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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Asian Influence

I have noticed lately that many spaces featured in current decor magazines have an Asian/Chinoiserie vibe to them. The more I see this, the more I want to incorporate such pieces in my home. It is a sort of ethnic take on modern glamour. Modern can often feel cold and static - add some Asian influence and it becomes warm and dynamic. This look can be achieved on a small or large scale, but I think small scale works best. Mixing Asian with modern or classic pieces is just so much more unexpected.

How about simply a pair of Buddha bedside lamps.

If a subtle look is what you're after, perhaps a ceramic stool and a piece of Asian-inspired artwork.

Typical Asian colours of red and black applied in wallpapers and accessories makes a bold statement.

Asian furniture has such beautiful lines and can make a big impact.

Sometimes maybe bolder is better. Asian ceramics are stunning, and make quite a statement placed in an entryway to an even bolder statement - a room swathed in reds and blues.

(Thanks Mark for asking Jo and I to guest blog for you! Kim @ desire to inspire)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Doyenne of Design

As some of you may know Mark and I come from not only the same country but the same city, Brisbane. Although we never knew each other in Brisbane we both have a passion for design and an eye honed by Australian experiences. So I thought while Mark was away I’d share with you the doyenne of Australian interior design, the grand dame who started the modern design revolution in my country, Marion Hall Best.

Kim and I love showcasing the best in interior design, or as we call it, room porn from around the world. When we first started Desire to Inspire I knew that I would definitely be featuring Australian design on the blog. Not only are Australian interior design and architecture world class they’re so little known in North America and Europe (from where most of our readers hail) that I knew they would be something fresh and fun to most of you. Names like Dorothy Draper, Billy Baldwin, Sister Parish and Eames are iconic in the States. David Hicks and a stampede of Scandinavian designers including Saarinen and Alto are worthy European representatives but how many of you can name an iconic Aussie designer? Florence Broadhurst comes to mind and America and Europe are finally recognising her great talent for pattern. Marion Hall Best deserves the same sort of recognition for her even now outrageous use of colour and glazes. She detested beige and was responsible for introducing Australians to Marrimeko, Scandinavian glass, Eames furniture, Noguchi, Bertoia and providing a platform Australian furniture designers such as Grant Featherston.

Best developed her love of fabulously saturated colour in the 20s and 30s while studying and moving in the bohemian art circles of the time. She was drawn to interior design because she “knew that she wanted to work in big areas of colour in a three-dimensional way which belonged to living spaces.” From 1938 until its closure in 1974 her shop stocked local designers and the best of European and American imports. In the 60s at the peak of her career she was the designer of choice for major corporations and the Sydney society set. She became the arbiter of the latest styles. Her interiors showcased the best of what the design world had to offer. It helped that it was often exclusively available in her showroom. In a post war world of “porridge” colours Marion is probably best known for her vivid glazed walls, colourful undercoats with contrasting translucent glazes; yellow over red, pink, black, blue or green producing intriguing tangerines, olives, aquamarines and chartreuses.

And the lessons to be learned? It isn't about the retro. It's about the colour. Be bold, have fun. Explore the international design classics but support your local emerging furniture and fabric designers. Be outrageous if you dare. Look to those who have gone before you and take inspiration but make it your own. Oh yes ..... and Aussies are pretty hot stuff when it comes to design! If Marion Hall Best’s work intrigues you I recommend Best Style: Marion Hall Best and Australian Interior Design 1935-1975 as very little exists on the internet. Thanks Mark for the opportunity to share! Jo

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wherefore ART Thou?

The First Lady of Interior Design, Ms Elise de Wolfe, insists that "a person of sincerity of purpose" would never hang fake "works of art" on their walls and although I disagree with her severity, I do believe that she has a point. But I have gotten ahead of myself. Firstly, may I introduce myself? My name is Ashleigh and I have had the great privilege to work for Mark for the last year. I was greatly complimented by his suggestion that I "Guest Blog" for him while he is on vacation, so Thank You Mark for the opportunity! I wanted to take this wonderful chance to blog about a topic which is quite close to my heart---The Accessibility of Art to Everybody.

Several years ago, I was at the office of Charles Tyrwhitt when my eye was caught by a beautiful and unique work of art. I asked my friend if he knew anything about it and he told me that he was friends with the artist. Long story short, I purchased several pieces from her and have been in love with them since. At that time in my life I was a bit short on cash, so I bartered with her and we both walked away happy. Since then I have added to my collection--Vintage Vogue Magazine Covers purchased in Portobello Market, a burgeoning collection of Butterflies from all over the world and even a line drawing my Boyfriend drew last year. Many times I have been questioned as to how I could possibly afford to collect such an interesting array of art and I am always astounded by the questioner's disbelief that most of what I have was under $300.

It has been many years since I left college but when I visit the homes of many of my friends, they still have those old posters, albeit in new frames, on the walls. Their excuse for these shabby representations of taste and style has always been the same. Art in Expensive. NOT SO!

There are many wonderful ways to create a beautiful collection but, as Troy from TKO Art (www.tkoart.com) so bluntly said to me, the first place to start is to discover your own taste. Not what Tom Dick and Harry like but what YOU really love. Visit galleries and educate yourself, spend some time looking at art--highbrow or not, and then go out there and find the perfect thing for you. Some great suggestions of where to start, at least here in LA, are the Venice Art Walk (www.venicefamilyclinic.org/index.php?view=art_walk_auction), the Art District in Culver City (www.ccgalleryguide.com) and the Brewery Art Walk (www.breweryartwalk.com) which has an event this October. I am sure that there are similar events and districts everywhere! My mother lives out in "Cowboy Town" Arizona but she is not far from Jerome AZ and so if she can find an artist's colony near her than I dare anybody to claim that there is nothing near them!

