Tuesday, December 31, 2013

...traction, opportunity and gratitude: the personal design best of 2013.

Lucky ’13: to quote Old Blue Eyes, “it was a very good year.” A couple of tough ones behind me, and then this, what finally seemed like movement, momentum, and traction. At the heart of the happiness, some great opportunities, new challenges, new connections, some leaps of faith (with me and many others doing the leaping), and with a LOT of help from my friends, that all let me participate more actively in a design community I’m so happy— and proud— to be a part of.

So, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to count down (up?) to the very best of the best of my Year in Design 2013.

7) Table for Two
I loves me some table-tops. I shoot one for just about every interior design I complete. So when Jan Maclatchie of JanMac Brands asked me to get my style on for a tabletop set-up and photo shoot for the great American brand Lenox, I said yes, please. Then it got even better: I’d be crafting an intimate fall-into winter tablesetting for two. My favorite time of year, and pure delight for this hardcore romantic.

6) Getting Graphic
My roots were showing a bit... my past Graphic Design life made a cameo appearance in a year rich with interior design highlights. I was delighted to be able to work on two book projects, one, the cover for my sister’s second book of poetry published for Ahsahta Press, and the other, working with gentleman scholar and vintage glass dealer Damon Crain, of Culture Object on his sparkling book of mid-century American architectural art glass. 
It was fun to delve into stock photo research and talk about fonts and grids again, for two projects I was honored to be part of... and could not be more proud of the outcome on both.

5) Baby Makes Three
Two firsts yielded a third: my first repeat client, my first nursery, and my first appearance in Meredith’s publication American Baby. Delighted, honored, and so happy that the happy project was for perhaps the sweetest young family I’ve had the pleasure to meet, let alone help make their space enjoyable, pleasant and personal... and have the chance to do it twice. But I can think of no bigger honor than to help create a young person’s very first space.

4) All in Moderation
As part of D&D Spring Market, I was asked to moderate “Spring Break Table Escape,” an inspiring and interactive event where five designers created gorgeous tabletop designs built around the exquisite textiles of the gracious host for the event, JAB Anstoetz, with the also pretty-exquisite Caroline Vaughn at the helm of their first-floor showroom. 

Tabletops again, but this time I was talking to, and learning from, some of the best in the biz, including my hilarious, giving and wildly-talented friend Michael Tavano, the, um, masterscaper who always manages to wow, whether at DIFFA Dining by Design, Bilotta, or in the warm and lovely home he shares with his equally loveable hubby Lloyd Marks (the dashing duo behind window-finesser MT Custom).
I was delighted to meet the so-fun Tara Seawright and Bella Mancini, and chat up friends... the lovely Alla Akimova of Archives ID and the colorful and dapper Christopher Coleman, along with Mr. Tavano (with whom I publicly discussed, well, balls. Don’t ask.) We laughed, we learned, and we all ogled the table creations that showcased JAB fabrics and the remarkable range of these design all-stars. So, so much fun.

3) Paint Bucket List
Paint me excited: When asked to talk color with paint and color experts Valspar, on the virtual and print pages of House Beautiful, I was over the Blue Moon. I first became a Valspar paint fandeck fan during Design on a Dime, where they are the generous donor of every gallon of paint used for the event. And I’ve always been a fan of House Beautiful. So to participate in their advertorial series, where I’d be featured in an online mini-magazine (including a video) and make it on to the magazine’s pages was both pure blast and high honor.

2) Third Dime’s a Charm
It was my third appearance at Design on a Dime to benefit Housing Works, and my favorite year of the three so far, spurred on by a buoyant Schumacher wallcovering, a great position (corner “office”!!), a giant green parakeet from Australia, and an oddly-popular, white-lacquered lobster that had them lined up in the aisles before the shopping broke loose.

The event just keeps getting better and better, and not just for me, but for the charity: The 50+ designers this year helped raise over one million dollars for Housing Works Thrifts, working to end the dual crisis of homelessness and those living with and affected by AIDS.

The generous many who make the event possible stepped up yet again, and as always, I was delighted to showcase, show off, and sell off the pieces of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Pagoda Red, Currey & Company, Bernhardt, Bungalow 5, Jayson Home and Wisteria, who’ve all been with me since Year One of Design on a Dime.

It was also an honor to bring back artists Dan Romer and Babette Herschberger, while welcoming Aaron Smith, Gary Moran and David Peterson to the booth's walls, while adding Room & Board and OLY Studios to the roster of the oh-so-generous.

