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.”

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.”

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.”

Etienne Coffinier & Ed Ku: On Floor Plans

“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.”

Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz: On Perspective

“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.

All that’s required is a shift in perspective.”

Stephen Sills: On Aspiration

“I want a project to be as great as it can possibly be, and I really work to push the client to attain quality. Things needn’t be expensive, but materials must exude honesty. They must be a true representation of what the client wants, whether a simple basket or a gilded bronze statue. Honesty in materials and purity of objects is very important.

Aspiration, when it succeeds, promises the client something beyond good taste. It invests the daily tasks of decoration with meaning, pleasure, and vision, elevating interior decoration to the place of high art it deserves.”