Finally, let me say that if you insist on having Monet, Turner or Klimt, PLEASE put them in a lovely frame, with matting, WITHOUT the name of the Museum you picked it up at listed across the bottom and maybe try to find something a bit more unique by that same artist. Just for me...please :)

Happy Hunting! Ashleigh

Resource Day: FLOR

I know I say this every week, but I love Thursday's and today is no different. I spend all week trying to decide what great resource I should talk about from one week to the next. Today I chose FLOR carpet tile. Well, it's actually a lot more than just a tile, it's a whole modular floor system, that can be used for area rugs, wall to wall or just as an opportunity to add a bit of spice to the floor.
I really like to use them in areas where it is difficult to imagine using a regular carpet, like in the children's playroom above, it's the perfect solution. If one of the kids spills paint or whatever, you don't have to freak out, just pull up the offending tile and replace it with a new one! Or for that matter you can take the dirty tile outside and hose it down.
I am currently using them in an office remodel we are working on, where the owner has dogs. So should there be any accidents or whatever it's easy to replace one tile at a time.
Installation is easy too, there are these nifty little adhesive stickers that hold them all together, that makes keeping it all straight and together a breeze. Speaking of breeze, they now offer an exterior collection too, which I have yet to use, but think is such a natural extension of the brand. As you can create very fun, interesting rugs for the outside that are easy to keep clean and move around.
One of the problems with a system like this, is that with so many choices it's hard to make a decision about anything. Well if you go to the FLOR website, they have a whole section dedicated to ideas for rugs etc that you can just download, so it makes it a lot easier. You can tell, I love these guys, I thinks it's a great product, that's not expensive and made really easy to use. Let know if you think the same!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Today I have some great news! I will be out of town, at the end of this week, and part of next (that's not the good news). I have asked a few of my favorite bloggers to do guest postings, so there will be some fresh voices to look for. I just heard from Jo and Kim over at Desire to Inspire, an amazing site, who have agreed. Unfortunately Peak of Chic had to decline, but with an excellent reason, so you should go to her site and ask her why, I am sure you will be as excited for her as I am.
Also a few surprises from some of the folks at my office will be appearing too, so look for those, it is bound to be an interesting week.
Once again, thanks to those of you stepping in to fill the void, I think it will be a week of great reading.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fireplace: Keep it Simple

One of my biggest gripes I have when I look at the interiors of most homes is too much clutter. Sometimes more can mean better, but it is more the exception than the rule. This can be seen more often than not when it comes to fireplaces. I am as big a fan as anyone of making them the focal point of the room, I think that the warmth and visual weight that they add, can often only be done using a fireplace, however, this should not give license to create havoc!

So many times you will walk into a room and there will be a huge mantle, with art above, lighting, maybe a plant....enough already! sometimes, a more restrained approach will give a more sophisticated, elegant approach. For the fireplace shown above, I used a simple precast trim, around the inside edge to softly delineate from the plaster wall. I also inserted a wrought iron plaque to help the proportion of the opening, creating the illusion of a larger firebox. I think it was pretty successful in making a quiet statement. I deliberately under scaled the art to encourage people to approach, and then added old world sconces on either side for a flourish.

If you are dealing with an existing fireplace, here are some thoughts about how to create a simpler presentation:

  • Try removing the mantle all together, it will really open up the wall. If considering this, make sure you have a firebox opening that is in proportion to your space, or else you may just create more problems for yourself.

  • If removing the mantle is not an option, you can paint it the same color as the wall, it will then become much less dominant in the room.

  • Try not to clutter up the space, use only one or two accessories, or try using an art piece that is a little under scaled.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Great New Images

Today I am excited to premiere a few new shots of a project that I just finished. It is a house in Newport Beach, California. I particularly like this project because I think it has such a great sense of relaxed elegance to it. It's the sort of place where you would feel comfortable sitting and reading a book on a Saturday afternoon, but then with some fresh flowers and candles, you could host a formal party in the evening.

Today I am just posting three shots of the Living Room. I am sure the other shots will turn up in other posts in the next week or two. A big Thank You to John Ellis, the photographer who created the beautiful images.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Voices of Design: Me!

I have to admit, that this was a very long week, it's been hot, I have had a ton of things to do, then our internet connection went down mysteriously for a couple of days. Amidst all that, I have to admit that I simply did not get the chance to pull together an interview for the Voices of Design segment. Then it occurred to me that I had done an online interview for our friends over at Design Talk a few weeks ago, and some of you might not have seen it. So today, I am posting that, I hope that you find it interesting.

On a separate note, if you haven't already, you should check out Design Talk its a great site. One of the things that sets them apart is that they bring it lots of experts on different topics to answer questions and provide tips. Today there is a Feng Shui consultant, and I know Susan Serra from The Kitchen Designer, appears on there also, so please drop by and see whats new over there.

DesignTalk: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started as a designer?

Mark Cutler: Every good story has a beginning, and mine is no different. I grew up in Australia, and went to Architecture school in Brisbane. After graduating, I planned to move to London for a year or so to gain some experience before heading back to Australia. On the way to the UK, I stopped in New York City for what was meant to be a two week vacation, which turned into a stay of more than two years. While in New York, I worked at a variety of different architecture firms and art galleries. I eventually went on to London to work for about six months, and then packed up my bags and moved to Los Angeles.
So, here I was, new to town, and barely knew four people in the city. What to do now? Well, this was 1990/91 and the recession in the construction industry was just getting into full swing. Here I was looking for work, not knowing a soul in the industry of my choice, and of questionable immigration status. So one day out of frustration, I picked up the phone book and started dialing every architect in town, starting from A. Trust me, there are a lot of architects in the yellow pages. Eventually on my second or third day, I got one positive response. A guy offered me a few days of work, which ultimately led to 10 years of work, and eventually the founding of my own firm.
I started in his firm doing all the usual stuff and eventually found myself specializing in interior architecture, all on residential projects. Then one day we got a client from overseas who wanted the firm not only to do the architecture, but also the interior design.
Naturally, I raised my hand and volunteered. Now, I had no business volunteering for this assignment. Prior to this, I had only watched interior designers. But I thought, how hard could it be? Though I didn’t know it then, that day was to be my first day as a designer — and one that has lead me to a career path that is both incredibly challenging and splendidly rewarding.