1) It Would Be So Nice... if We Took a Holiday (House)
It was a wish, a dream, another bucket list item, and perhaps the most challenging thing I’ve ever had the pleasure of doing: Holiday House, 2013. Ever since I set foot in the Academy Mansion at 63rd and 5th in Manhattan, I dreamed of bringing a holiday to life in these remarkable halls, rooms, niches and passageways in a room of my very own. And this year, that dream came true.

I’ve loved the event for many reasons. Because it’s always in the same house every year, you see the power of pure décor in transforming spaces. I love the Tim-Gunn-esque additional challenge of holiday theme on top of designer showhouse. And I love the charitable nature of the event, bringing the two loves— interior design, and women’s health— of founder Iris Dankner together under one remarkable (and remarkably stylish) roof.

But the surprise of the event came from the remarkable camaraderie of it all, making late November and December seem like one non-stop holiday party, with friends old and new, celebrating, laughing, toasting.
Along the way I met some extraordinary people, was introduced to the talented troupe behind the Fundamental Theater Project, saw two wonderful gents get married in a magical space of their very own creation, all while getting to bring a taste of my version of Dublin to Manhattan’s East Side, and helping, in small part, to shatter the house’s past fundraising levels.

It took remarkable work, considerable budget, the generosity of MANY, and taxed the patience of more than one of my design clients, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Thanks for letting me toot my own horn a bit on this New Year’s Eve, while helping to thank some the many people who made 2013 so remarkable.

What was the design highlight of your year? What’s ahead in 2014? I’d love to hear from you, and I wish you a year of health, abundance, joy, hearty laughter, and gorgeous homes. 

And I thank you for the support you've shown AskPatrick. Hope to see you even more in 2014!

UPDATE! Whoops, this should be SIX for 2013! The Lenox gig was technically 2012!! Time flies when you're having fun!

Get social! Find Holiday House NYCMT CustomJAB Anstoetz, the D and D BuildingMitchell Gold + Bob WIlliams, American Baby, Bella Mancini Design, Tara Seawright DesignArchives ID, Ahsahta PressJanMacBrands, LenoxValspar, House BeautifulCurrey & CompanyPagoda Red, Wisteria, Jayson Home, Room & BoardBungalow 5, Fundamental Theater Project, and Housing Works on Facebook.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

...about Holiday House 2013: seven tips from a St. Patrick's day show house room.

Show houses are fantasies. Purchasing budget? No concern (as long as you have generous donors). Clients? None (unless you count the fictional ones many designers use to create a room’s back story).

But even in fantasy, there are lessons to be learned.

And even though my first ever show house room, at the prestigious Holiday House, now in its sixth year here in Manhattan, was pure folly (inspired by St. Patrick’s Day, to suit the house’s “every room is a different holiday” theme), it illustrated many of the principles and approaches I use in any room design. Here are seven tips that, even though they're based on a room with a one-month life, can help your home year 'round.

1. Small, Dark and Handsome
Painting a tiny room bright yellow won’t make it any bigger, physically or visually, so when faced with a small room or space, I like to go dark. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s not: Dark colors make the edges of a small space fall away. Plus, you end up with a room that embraces you, looks sexy after nightfall (every home needs a night-time space, whether master suite, media room or guest room) and just seems deep, dark and luxurious.

What makes a small room seem small is contrast, so to make sure these dark walls didn’t close in, I employed one of my favorite tricks: Keep window treatment (from MT Custom) and the largest furniture close in color or value to the walls. The two pieces with the largest mass are the sofa (Avery Boardman) and the antique chest (Anthony Lawrence Belfair), yet since they’re so close in tint or tone to the wall colors, they don’t take over the space.

Artwork, Tim Lehmacher, Daniel Cooney Fine Art
2. Minimal isn’t Always Maximal
You can still get a considerable amount of function from a small room, and that means more furniture and lighting than you might otherwise think (or had budgeted for).

In this space, barely 10 x 10, there’s seating for four to six, room for a laptop, space to put your feet up, considerable storage, a bar, tables for drinks and books, and five light sources, not counting the window. And a lot of the furniture is flexible, movable, and ready for multi-tasking.

3. Celebrate the Givens
Considering we had to spend three of our eight days of set up merely PREPPING the room to get started (due to about five years of layered wall treatments, ghosts of designers past), I was relieved to see I could make the gold ceiling and grayed floorboards work with my intended scheme. And that’s not unlike the challenge of working with a client’s rental wall color, flooring, or other unchangeable elements (or early choices that seemed like a good idea, but cause some midway panic before calling in some designer back up).

