This cold, snowy winter has given me time to reflect on my practice and my relationship with you, my clients and collaborators. Articulating what goes on – in the design process, in my head, in the give-and-take with my clients, and with the objects, colors and textures in the world around us — is what Details for Living is about. I hope to capture these impressions from time to time and share them, giving you I hope a deeper understanding of the role design plays – not just in my life, but in your lives as well.
This is the cover from the new book Asian Influenced Architecture and Design, by E. Ashley Rooney. I contributed a project and was delighted and honored when Ashley asked me to also write the foreword. Here is some of what I wrote:
“It is impossible to understate the influence of the Asian aesthetic on our Western culture. As a designer, the Asian influences on noted architects and furniture designers such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and Greene and Greene were lessons I learned and absorbed. Wright’s decision to open up the space within the interiors, blending rooms together, and yet, through the placement of furniture, define a space within a space is legendary. Greene and Greene’s sensitive, curved furniture and their use of the horizontal line evokes the Asian sensibility. The simplicity of Shaker furniture and the “form following function” characteristic of Stickley furniture are found in similar Asian furniture. These ideas were imprinted early on and were, at that time, the Western interpretation of Asian design.”
My project’s challenge was “to incorporate elements from the client’s life in Asia and their furnishings from previous projects into a cohesive, modern, clean, comfortable New York apartment high in the sky. The shoji screens provide a clean, simple backdrop for the client’s furniture and artwork, and also provide a means to protect the interiors and artwork. They also give the wonderful ability to create differing night and day views of the city depending on their position. A unique environment is also created on a stormy cloudy day, when one is suspended above the clouds, not seeing anything below, a true Zen feeling.
Upon entering the wide foyer it is immediately apparent that this space was meant to be an art gallery. Asian inspired grass cloth on all the walls unifies the entire apartment, along with a Japanese art hanging system that allows for the ease of change in the art without disturbing the walls. The chest in the foyer is a Japanese Tonsu from the late 19th – early 20th century.
The shoji screens in the living room are positioned to allow a magnificent view of the city. Ming Dynasty Huanghauli wood horseshoe armchairs are wed to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired coffee table I designed especially for this client. As Wright was inspired by the Asian aesthetic, this style was easily incorporated into the new apartment. The sofas are deliberately clean and simple in style. The low back doublewide wing back chair was also custom-designed by me. It is traditional in feel, with fun, ethnic fabric that neatly incorporates itself into the new environment. The Zitan wood desk is from the late Ching period.
Not only is the dining room Asian-inspired, but you can see how the Asian aesthetic has been incorporated into a New York City interior. The shoji screens can be moved to change one’s view of the expanse of New York City’s lights, the urban equivalent to a garden. Shoji screens in Japan typically open to a real garden, bringing the outside in. The idea of a room within a room has been achieved through the use of an area rug and Mackintosh’s high back chairs. The high backs of the chairs achieve the feeling of low walls around the table, creating an intimate environment within the large room. The three-panel room screen is mounted onto a wall as a piece of art. The art mounted on the back wall has the repetition of form found in Asian design.”
Many thanks to Ashley for her kind permission to use excerpts from her book in this post. E. Ashley Rooney, Asian Influenced Architecture and Design. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2010
I’d like to keep this short and sweet, so if you are interested in learning more, the book is available on Amazon.com
I hope you enjoyed reading my first-ever blog post, Charlene