DT: Where do you find inspiration for your incredible rooms?

MC: When I start a room, I like to spend time there and just hang out. I think it is important to get inspiration from the context, whether it’s the geography, the lighting, or the architecture. If you sit still long enough, something becomes the predominant element, and that is where I start. Sometimes it is instantaneous, sometimes it takes days or even weeks — and then almost out of nowhere the idea will come. But once you have that one big idea, everything else just falls into place. If that idea is strong, it is like a spine to support all of the other decisions. Without that strong base, it is just “decorating,” and not design.

As far as general inspiration, it comes from almost anywhere. I read huge numbers of magazines every month. I am always looking at images or reading books, and it is like the rooms — sometimes you just are flipping through a book or a magazine and a color or pattern will strike you, and it becomes an idea that you just file away. I also have some designers whose work I really admire, and I will study their work and try to work out how they did it, not to copy it, but to get an insight into their design process, and how their mind works.

DT: Have you ever been stuck in a “creativity rut”? How did you break out of it?

MC: Oh, sure! You just pray it doesn’t happen when you are operating on a deadline! When it happens you have to accept that it is just part of the process. Usually a walk outside will freshen the mind a bit, or else I will just go and work on something else. I have learned that you have to be patient, and the idea will come when it comes.
I am reading this and it’s sounding all very Zen. I am really much more pragmatic than that, but all ideas just seem to show up when they do. It is hard sometimes to explain that to clients who want it all when they want it, but we do our best. I also have an amazing team of people who work here, so having a group behind you really can help.

DT: Do you use a sketchbook, idea notebook, or inspiration board to explore new ideas?

MC: I wish I did! No, my designs are a bit more organic than that. I have things that inspire around me all the time, so limiting it to a book isn’t really my thing. I totally see the value of that though, but I have a pretty unique sense of organization so I would probably lose a book if I started one. When I design I tend to use a large pin up board in my office and pin up images, fabrics, and furniture pieces I like — then I walk away and visit it again later. But once the design is done, it’s pulled down.

DT: What is the most popular decorating style you’re asked to design?

MC: When I first started out, I designed a whole bunch of different styles, including a lot of Italian and a few very formal French homes. Pretty much I hadn’t found my voice. My work is still pretty diverse, but as I stand back and look there are some common threads. It tends to have an informality to it, as well as a bit of a sense of humor. I think growing up in Australia gave me the ability not to take myself too seriously, so I bring some of that to my work. I tend to do a lot of celebrity work, and I think that that is because I am able to stand back and remove myself from the process to some extent. In my mind what I do is a form of portraiture. I like to think that when people look at one of my projects, they recognize the personality of the family that lives there before they recognize my styling. One of the greatest compliments I have ever had came from a celebrity client I had recently, who (upon seeing the house finished for the first time) said, “We didn’t even know that this was our style, until we walked in and it felt more like home than any place we have ever been.” So as far as style goes, I do pretty much anything as long as it feels authentic to the people that live there.

DT: What is the most unique room you’ve ever designed?

MC: I have been fortunate enough to work on some crazy projects, from secret rooms where the couple can spy on their friends, to home massage rooms and even hairdressing salons for their friends. I am just starting a project now where the owner is a Star Wars fan, so we are building a replica of the Death Star control room with X wing fighters and all. When it’s done, it is going to be wild. I really embrace that sort of idea, I love people who have passion like that for their home, albeit a little unique.

DT: Wow, that room sounds incredible! We can’t wait to see pictures when it’s done.
Moving back to this planet, what are the most popular colors or palettes you’re seeing this year?

MC: I am a huge fan of pink. I think it is such a fresh and warm color, and I am finally getting to use it on a library that I am doing in an old house, that has lots of Mahogany woodwork. I think it’s going to be terrific. I tended to use a lot of soft blues for the last year of so, but recently have been drawn to more difficult colors like mauve's and purples. When I shop, I tend to shop with a color in my mind’s eye, even though it is often hard to find the one you are looking for. I see a lot more metallics and black around these days, but I don’t tend to be drawn by trends. Chocolate is always a favorite, too, because it makes a nice counterpoint to almost any other color. As far as paints go, I am a huge fan of Farrow and Ball paints from England and they have a white paint called Clunch that I think is one of the best white paints I have ever used. I am using a ton of that at the moment, but that is subject to change at a moment’s notice.

DT: After working with furniture and fabric all day, is it exhausting or invigorating to decorate your own home?

MC: It is really tough to work on your own home. I find it almost impossible to make a decision that I am willing to stick with. My partner and I just bought a new home last November, and it needs some love and attention. I have done no fewer than 10 schemes, each one perfect at the time — but I keep finding new ideas. It’s a nightmare! I have a clearer idea of what I want to do with the garden, so I think we will tackle that first, and I hope I will then be more comfortable about working on the interior. I am a bit of a work-aholic, so I am always doing something for a client, or shopping for someone, or writing my blog, so finding time to settle down and work on my own house is a problem. At the moment it’s a bit of a mishmash of old and favorite pieces. I will send some images of my last house that was more “done.” My style is a bit looser now, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

DT: What styles do you prefer in your own rooms?

