Abstract Art in Traditional Interiors, Part 1

When I designed the living room of the 2007 ASO Show House in Lafayette, Louisiana, I was still living in New York full-time and only occasionally in Louisiana. When the show house opened and ladies would come through the room, no one knew who I was or what I looked like. I was often engaged in conversation with someone so those just entering the space assumed I was another person touring the house. I would hear ooh's and aaah's over the beautiful antiques (on loan from Au Vieux Paris Antiques, one of Louisiana's finest antique dealers) and "isn't that a nice sofa?" ( a classic Bridgewater Arm Hickory Chair sofa on loan from Albarado's it was, in fact, a very nice sofa), but then I would hear, "I can't stand all of this abstract art", and "well, this is all very nice but the art is awful." It was unbearable for me! When I, a New York interior designer, accepted the task of designing the living room, the focal point of the house, I decided that I would furnish the room locally so as to make folks feel the room was attainable, within reach, and possible for them to have similar style and beauty in their own Louisiana homes. In addition to Au Vieux Paris Antiques and Albarado's, I was fortunate to have Grand Contemporary Gallery (now closed) as a resource for art. At the time, Yvette Owens, George Marks, and Helaine Moyse were some of my favorite Louisiana artists and Jennifer Grand represented all three. I was thrilled and very excited to be able to pull together a space using the elements of design that I had always used, what I had learned in my employment with Eric Cohler, Edwin Jackson, and Hinson & Company, what I knew to be true: juxtaposition is what gives energy to a room, excitement to a space, and is always necessary for any room to "sing".

Of course, this is no new theory or design concept and has been in place in the best interiors for decades, centuries even, but I guess I was a bit ahead of my time in Lafayette. I remember having decorators ask me, "what style would you call this?". Choking back laughter, I would say traditional and see utter confusion all over their face. In the end, designing the room in the above two photos paid off for me. House and Home featured the room on the cover and again a year later and, moreover, I was hired by a most wonderful client to do one of the largest projects I've ever done.
I am forever grateful to Eric Cohler and Jane Supino (son, mother) for teaching me so much of what I know about art. Both big collectors, Cohler and Supino educated me about artists, how to collect, and the greatest gift of all: how to mix seemingly disparate types of art in a cohesive, wonderful way. After I left Eric Cohler Design and was working at Hinson & Company, I was hired by Eric and Ms. Supino to serve as project manager and fabric / wall covering shopper/coordinator for the large-scale project of renovating and furnishing Ms. Supino's new Park Avenue apartment. This project was thrilling for me. I loved the client, loved the space, loved everything Ms. Supino already owned that would move into this apartment, and had a ball selecting all of the fabrics, wall coverings, new furniture. I had no idea that along the way, the client would teach me so much and that this project was a major stepping stone in my career and where I am today.

Traditional Home (note the word Traditional even though you see major abstract paintings in the photo by Colleen Duffley) published the apartment. The living room sums up the entire apartment and I consider this project a great success and one I always remember as a turning point in who I am as a designer and art consultant.

Why all of this reflection on past projects? The room seen below stopped me in my tracks. I think it is one of the most beautiful living rooms I've ever seen. Suzanne Rheinstein, New Orleans native, is the Los Angeles based designer who created this elegant and serene space featured in the May issue of House Beautiful. Rheinstein's rooms are always beautiful and I consider her one of America's top designers. I have seen many of Rheinstein's projects published but never with a bold, graphic, intense abstract painting like the incredible Carolyn Carr piece above the sofa in this room of a New York apartment. One word: FABULOUS!
photo by Francois Dischinger, May 2012 issue of House Beautiful
And then, oh and then, the August issue of Architectural Digest arrived in the mail on Saturday. As I thumbed through it just to see what awaited me when I have time to sit down and read the magazine in its entirety, the latest brilliance of Thomas Jayne (New York designer with a pied-a-terre in New Orleans) was revealed. And boy is it brilliant. Philadelphia clients with an amazing (Warhol, Jasper Johns, Ruscha, Lichtenstein, Twombly, Kline--just to name a few) collection of art received the perfection of Thomas Jayne's masterful work in this dining room:

photos by Roger Davies--badly scanned on my scanner from August 2012 issue of Architectural Digest

First of all, the antiques are about as fine as fine can be. A "late-Georgian dining table" and "suite of Empire chairs" and a Regency console table are included. By the way, note that the green fabric used on dining chairs in the Thomas Jayne project is the same Cowtan & Tout fabric that we used in neutral on Ms. Supino's sofa. The Gracie wallpaper? STUNNING! But it gets better...the clients have a "Cy Twombly 'Blackboard' painting and a small geometric Franz Kline that play off the hand-painted Gracie scenic wallpaper" and "a classic Kline abstraction makes a strong statement paired with a Regency table and a Han-dynasty ceramic bull."

To say that I can't stop looking at the entire feature in Architectural Digest would be a joke. It is on my desk and I keep going back to it for inspiration. None of my clients have art of this caliber but that doesn't mean I can't achieve the same great success as I build collections for them. Thank you Suzanne and Thomas for showing the world that a fine, classic, traditional room should have a shot in the arm of abstraction to make it all work.
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