So the gold ceiling made even more reason to bring brasses into the room, and the gray floors worked with the intended plan to use white as a real color player in the almost-all-emerald room. The white marble with gray veining (bounced around the room in Chesney’s fireplace mantle, Atlas side table, and Gold Leaf SIde Table) worked the floor "choice" up into the rest of the room.

When you celebrate the givens, they end up looking fresh, new, and totally intentional, not remnant afterthought of a past homeowner, tenant or designer.

4. Change Your Architecture with Décor
This room was a basic box when I first saw it, with an opening (door or window) in every single wall. and those doorways and windows were placed off center on every wall. It also had a very high ceiling, both blessing and curse.

So, like when working with renters or the contractor weary, I turned to pure (and portable) décor to mold the room back into something more livable.

Enter the upholstered screen (custom made, and meticulously studded by The Workroom), stretching wall to wall and hiding one doorway, giving me a wall where I could thankfully center a fireplace (Since I wanted a somewhat formal feel to the room, at least one symmetrical elevation was crucial). This screen would also allow you to hang and wire sconces or picture lights without busting into plaster walls, so you can get your security deposit back at lease’s end.

Window treatments hung higher and wider than the actual window’s dimensions, did three things: visually widen the window, accentuate the room’s height (making sure that gold ceiling was celebrated), and hide a hideous window unit air conditioner.
Widening the window treatment past the size of the window also meant the sofa had a suitable place to park, without looking like it was balanced precariously like a tufted seesaw.

The scale of the artwork, and a brought-in fireplace, also add "architecture" where there wasn't any.
"Demitree" gold resin side table, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; Hall chair, O'Sullivan Antiques

5. Weight Down, Step Down
Depending on the proportion of the room, a super high ceiling can be both pro and con. Here, in a room I wanted to give the vibe of a Dublin rowhouse sitting room, a ceiling this high wasn’t ideal, certainly not conducive to “cozy” or “intimate.”

So how do you tame the height? Weight down, and step down. I added a wainscoting and chair rail to weight the lower portion of the room (beautifully aged by Jason Phillips and Raj Autencio, grads of the Alpha Workshops Studio School). It also gives a relatable point and strong anchoring horizontal when seated.

All barware: Waterford
To keep the eye from wandering all the way up to the highest corners of the rooms, you have to point it earthward. At the top part of the room, the highest element (the window treatments) step down to the screen, which in turn steps down to the art and mantle, and the room’s one odd soffit. The end result? The room’s proportions are really relatable when you’re seated... it doesn’t feel like you’ve fallen down a well.

6. Text(ure)book Solutions
Small rooms benefit from a monochromatic scheme, but whether beige or emerald, a limited-color room really relies on texture to make the room look intentionally color-limited, and not look like you just had the budget for one can of paint and one bolt of fabric.

So the green appears as velvet (crushed and not, hand-painted and not), sateen (all from JAB Anstoetz), pieced grass cloth, "Heliodore," from Arte, through Koroseal, at Studio K in the D&D Building, and painted finish. The color-matched but texture-varied approach makes the room lush, and rewards the eye without fatiguing it. 

Tray, decanter, faceted box: Waterford

The same rule applies to the whites used in the room... white marble, sheepskin (on the Modernist bench by DESIGNLUSH, matte metal lamp from SwitchModern.com, white (lacquered and painted) picture frames.
Artwork, top: "Mr. Green," Dan Romer; Bottom : "A Stranger Blue," Jefferson Hayman

7. Swing Both Ways
My favorite rule for making choices and additions to a room is “Compare and Contrast.” Things should be intentionally similar, intentionally different, or a little of both. So the geometric wall covering has a curvier counterpart in the Roman shade’s  handpainted pattern from Coleman & Taylor (through Savel in the D&D Building) over the JAB crushed velvet. The Vestal fire screen has traits in common with the Wisteria candleholders and the Orgues brass (and sexy) light from Donghia, but enough difference so they don’t all look like they came off the same shelf.

The mix of hard and soft, contemporary and antique, light and dark, matte and shiny also yield a room where both men and women find something to like (It’s interesting to have hundreds of people walk through your room, a never-ending focus group, of sorts) and proves the point that every room should be a mix.
All barware: Waterford

Fantasy or not, teachable moment or fleeting folly, show house rooms always have something to say. And being able to design a room at Holiday House has been a dream come true. Is it wrong I’m already plotting another holiday theme, if I’m lucky enough to be asked back??

All photos: Jody Kivort

Holiday House NYC is held in the Academy Mansion, 2 East 63rd Street, New York, NY. The  house is open to the public daily from November 21 through December 18. All proceeds benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.