MC: Comfort above all else. I want my rooms to be stylish, but very approachable. I hate rooms where it looks like everything is in its place. I like piles of books and magazines, a place where people will put their feet on the furniture. I also have two dogs and they have the run of the house, so I can’t be too much of a neat freak. This house is an old 1930s English cottage style house, so I am sure that I will have some elements of that in the design. I am toying with some painted wood paneling in the dining room to add a bit of visual weight. My last house was more Mediterranean, so it had a different kind of feel.

DT: What room (either for a client, or in your own home) is giving you the biggest decorating challenge right now?

MC: Well, it’s funny you should ask. I am working with a client now on a new house on the beach in Santa Monica, and I thought that we were on the same page as far as our ideas for her new house. So I was very excited to show her my presentation, but it was clear from the first few minutes that there was a disconnect. The look on her face was miserable to see — I just didn’t get it. In talking to her afterward she was having a total crisis of confidence in me. So, I had her pull some images from magazines that she liked in the hope that we could find a visual language that we could agree on. When I saw the images, it was weird because in my mind that was what I was showing her. So the next week I had another chance to present, so I took a bit of a different track. I changed a few things, but not a lot, but I talked about the way the room was put together in a different way. I talked about using this color on this side of the room and balancing it with this texture on this side of the room, and really laid it out from a very fundamental way. It turns out she used to be a lawyer and was used to looking at things in that building-block sort of way, not in a more visual, “here’s the sofa, and here’s the fabric” way I would normally do. It turns out she loved it, and I learned a valuable lesson about how different people look at my work and how I need to be able to tap into that.

DT: What’s ahead for your work? Can we get a sneak peek of any new projects?

MC:I am working on a book at the moment, trying to marry the idea of design and well-being together. It will feature a bunch of my projects and will also incorporate some of the ideas from the blog. So that is a big thing for me. I am also looking to expand my product line as well. As far as the design work, I have a bunch of very interesting projects all over Southern California at the moment, ranging from the house on the beach to an old Spanish house in Santa Barbara. So there will be plenty to see from me in the future. I have some articles coming up in some of the major magazines, so that is exciting, too. I was just named one of the Top 40 Interior Designers in the country by Robb Report and one of the Top 5 interior design blogs on the web by The Times of London, so the future seems bright and I am loving every moment of it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Resource Day: Decorati

Every now and again you come across a website or an organisation that's put technology together in away that makes perfect sense. Yesterday I had that experience, I got an email from a company called Decorati, I get a lot of promotional emails, but for some reason this one peaked my interest and I went to their website...WOW! This is going to be huge! Looking at the site yesterday was like the fist time I looked at 1stdibs.com it made such clear and perfect sense.

What the site does is bring together manufacturers from all of the country, and I am sure at some point all over the world, that serve the high end market. There are lots of sites that serve the low and mid market, but this is the first I have seen that brings together some of the finest manufacturers in one spot. I have hundreds of bookmarks on my web browser for different companies that I like to use, after seeing this yesterday, I feel like I can erase most of it.

The site was founded by an Interior Designer, Shane Reilly out of New York and San Francisco. She says it was a response to repeated requests from clients for more information. Well I think she has done remarkable job and has created something that is truly going to help the community. My belief is that the more information, more people have, the better we all are, so congrats Shane on a great job, I look forward to seeing this site grow in the future, it really is something special.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Vanity Table

In today's busy world it seems like a little bit of an outdated concept, but I am seeing a rise in popularity of the vanity table. I did the one above a few years ago, but it remains one of my favorites, it has a certain glamour that I find really appealing. Here are some thoughts to consider if you are planning one:
  • First thing is practicality! Make sure that there is plenty of light, if possible, some natural light but certainly lots of shadowless artificial light. You can achieve this by creating a light "triangle", light coming from above (recessed or ceiling light) and light from the side (sconces). That way you will ensure that there is even light over the face.
  • Have lots of counter space. I think about 48" is a minimum, otherwise it will start feeling crowded and unpleasant.
  • If at all possible a tiny sink is a great addition, just a place where you can rinse your fingers or dampen a sponge.
  • Find a good, solid upright chair. A dining chair is perfect. Don't succumb to the girly upholstered thing, that will leave you sitting too low and far away from the mirror.
  • Finally, lots and lots of storage. Try to keep as little as possible on the counter top, it will make it look fresher, and a more pleasant place to be. Also, lots of storage will help you keep everything well organised.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Slipcover that is Chic but not Shabby

A few years ago a store opened here in Santa Monica called "Shabby Chic" and it specialized in loose slip covered furniture and almost single handedly created a design genre. The look of loose white slipcovers were everywhere. Well I am pleased to say that the store is still going strong and it is still serving the market for which it was designed. I personally am not a fan of that look, it's a bit loose for me, but nonetheless I am thrilled that it has brought slipcovers back into the mainstream.

I like slipcovers to be much more tailored, like the one above. This was a chair that I did for a client years ago, for her bathroom. In fact, I found the chair sitting forlornly on the side of the road, so I threw in into the back of my car and took it straight to my upholsterer. Since it was for a bathroom, we decided that terry cloth was the ideal fabric, but since it was going to be sat in while wet etc, that we should make it a slipcover, so that it could be taken off and washed on a regular basis.

This, to me, is the key to using slipcovers. I think they are great for people with kids, who want the freedom to pull it off the sofa and throw it in the washing machine, or the other great reason is for people who may want to change their look from one season to another, a summer and a winter.

