“When I was a young designer, every photo shoot with my mentor, Joseph D’Urso, was a master class in the art of framing a view. Photography, as he saw it, should aim beyond merely documenting the appearance of a finished work: “Construct an image to relive the intentions that moved you to make it.” Joe had me peer through the camera lens and study Polaroid test shots, a must in those pre-digital days, to gauge how even the subtlest rearrangement of objects within a specific field of vision—“An inch more table here . . . less water in that vase”—can reveal powerful relationships within a room.
“The eye, I learned, has emotions, but the hand needs a steady frame of reference if it is to communicate intensely personal feelings and elicit a response from others. “Frame of mind,” as Joe taught me, can be far more than a figure of speech. This was a lesson that, centuries earlier, an artist like Johannes Vermeer might have conveyed to his pupil through the mirrored microcosm of a camera obscura.”
“When I think of scale in relationship to architecture, Le Corbusier comes instantly to mind. He relates the size of the human body to the scale of a room, and, in turn, to the architecture of a building. The greatest buildings I have visited are always predicated on notions of beauty based on proportion and scale. For instance, the library by Erik Gunnar Ashland in Stockholm poses a beautiful relationship between human function and its relation to its environment, with classical orders simplified to reflect modern-day use, such as open shelving to facilitate readers’ access to books.
The best rooms I have encountered are those that read simply. This is not to say that they are empty, but that the furniture bears a very exact proportion to the total scale of the space. One element always complements the other; there is a fine balance between them that works like a well-choreographed ballet.
A good room or building is like a symphony, with all the parts combining to make a harmonious sound to the ear.”
I’m thrilled to be able to share that I’ve signed on to produce and edit my second book for Rizzoli New York – Garden Design Master Class — due out in the spring of 2019.
Utilizing the format I established while creating Interior Design Master Class, the new book will feature 100 established garden and landscape designers, with each examining one specific subject. They will explore a wide range of concepts, including scale, pathways, perennials, water, evergreens, sunlight, roses, blue, stone, sculpture, and borders, to name just a few.
It’s my hope that this new volume will be every bit as successful as IDMC, filled with both instruction and inspiration for gardeners of every persuasion – from the novice to the enthusiast to the practicing professional.
And so for now, with less than 2 years until the book’s release, I should get to work!
“Light, air, scale, and proportion constitute the mathematics that make an object work or not work. The perfect silhouette must appear effortless, even though it is the result of equal parts calculation and inspiration.
The designer must be minutely attuned—with the eye of an artist—to the interplay of the outlines and negative space created by the arrangement of furniture and objects in a room. Silhouettes are a visual, often sculptural, language that, like Vermeer’s interiors, invest rooms with drama, poetry, and artistic meaning surpassing mere function.”
“The ergonomics and limitations of our body aren’t changing anytime soon, but the design to fit them always is. While the “a chair is a chair is a chair” mantra still holds, the proportions of ideal delight have changed over the eons. This is due to cultural adaptations and the advances of material science, but also an inquisitive personal need to explore new forms of design that lend comfort and meaning to our evolving world.
Note that in ancient design, individual furniture pieces held much more meaning; each object was usually created for a simple and unique purpose. In the modern context, furniture plays a more ensemble role, and its individual importance has been relegated to serving the whole. One might call this the socialism of design. Fine proportion and certain meaning have given way to a living utility where each piece of furniture may and must have a dual purpose, must be more durable, shippable, and adaptable to many different design possibilities.”
“In our work, we may start a project with an underlying ideal, yet never a hard-and-fast one. Like cooks, designers allow their ideas to evolve as they work. There is absolutely an element of chance to both pursuits.
For a chef, the discovery of a particularly wonderful, seasonal ingredient from the farmers’ market may inspire an entire menu. The designer, like the chef, must be consumed by the beauty of materials, found or invented, “raw” or “cooked,” analogous to the ingredients in a recipe.”
“Architectural space consists, if nothing else, of continuous portals. The construction of interior space depends as much on the transparency of its portal as on the opaqueness of its walls and the closure of its ceiling.
When looking into a doorway, window, mirror, or painting or past a proscenium wall, we encounter an opening not only of light and space, but also of imagination. We are looking into another world, a world that stakes a claim on our attention in the same way that we lose ourselves to the drama on a movie screen.”
“The Japanese impact on Western architectureis well known. Early visitors to Japan such as Frank Lloyd Wright were much influenced by the rectilinear, undecorated style of Japanese buildings. This, in turn, spread to the Bauhaus, which rejected over-decoration and espoused the Mies van der Rohe philosophy of “Less is more.” Likewise, in interior design, the spare interiors of a traditional Japanese tearoom had a huge influence on the new postwar minimalism.
I am hardly a minimalist, yet the three cornerstones of Japanese design—kazari, wabi-sabi, and shibui—are everywhere in my work. Striking a balance between these concepts is my ultimate goal.”
“When we begin a floor plan, we picture ourselves walking through the space as if we were the client. We imagine living how they told us they would like to live with the objects they have or will have. We try to think and articulate their actions: Here you enter your apartment and find your mail in a tray on the console. This is where you can put your dripping umbrella. Here is a bench where you can sit and take your shoes off. Here is the mirror where you can check that your tie is knotted correctly.
This process continues throughout the entire home as we try to anticipate the various parts of their lives. Every good floor plan contains life, and you should feel a flow from room to room and from floor to floor.”
“In interior design, the happy marriage between architecture and decorating, the way you look at things makes a big difference between a pleasant solution and a transformative one.
For example, if you’re going to watch TV in the living room and possibly fall asleep, why not put a bed in there? Or if you watch TV in your bedroom with all your children and friends, why not design an eight foot-wide mattress that can allow everyone to view your programming comfortably? Even more radically, why not make the entire room a bed? If we forget the labels and functions that we apply to rooms (and the furnishings that typically inhabit them), our interiors become more exciting and appropriate.