Sal LaRosa: On Framing

A doorway focuses the solid geometry of an interior view while measuring the path of ephemeral sunlight overhead. The tall, narrow portal tapers to amplify the depth of a wall and the drama of penetrating its mass. When empty, the frame conjures up the sense of an invisible human body passing through. Photo credit Scott Frances

“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.”

Windsor Smith: On Communication

A careful balance between antique and modern furnishings is found in this room, which is anchored by a large table topped with books and a mirrored globe. The corners of the room are places for the occupants to retreat for intimate conversations, and the herringbone parquet floors, which lend purposeful symmetry, were reclaimed from a seventeenth century château in Lyon, France. Photo credit Luca Trovato

Instant messaging, urgent e-mails, video chats, and online streaming mean that the devices designed to bring us together are also pushing us further apart. I realized some time ago that the only way I could make clients with demanding lifestyles truly happy at home is to evolve my work to this shiftier new landscape of starts and stops. The flow I need to focus on building is the everyday flow of conversation.

Somehow, I need to find tangible ways to put emotion and connectivity into the DNA of rooms I was previously consumed with making beautiful. I had to draw people deeper than the next room. My job was now to inspire clients to express themselves and communicate in a deeper way within their walls.”

International Window Covering Expo 2017

Will you be attending the IWCE this year in Charlotte? Please join me for my keynote address on March 8th where I’ll be talking about my experiences producing and editing Interior Design Master Class from Rizzoli New York.

I’ll be sharing ideas on crafting compelling content – both for analog and digital platforms — and will be talking about a few of the exceptionally written essays in the book. I look forward to seeing you there!

Juan Montoya: On Scale

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.”

Garden Design Master Class

Garden Design Master Class
Madison Square Park, Spring 2017

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 fall of 2018.

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!

 

Jayne and Joan Michaels: On Silhouette

A Ward Bennett sofa, a pair of upholstered chairs by Kerstin Hörlin-Holmquist from the 1950s, side chairs by Tomlinson from the 1960s, and a daybed by Carl Malmsten have streamlined silhouettes that harmonize perfectly in the living room of this Greenwich Village, New York, apartment. The artwork above the sofa is by Timothy Paul Myers. Photo courtesy Eric Laignel

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.”

Campion Platt: On Proportion

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.”

Carl D’Aquino & Francine Monaco: On Food

Interior design by D’Aquino Monaco Photo courtesy Michael J Lee

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.”

Richard Mishaan: On Portals

“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.”

Ellie Cullman: On Japonism

Interior Design Ellie Cullman — Photo Credit Eric Piasecki/Otto Archive

“The Japanese impact on Western architecture is 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—kazariwabi-sabi, and shibui—are everywhere in my  work. Striking a balance between these concepts is my ultimate goal.”