A couple of things to remember:

  • ALWAYS wash your fabric before getting the slipcover made.
  • When selecting a fabric go with a blend of natural and man made fibres, like a cotton/rayon. The natural fibre will allow it to breath and the man made fibres will keep it looking tidy.
  • When getting a fitted cover made, be sure to tell your upholsterer to keep his velcro ties in hidden spots, that way you can still have a great looking sofa when the cover is off.
  • The tighter, more tailored the fit on the cover, the more challenging it will be to get on and off, so you may want to garner some help and not try to tackle the job by yourself.
  • I like to use an inexpensive fabric to cover the sofa, under the slipcover, rather than just using ticking. It's a little more expensive, but gives you two sofa's for the price of one. Just be sure to use a heavy enough fabric on the cover, that you do not see the lining fabric bleed through.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Blogs.......Well They Are Not ALL New

It has been a while since I have updated my Blog Roll. so I thought that today i would list some Blogs that I have come across and like. In the name of full disclosure, most of these sites are taken from the Blog Rolls of all the Blogs that I read often, so thanks to them for all their hardwork and research.

This is Just a few.....I have a feeling I might be at this for a while, maybe i will do it as several posts.

5 Favorite Books: Design Icons

I was reading about John Saladino yesterday, and in his bio he mentioned Van Day Truex, and it got me thinking about some of the true (no pun intended) design Icons, people who, almost single-handedly created this profession. So today my book selections honor those folk. I hope that you enjoy the list, there probably are not a lot of surprises on it, but if there are books here you don't have they will be worthwhile additions to your collections.

Truex attended Parsons School of Design just after it's founding and went on to become it's President from 1942- 1952 as well as Director for Design at Tiffany's. His Interior Design clients included some of the most well known of the east-coast elite. This figure, known as much for his design talent as his social skill, is probably one of the most influential figures in Interior Design of the 20th Century. Its a great story from small town boy to Design Arbiter, and a perfect book for anyone looking for an insight into that world.

Yes, I know that Diana Vreeland was not an Interior Designer, but in her role as columnist for Bazaar and then Editor of Vogue, this dynamo of a woman has done more to educate people about design, and the value of taste, than almost anyone else. Her story of unrelenting standards and ability to spot and create trends, I found to be inspirational.

No list of Design Icons would be complete without Albert Hadley. Student and subsequently friend of Van Day Truex, also great friend of Billy Baldwin and then partner to Sister Parish, he has seen it all. This book has some great images, including the work he did for Mrs Vincent Astor and the Kennedy White House. I love also that it includes some of his sketches as well, so you can really see his design intent.

A great book about Maison Jansen, a French Design house. Working with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as well as the Shar of Iran, they created some of the most elegant interiors of the time. Lavishly illustrated, this book is great eye candy, and a terrific addition to any library.

I really like this book. When it first came out on Amazon, it did not get great reviews, people complained that most of the images are black and white, which is problematic since Drapers' work is all about color, but I think that misses the point. Her work captured the drama and spirit of the time, and while most of the projects are large scale homes or hotels, it makes for a terrific read especially for anyone interested in that period. I liked it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Voices of Design: Rob Sinclair

I have a great empathy for Architects, it is a unique profession, because it walks a fine line between artist, engineer and builder. I trained in architecture and worked for architects most of my life before seguing into Interior Design, so I have had the opportunity to get to know both vocations well. Today's Voice of Design, is an Architect with whom I have done several homes, and his work continues to get better and better. His ability to capture and create a sense of place, while working on large scale residences sets him apart, from a lot of his contemporaries. His work has been featured in many magazines, including Architectural Digest, but the humility and passion with which he approaches his work, has always been an inspiration to me, and he as acted as collegue, friend and mentor. I hope you enjoy his insights as much as I did. Also check out his website at: www.sinclairaia.com for many more examples of his work.
MC: Tell us a little bit about your background, where did you study? What other offices have you worked in etc…
RS: I grew up in Southern California…in the OC…the beach was my home and play yard.
I will be forever connected to it’s expanse and it’s ever changing atmosphere.

I stayed in California through the State College program….and attended Architecture School in San Luis Obispo.
I attended an extension program of the School of Architecture in Copenhagen Denmark in my final year.
and traveled extensively throughout Europe for the entire year….visiting all points of Architectural interest
from vernacular to modern vocabularies.

Upon my return to the States…my interest in Architecture changed from object orientated perspective
to a surrounding oriented perspective.
I was less inclined to design a singular object as architecture and focused on creating spaces outside and within
that captured an atmosphere…capturing the quality of the space …was my interest…this quality of space….
creates the movement so important to the occupants…..this movement is felt within.
This is my passion…..to move people.

This concept transpired in my time in Europe.
This transformation of a quantity and object based life and viewpoint to a quality based life.
Ones life is their work….they are one…..integrated.
MC: Have you always wanted to be an Architect?
RS: No…I was training my artistic skills through high school and the first years of college.
What started with drawing skills evolved into sculptural skills ….this lead me to architecture.
I loved Math and Art…..Architecture was a perfect balance of these two very different types of interest.
The analytical and intuitive combined to create a whole in my life as an Architect.
MC: One of the things that I think really defines your work is an easy, relaxed sense, it really captures vernacular architecture in its essence, how did this come about?
RS: Thank you….for this comment.
Well…that is who I am….. easy and relaxed….so it makes sense that these qualities are seen in my work in architecture.
Vernacular Architecture is random….a great word my teen age boys use….random.
Random is spontaneous, free, ever changing, additive……. Vernacular Architecture has life, mystery, diversity..

One works with the building masses….to form space created by the structures.…these non spaces are courtyards,
loggias, outdoor rooms, verandas, .these spaces are open to the air and sky, they cost very little to form.
…these spaces occur between the structures…
It is this space that unites the random nature of vernacular architecture of Italy, Spain and Greece.
This space is as important as the piece of architecture itself.

