories. But it’s hard to keep a good room down, and the lodge-y details still almost upstaged its deliberately chosen contents.
Go Big, Go Bright
Inson Dubois Wood took a large room, a vibrant holiday rich with symbolism, cultural implication and visual inspiration, and turned out a firecracker, a room sure to garner most of the event’s press coverage. Chinese New Year was his holiday, and Wood brought it alive with literal reference and artful interpretation, a time-traveling line-up of furniture eras (fitting for a New Year theme) and bold confident art, all served up in a brilliant lacquered box.
In an instance of a designer taking a change of course from his typical approach, Inson went over the top (literally) with pagoda-shaped pelmets at each of the soaring windows, and that red-orange that’s a big leap of paint from his more frequently understated color choices. Wood also uses one of my favorite tricks, matching wall color precisely to the outer panels of the silk window treatments, melding and marrying the room’s hard and soft stories.
The huge cube of a room could have swallowed up its contents like a hungry dragon, but a long stretch of matched sofas, a 6 x 8 geometric canvas and hand-painted wall covering tame the scale and bring the focus down into the room… no small feat when that room is lacquered brilliant crimson (“Moroccan Red” to be precise).
Holiday House 2011, to benefit the Greater NYC Chapter of Susan G. Komen For the Cure, is open to the public November 16th through December 11th, 2011 at 2 East 63rd Street, in New York City. Buy tickets here.
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All photos: Patrick J. Hamilton