Thursday, June 01, 2017

I Need Your Help!

You may not hear from me frequently this summer as I’ve just started work on my next book, which I’m happy to announce will be published by Vendome Press and edited by Stephen Drucker. Commissioned by Kravet to celebrate its centennial anniversary, the book will profile the 100 most important designers of the past 100 years.

In order to write this book, I need your help. Who do you think is the most influential designer of the last century? Your answers will be used to compile the book’s list of designers, so please do let me know. You can submit your comment below, or, if you prefer, you may email your answers to me at

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Return of the Canopy Bed

There were many highlights of last month's High Point Furniture Market, but one in particular made quite an impression on me: the gratifying appearance of canopied beds at a number of furniture showrooms. After playing second fiddle to upholstered headboards for years, it seems that the canopy bed is once again captivating furniture designers.

For Kindel's Dorothy Draper Collection, Carleton Varney debuted the Tuxedo Park Poster Bed, which was inspired by Draper's own bed at her Carlyle Hotel apartment.  Dressed in Fazenda Lily and Ballroom Satin fabrics, both from the Dorothy Draper fabric collection, the bed held court alongside the Pinwheel Chest in green painted lacquer and the Double Camellia Bench.  Like so many pieces in this collection, the Tuxedo Park bed is available in twenty-five painted lacquers and a number of wood finishes.  I think Draper would be very pleased.

Tuxedo Park Poster Bed photos courtesy of Kindel

A few examples of the bed that inspired Kindel's version.

Image courtesy of Bunny Williams Home

Like Varney, Bunny Williams also introduced a new canopied bed, this one notable for its aesthetically-pleasing Greek Key design.  Made of hammered metal, the Ellsworth Bed, part of the Bunny Williams Home collection, has a hand-applied, wrought iron finish.  For those with a more restrained sense of style, this is a canopy bed that seems sure to suit.

Image courtesy of Highland House's Facebook page

And finally, there is the Courtney Upholstered Bed, part of the Bungalow Classic collection for Highland House.  To be accurate, the bed debuted at High Point last fall, but at this Market, the bed remains a real show-stopper, not least of all because of its fabric canopy and upholstered bed posts.  Designed by the design and retail super-couple, Courtney and Randy Tilinski, their version of the canopy bed is unabashedly pretty.  It's awfully dreamy, too.

Speaking of dreamy, I'm including a few take-a-step-back-in-time photos of glorious canopy beds, including those slept in by Evangeline Bruce (the chintz-festooned version seen directly below) and Baron Philippe de Rothschild (the French-inflected bed with the ruffled pillows.)  These older versions, combined with the new introductions featured above, confirm that the canopy bed will never go out of style.  

Mario Times Two

And while we're on the subject of High Point, another favorite introduction of mine are the Mario Twins, a set of bunching tray tables designed by the great Mario Buatta.  Part of Kindel's Designer Artist Series, the tables have removable tray tops, meaning they're the perfect tables on which to serve tea or hors d'oeuvres or on which to enjoy a tray supper.  Available in any of Kindel's wood or painted lacquer finishes, the Mario Twins just might be my next furniture purchase.

Image courtesy of Kindel

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Kirill Istomin and his World of Fantasy

One of my biggest complaints about social media is the sometimes deleterious effect it seems to have on creativity.  On the one hand, it could be argued that Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs have introduced people to a whole host of new images, new places, and new things, all of which, to some degree, have fostered a spirit of discovery.  On the other hand, the pitfall to a group of people looking at the same images is that too many people are drinking from the same well of inspiration, resulting in an uncomfortable amount of sameness in, for example, styles of dress and decorating.  Whichever opinion you prefer, I think we can all agree that seeking inspiration solely online is a recipe for dullness.  Now, more than ever, it's important to spend time away from our phones and find motivation in travel, art, film, books, or anywhere else that strikes one's fancy.

One designer who credits a range of sources for influencing his work is Kirill Istomin, a Moscow and New York-based designer whose interiors have been featured in numerous shelter magazines, both here in the United States and abroad.  Having trained at venerable Parish-Hadley, Istomin and his work are rooted in good, solid decorating.  But what makes Istomin stand out is that he has a particular love of fantasy, one which manifests itself in interiors that are highly decorative while remaining functional, too.  The designer credits film (Zeffirelli's La Traviata, especially), dance (George Balanchine's The Nutcracker), and even great designers from the past (namely Henri Samuel, John Fowler, Rose Cumming, Mario Buatta, Parish-Hadley, and Stephane Boudin) with inspiring his work.  But it's history that especially interests the designer, who cites 18th-century French and Russian history as particular areas of concentration.

Istomin's purpose for indulging in fantasy is that, "it takes us away from reality."  Below, you'll find images of Istomin's fantasy-infused work, including the inspiration behind some of the interiors.    I think you'll find that for the next few minutes, as you study these photos, you'll find yourself lost in a world of richly appointed and sumptuously pretty interiors.

For a lady's bathroom, above, Istomin based the idea of the wall's thin pilasters on those in the Porcelain Study of Catherine the Great at Tsarskoe Selo, outside of St. Petersburg:

Meanwhile, for the dressing room of the same lady client, the designer took his cue from Brighton Pavilion:

whose palm-motif columns inspired those surrounding the dressing-room shelving:

In fact, the spirit of 18th-century Russia pervades a number of Istomin-designed interiors, including this dining room below, which is located in a house in the Chinese Village, Tsarskoe Selo:

Here, the floor and door moldings are reminiscent of Catherine the Great's Chinese Study at Peterhof:

It's the historical inspiration that I find so interesting, but even without referencing the specific sources, Istomin's work is fascinating.  Take a look below, and I think you'll agree.  And if you happen to be attending Legends at La Cienega Design Quarter this week, be sure to swing by the Sherle Wagner showroom, where Istomin has designed a window vignette. I have a feeling it will be a real show-stopper and fantastical through and through.