Vernacular Architecture has a simplicity, a purity and honesty in it’s use of materials and its form. They are one.
Simplicity, purity and honesty…are qualities that I try to live by.
MC:Do you find that most people who hire you have a realistic idea of what they are getting in for when they start?
RS: In the beginning…..I simply try to get to know my clients.
It is a start of a long relationship….a two to three year relationship through construction of their home….and beyond.
It is an awareness of where the client is in their understanding of this process and giving them the support that fits their needs.
Some clients have built many homes and others this will be their one and only.
Some clients want to be part of every decision and others want options to select from and others want us to surprise them.
Everyone is different….we customize the process to meet the needs of a client.
We want our clients to feel safe in this process
We like to make the process of building a home to be a joyful event.
In our mind, what could be more joyful than realizing your wishes and dreams with your home.
MC: I think that people are intimidated by architects, building a home seems like such a daunting task. When you begin a project, where do you start?
RS: We start by simply talking….about everything…. We drift in and out of home discussions.
It is a building of a friendship….we simply try to understand all aspects of a clients life.
This is usually done with about three to six hours of conversations…no set questions….
Just casual conversations.
We pay special attention to the first things mentioned about their house….these are usually their main concerns.
We write this conversation down….into a six to ten page program…..all their wishes, wants, types of rooms,
Feeling of each space….we find out what their favorite view is on their property and try to place their main viewing room in that location….
We talk a lot about natural light…the quality of light in each space….
The bottom line is we try to find this essence …..in our conversations….
This essence defines the clients and will also define their house.
MC: If you were not an architect what would you be?
RS: I still paint….I would be an artist.
All the qualities in the architecture we bring forth are also see in my art.
I have a very wide range of Artists that I admire.
All are working with light….and movement.
Raphael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Monet, Rothko, Kahn and Turrell
MC:Who were and are your greatest influences?
RS: My greatest influences comes from the work of Thoreau and Goethe.
In Architecture my greatest influences come from Alvar Aalto and his work in Finland
and the Minimalists.
The Minimalists, Luis Barragan, Peter Zumthor, Tadao Ando all work to
strip their architecture down to the purest form to capture a quality of feeling.
They minimize all aspects of a piece of architecture to capture the fullest
expression of a feeling….they work to move a viewers soul.

MC: And do you see any trends in design?

RS: The treads in design are toward the simple, the crisp, the unadorned,
Small is beautiful is back…with open spaces.
The social aspects in the flow of a house is very important to my clients.
How the family relates to each other in their house .
This quality of union and interaction is a very strong influence.

Sustainability and the health, the greenness, of a house is also becoming a strong need.
Houses that express serenity and calm are also becoming so important
in these times.
MC: Tell us about your favorite project, what makes it special to you?
RS: We are very lucky…..we have no favorites.
We have all wonderful clients, with exciting sites and programs
We are very excited with all or them…..they are all expressions of our clients lives….
and dreams.
MC: What projects do you have on the drawing board now that you are excited about?
RS: We are currently working in the hills of Belair overlooking the Belair CC.
on the water in Newport Harbor, in hills above Carmel overlooking the ocean,
in Santa Monica….on Adelaide Street overlooking the Santa Monica Canyon,
also we begin work in Cabo San Lucas on the top of hill in the Palmilla overlooking everything.
….and many more wonderful sites…in the hills and ocean sites in Orange County.
MC:20 years from now, looking back on your body of work, what would you hope to see?
RS: Integrity and Serenity.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Resource Day: A. Rudin

When I was a kid my mother used to tell me that the ability to spell is what separates us from the animals. Now that I am a bit older (and have mastered spellcheck), I beg to differ, I think it's the ability to appreciate good upholstery. There are a lot of elements that go into making that perfect piece and I find them all at A.Rudin, a national company, that is based in Los Angeles.

For further info about what to look for in upholstery, refer to my previous article "What Makes Upholstery Good?" http://markcutlerdesign.blogspot.com/2007/05/what-makes-upholstery-good.html.

But back to A. Rudin, this is a third generation company, that has a 120,000 sf factory in downtown Los Angeles. I was lucky enough to go to the factory a few months ago and it was amazing; clean, organised and it was astonishing to see the amount of product they are able to produce, at a quality that leaves most people scratching their heads.

The basics of a great piece are all addressed here, hand-tied, hand-tufted, kiln dried wood, it's even glued, doweled and screwed, these pieces are made to last. But good construction is only part of it, the designs too are classic and timeless. They have a Dining Chair (pictured above) that is a staple for me and one of the most comfortable chairs I use.

Aside from their standard designs, they will work with you on custom pieces, which is great for me as I always want to be tweaking something:).

Anyway, check out their website http://www.arudin.com/ I think you will become as great a fan as I have.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Make Your Guest Room Unique

It seems like that time of year, that guests are upon us, especially for people who love in areas, where there might be a beach, a Disneyland or a Theme Park. In the last few weeks alone, we have had visitors from as far west as Australia and as far east as Miami, and I think it's fair to say that you want to make their stay as comfortable and inviting as possible. One way to do this is to create a unique Guest Room, somewhere, where the minute they walk in they feel welcome and pampered.....here are a few thoughts:

  • Put in a feather bed. There are few things more luxurious than a feather bed, it's like sleeping on a cloud. I personally, am not a fan of sleeping on one every night, but as an occasional thing it really makes an impression.

  • Attend to the bed side table. Every bedside table should have things that the average traveller may need, fresh water, a good book, a local magazine that will give some ideas about what is going on in town, and a fresh piece or two of fruit.

  • A gift box is always a good idea too. Depending on your guest, a gift box tailored to them is a nice touch. Include basics that they may have forgotten to pack, toothpaste/brush, aspirin, tums etc, as well as a few luxury items, maybe a day pass to the gym, a voucher to the spa, or even a map of local hiking or jogging trails.

  • A guest book too, is always a fun addition, people love to hear about other peoples experiences, I can spend hours reading old guest books. In the image above, I used this chandelier as a guest book, a pile of vintage postcards is kept in the dresser and when a person stays, they write on the card and attach it to the chandelier, it's fun to read while lying in bed!

  • Keep your pets out of the room. Even if your Guests are not allergic, they may not be as excited as you to wake in the morning, looking Fido in the face, it's a small thing, but it will make a difference for your guests.

New Design Blogs

I am planning a post in the next week or so on New Design Blogs, there are so many new blogs out there, and some of them are terrific, I would love to highlight a few of the most notable, so if you come across any, please drop me a line. This applies especially to some of the more seasoned Bloggers, if you notice a few newbies, lets give them some attention. I am thinking any that have been around for about 3 months or less.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Monday is Answer Day: Economical Tile Solutions

Today's question comes from a reader who is about to embark on a bathroom remodel, and has become a little confused by all the tile options that are available. The other concern is cost. She doesn't have a big budget so is looking for ways to create the most impression for a modest outlay. Well I have a few ideas that you may want to try, that I think are both beautiful and economical solutions to the home remodel drama.

  • First thing to keep in mind is, if you are trying to operate on a tight budget, do not go for big splash, it will end up looking like you are over reaching. There is a lot that you can do with not a lot of money, but trying to look expensive is not one of them. So keep your color palette simple, and your design straight forward, you will come up with a much better end product.

  • Having said all that, e creative. In the bathroom I show above, budget was a big issue, so I found some of the least expensive colored tile that I could, then laid it out in the faux gingham design that you see. The unusual layout creates the interest that I wanted, without blowing the bank.

  • Another approach is to find a tile that you really like and use nothing else. It will keep the design simple and elegant, so don't be afraid of a monochromatic scheme, if you choose the correct tile it can be beautiful.

  • Try to go for a quiet, classic approach, avoid if possible strong colors, as they will date your room quickly, and you will grow tired of it.

  • If you are going to splurge anywhere in the Bathroom, spend the money on the faucets. The things that you touch every day will ultimately create a more pleasing effect, over time, the backgrounds will disappear to your eye, but every time you turn the faucet it will remind you of your great choice. I have written about one of my favorite companies on Resource Day a few weeks ago (http://markcutlerdesign.blogspot.com/2007/07/thursday-is-resource-day-california.html), you may want to check that out.

There is also another post I did on freshening up your Bathroom, that may be of help (http://markcutlerdesign.blogspot.com/2007/06/bathrooms-some-fresh-ideas.html).

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I got Tagged!

I was tagged last week by KitchAnn Style, one of my favorite Design Blogs. So I am a bit fuzzy about this, but I understand I am to post a few lists of things that you might know about me and then pay it forward to 4 other bloggers....so here we go:

4 Cities I have Lived In:

1. Brisbane

2.New York

3. London

4. Los Angeles

4 Favorite Interior Designers:

  1. Vicente Wolfe

  2. Jed Johnson

  3. John Saladino

  4. Albert Hadley

4 Favorite Movies

  1. Cabaret

  2. Pretty Woman

  3. Rudy

  4. Finding Nemo

4 Favorite Places to Visit:

  1. New York

  2. Paris

  3. Rome

  4. Sydney

4 Favorite Blogs:

5 Favorite Books: About Books

I love to read other design blogs and one of my favorites is Peak of Chic, they did a post earlier in the week about books as decoration (http://thepeakofchic.blogspot.com/2007/07/books-serve-as-decoration.html), and it has inspired my book post this week. As many of you know books are one of my great passions, and I use lots of them in my designs, so here are a few books that I thought you might enjoy, about the joy of books:

Friday, August 3, 2007

Voices of Design: Richard Johnson

As usual Friday's are my "Voices of Design" series, and today my interview is with Richard Johnson, I won't give much of a preamble about his background as he speaks about that in the interview, what I will say is that his company Aesthetic is one of my favorite collections by any furniture designer. His work is not yet widely available, but I think that in the years ahead he is set to become a design voice to be reckoned with. On a personal note, I enjoyed this interview because, quite simply he is a really great human being, whose spirit of curiosity and integrity make him a joy to be around, and someone for whom you only wish the best.

You can see his work on his web site: www.aestheticdecor.com

MC: In the period of a few short years you have established a line of decorative objects that is inspiring, how did you get your start?

RJ: My first job in this industry was with Charles Pollock Reproductions. The whole thing came about quite by chance. I was in a bit of a quandary as to the direction of my professional career. I had always wanted to be an architect, received my degree in architecture from USC in "88 and worked in the field for several years. I became disenchanted with the business reality of the profession and lack of design opportunities. I knew nothing about the furniture industry but heard that a very good furniture company needed someone to drawings for them and so I applied with the intention of just staying long enough until i could find the "right" design job. I fell in love with the business and stayed with Charles Pollock for 3 1/2 years. I went on to work with Dessin Fornier and Charles Fradin. I learned an enormous amount from all three companies and am very grateful for my time with them.

MC: It seems that a lot of your work has a very architectural sensibility to it, is this deliberate?

RJ: Well architecture is a passion of mine. Art and architectural history and their social relationships to the development of our cultures has always interested me. I feel that architecture gives us a window in which to view the lives of those it once housed. A sort of time machine. That mystery of identification and the personal association we each experience from the forms and spaces we see absolutely fascinates me and is one of the driving factors in my design process.

MC: How would you describe your design philosophy?