All images courtesy of Kirill Istomin

Monday, May 01, 2017

Spring Book News

In between visits to the Southeastern Designer Showhouse, High Point, and Design ADAC, I have managed to carve out some time to enjoy Spring's bumper crop of new book releases. Below are a few of the highlights from my stack of nightly reading.

Veranda Entertaining by Clinton Smith; Hearst Books, 2017

Veranda Editor-in-Chief Clinton Smith has done it again, writing a book that you will no doubt want to add to your library. Smith's latest effort focuses on entertaining and includes copious photos of table settings, flowers, dining rooms, and outdoor spaces that have been featured in the magazine. As expected, the photos are gorgeous, but the real draw here is Smith's commentary about the art of entertaining. Organized alphabetically, the book espouses nuggets of wisdom on all aspects of entertaining, from candlelight to glassware and place settings. And because the text is informative but concise, you can dip into the book as you wish, reading it from cover to cover or, if you prefer, a few chapters a night. Even if you consider yourself an armchair host or hostess, by the time you finish reading this book, you will want to become a prolific party-thrower.

Creating Home: Design for Living by Keith Summerour; Rizzoli 2017

One of the South's most respected architects, Atlanta-based Keith Summerour returns with his latest tome, one that features nine of his residential projects in such locales as Atlanta, Blackberry Farm, and Greenwich, Connecticut. An architect whose work is classically rooted, Summerour taps into his Southern heritage, creating houses that are both soulful and respectful of the land on which they sit. Whether located in the city or the country, a Summerour-designed house is not just dreamy to look at, it's a lesson in how to live comfortably, too.

Daily Life by Gert Voorjans; Lannoo Publishers, 2016

You may not be familiar with Belgian designer Gert Voorjans, and neither was I until recently.  But what a pleasant discovery his work has been.  Voorjans is no Johnny-come-lately to the world of design.  A protégé of Axel Vervoordt, the Antwerp-based designer opened his own firm in 1996 and has been decorating around the world ever since.  To be sure, Voorjans' work can be eccentric, but that's what makes it so very interesting.  I've made one pass through the book thus far and look forward to diving into it again soon.  Unique and personal, this book will likely hold your interest well into the future.

The Decorated Home: Living with Style and Joy by Meg Braff; Rizzoli 2017

Though now based on Long Island, New York, designer Meg Braff remains a Southern girl at heart, one who has maintained a very Southern love affair with bright, clear color. In her debut book, Braff shares with readers her upbeat design work that brims with color, pattern, charm, whimsy, and joie de vivre. While reading her book, I kept thinking how much of an "old-school" decorator Braff is, a term that I use as a compliment. There is nothing weird or outré about Braff's work. What is in evidence is Braff's enthusiasm for fabrics, furniture, and other tools of her craft, all of which she so obviously enjoys working with.

Entertaining in the Country: Love Where You Eat by Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams

When I received a review copy of this book, I was completely unfamiliar with the authors, one of whom owns Hammertown Barn, a lifestyle store with locations in Hudson Valley and the Berkshires. I gather that they are a big deal in that area, and I can see why. Their latest effort, a guide to casual entertaining, is brimming with recipes for the kind of food we all enjoy eating: chicken pot pie; corn and tomato salad; gazpacho; and berry cobbler. With recipes for simple yet fulfilling dishes and photos of pared down but stylish table settings, the book captures the joys of down-to-earth entertaining.

The New Chic: French Style from Today's Leading Interior Designers by Marie Kalt and the Editors of Architectural Digest France; Rizzoli 2017

Don't get the wrong idea. I haven't gone contemporary on you. Although I remain a traditionalist at heart, I do try to stay on top of what's happening in the world of modern design, which is why I chose to review this book. Considering that some of the best contemporary interiors being produced today are being executed by French designers, it seems fitting that the work of twelve leading French designers is the focus of this new book, one that was produced by the editors of Architectural Digest France. Even if modern-looking interiors aren't your thing, I think you'll appreciate the caliber of these designers' work, which, if nothing else, should serve as a lesson in the importance of quality and elegance.

The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors by Marshall Watson; Rizzoli 2017

And last but not least, designer Marshall Watson's new monograph, a deserved one for a designer who has worked in the business for over thirty years.  What struck me about Watson's work is its confidence.  Watson eschews the gimmicks, choosing instead to give his clients' homes interiors that are comfortable, attractive, livable, and normal.  How refreshing.

Image credits:
© Veranda Entertaining by Clinton Smith, Hearst Books, 2017. © Creating Home: Design for Living by Keith Summerour, Rizzoli New York, 2017; photos © Andrew and Gemma Ingalls. © Daily Life by Gert Voorjans, Lannoo Publishers, 2017; photos by Tim van de Velde. © The Decorated Homes: Living with Style and Joy by Meg Braff, Rizzoli New York, 2017. © Entertaining in the Country by Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams, Rizzoli New York, 2017; photos © John Gruen. © The New Chic by Marie Kalt, Rizzoli New York, 2017; #1 photo © Gonzalo Machado, #2 © Jerome Galland, #3 © Gonzalo Machado. © The Art of Elegance by Marshall Watson, Rizzoli New York, 2017.