RJ:What I have tried to do with my accessory line is to use elements of architectural styles to create forms rather than decorate objects. I am drawn to history for reference because I believe it helps identify the object with the viewers collective memory. By abstracting on these styles or designing "in the style of" my architectural heroes I am then able to create a piece which is rich in reference but very much of the moment, non specific and transitional.

MC: What do you regard as your greatest influences? And where do you get your inspiration?

RJ: My architectural schooling and encompassing world travel are my greatest influence. My inspiration comes from the patterns and spaces these images create in my head.

MC: How do you see your collection evolving?

RJ: I see it evolving in two directions. It has been said that "God is in the details" and it is in these details of design, be it from stylistic elements or organic nature that I really thrive. But I also now recognize the desire for simplicity. I am now working on some pieces which I believe will reach a broader audience. I will continue to create unique pieces that I am passionate about, but am also looking to add a collection which more people may understand.

MC: What do you think are the greatest challenges that an aspiring furniture designer faces?

RJ: Staying true to your individuality. After I left my last job I took two years to create my original collection. During this time I struggled with my likes verses consumer taste. I was afraid that my designs were too weird and my thought process too complicated. At the time Mid Century and Forties glamor were the style du jour and I was nothing like that. My best friend told me that you have to design what you are passionate about, not what you think might sell. Only then can you create a real piece of art.

MC: If you couldn’t do this for a living what would you choose to be?

RJ: I feel I didn't really choose this path but instead happened upon it. I don't know if this is where I will stay or if I will evolve towards a new focus. I believe that whatever profession I would choose must be centered on the creation of something. Be it object, space or landscape.

MC: What is the favorite piece of furniture that you own and why?

RJ: One of the first pieces of furniture I bought after college was this rather quirky English Arts and Crafts wardrobe. It has a magical quality about it with it's English sensibility and Asian and Tudor influences. It captured my imagination and thus began my interest in furniture design.

MC: What are you working on now, that you are excited about?

RJ: I am working on a small collection inspired by the turned English rural furniture of the seventeenth century which employed woven rush seats and turned wooden members resembling bobbins. This was done to make the furniture less massive and latter evolved into a decorative style during the English Arts and Crafts. I have used a country side chair for reference but have reinterpreted its features to create a series of pieces which are simpler, less stylized and more contemporary for today.

MC: In 20 years from now, looking back on your collection, what would you like to see?

RJ: Evolution, integrity and wonder.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day: Quadrus Studio

Once again, I love Thursday's I get to go on and on about another resource that I love. Today is no different, well maybe just a little. Today's resource is Quadrus Studio (www.quadrusstudio.com) and the two guys who run this are people that I have admired from afar for many years. Between them, they have worked for some of the finest furniture designers and manufacturers that there are, and several years ago they finally went out on their own, and developed their own line of exquisite reproduction furniture.
Both Jack and Jimmy, have a great eye for scale and an unrelenting desire for quality, so the pieces that they produce are the heirlooms of the future, but still feel fresh and relevant for today.
All of their pieces are produced in Southern California, which has one of the densest pools of talent in the United States, you are able to achieve here a quality of product at a price that leaves people on the east coast scratching their head with envy.
I have had a variety of things made from them, both large and small, but every piece has come out perfectly. Recently I had a large cabinet made, that was a bit over sized, that I wanted based on an antique, the end product was scaled perfectly and the client was thrilled, it doesn't get any better than that!
So you should take a look at their website, it's well put together, and you can see their work in person at showrooms around the country, I hope you enjoy their work as much as I do.

Thrilled to Announce: Design Talk

First of all I have to apologise to my friends over at Design Talk. At the end of last week they posted an interview that I did with them, and in the rush of the last few days, I had completely forgotten to mention it. For anyone who is interested in knowing a bit more about the way I tick, you should check it out, here is the link:
For the rest of you with even just a passing interest in Design, you should also check out their website. I love this site because they always have interesting things to say, and they have a lot of Guest Bloggers who come and give some great advice on a variety of subjects that are their specialty, such as Kitchen Design etc.
So thanks to everyone over at Design Talk, for all your support, and I hope you will all go over and check out whats going on over there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Before and After: Fireplace

I don't do a lot of Before and After posts, and I am thinking that I will try and do more. I like them because a lot of what I do as a designer is really pretty simple, it just relies on a good idea that is well implemented, and I think today's posting is a prime example of that.
This is a house that I worked on in Montecito, in Southern California. It had been renovated once before, only a few years ago, but the fireplace in the Family Room, still felt a little bland to me. It's a big room that required something of this scale, but all the plain drywall felt like a missed opportunity. I suggested that we case the top part in a nice stained wood and revisit all the bleached wood that was there already. Ultimately we stained the travertine a little as well, so that it would look a bit richer, but that's just me being a little obsessive. But I think the overall effect was terrific, and I am very happy with the results.
Here are some things to consider when starting a renovation of a room:
  • Look around and try to determine the things that you like about the room. Whether it's the scale of the windows, the fireplace or even just the shape of the room.
  • Once you have determined what you like, you need to find ways of accentuating that, whether its covering it in wood, painting it a color, facing the furniture arrangement to see it etc.
  • On the other hand, determine what you do not like about the room, then do what you can to disguise it. Poorly proportioned windows can be helped by window treatments, color on the walls can really change the way you feel about a space. The same can be said about lighting.
  • Do not go overboard, a few simple changes is often all you need to bring a space to life.
  • Take your time, if at all possible do not rush in and start pulling things out. It took a couple of weeks to really work out what to do with this place, the first few ideas got presented then changed, and i think the design is better for it.

The important thing, is have fun with your room, and remember to play up the strengths, you will be amazed the changes you can make.