This will be the 3rd year Sally and I will have participated in the Wenham Museum’s Spring Design Show. Each designer is given a 10’ x 10’ space to work with, so it’s like doing a mini Decorator’s Show House. It’s a great way for us to support the museum. In return, we have an opportunity to flex our design muscles, with the only restraint being our imagination. The past two years, we’ve done rather contemporary spaces to demonstrate that we can work within that medium.
This year, we decided to design a space that says, “This is Wilson Kelsey Design’s Style.” The vignette will be quite unapologetic about who we are.
We have been given the prime location at the entry to the show house gallery, a space that is about 10’ x 15’. As you enter the gallery, the 10’ wall is directly in front of you and the longer wall is on its right. I thought it would be fun to share my idea sketches and thought processes as I developed and finalized the design concept for our space. As you look at the sketches, it will become very clear that we love older things, yet we like to blend them with newer pieces and styles. You will sense we look to Europe for much of our inspiration. Ironically, we are searching for the adjectives that describe our style and who we are. It is not Old World or Belgian or French, but you can see and feel their influence. Nor is it Modern, even though we use several modern pieces of furniture in the design. We do know that it is not the quintessential New England look you see in any of the regional magazines. We feel that there’s an international flavor to our style.
We’re very interested in hearing how you see us. After looking at these sketches, reading my thoughts and knowing the kinds of posts we do, what would you call our style? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Let’s start with the floor plan. The gallery entry is on the right.
We envisioned our space as an intimate, friendly sitting area – part of a much larger home. Think Saladinio’s Villa. Facing the linen slip covered sofa that is tucked in the niche at the top of teh plan are two fully upholstered chairs, fairly modern and tailored. To their right, is a small open pull up chair – old, with character, but not Colonial. Painted or natural wood is unclear right now…But I think it will end up being wood. The coffee table will be modern. I am designing a table with a sleek wood top and a hand wrought iron modern base. In the niche to the left of the seating area will be an antique side board – maybe Elizabethan in influence, bracketed by two tall topiaries. Gardenia in bloom, if we can find them. Two floor lamps of my design stand by the sofa, fabricated by the same blacksmith shop that will be making the table base. There is a small niche to the right of the sofa that is part of our space. While it is somewhat of an accessory to the seating group, we will need to design a solution that visually contains our vignette. In addition, it falls on the other major axis of the gallery space, which means it too needs to be a focal point… Flooring will be a natural sisal weave with a neutral area rug on top, anchoring the seating group.
The stage is set. Here we go…
Scheme A – I will always start with the short wall, (see above) which is what you first see when you enter the gallery. That’s our major impact wall. There are three keys to this wall, the artwork, the topiaries and the side board and how they relate to each other as a focal point and act as an anchor for the vignette. Get this right and we pull people right into the gallery and our vignette. The side board works great, as do the topiaries. My idea of botanical prints, brings too much green into the elevation and flattens it out. Not enough strength in the artwork and there is no energy. Maybe the grouping of four is too busy?
The long wall with its small sofa (Actually a recamier covered with a slip cover and big pillows for a back.) is grounded by two antique French oak doors propped up against the wall. I love how that arrangement has great visual strength in its simplicity while giving lift to the space. This gave me clue for my next go at the short wall. Or so I thought…
The small niche, with its rustic bookcase, needs to help terminate and contain our design. I did this by repeating the topiary and artwork, but at a scale that is suited to the niche. There was something about the niche that wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t immediately put my finger on it.
With these thoughts in mind, I laid out Scheme B. I thought by shifted the doors to the short wall lift and strength could be achieved. However, the doors by themselves weren’t visually strong enough to pull you into the space. Yet, when I put artwork on the doors the inherent beauty of the doors was lost. This was not working…
That feeling continued as I looked at the long elevation. The sofa felt weak and ungrounded without the doors. The four pieces of art weren’t strong enough by themselves to hold that elevation together. I did like the niche in this scheme, especially shifting the topiary to the right side and I liked the added height of the bookcase.
With Scheme C, knowing that I needed to put the doors back behind the sofa (That just works!), I felt I needed see to see something that was as wide as the side board and that went to the ceiling above the sideboard on the short elevation in order to achieve the lift and visual strength I was looking for. It was to no avail. The relationship between the two large niches became static. You need more tension/contrast there. There was no “conversation” going on back and forth across the space.
On an up note, with the sofa niche’s large scale issues settled, Sally wanted to see how the recamier’s wood arms expressed and what adding colored pillows would feel. We liked the wood arms, but felt all that horizontal color was a bit much. Color may offer the clue for resolving the other large niche.
I could now reach across to the small niche with colors from the sofa, integrating it into the overall design. But as I looked at this sketch, the niche felt too crowded with the tall bookcase. Back to the short one…
As I began to sketch Scheme D, I felt pretty good. I knew the answer to my focal point niche. Put the four square tightly grouped paintings back over the side board – full of color. (They may work better if they are modern.) With this composition of topiary, side board and paints, I had the strong focal point I needed to draw people into our vignette as they entered the gallery. We will need to sort out accessories for below the side board and the color/texture of the topiary containers in the future.
In the sofa niche, I needed to address too much color. I sketched in a long single “body” pillow and a couple small toss pillows. Nice, calm and quiet. The entire sketch felt serene, which apparently was on my unspoken and unconscious agenda. The toss pillows will bring color intoto this elevation and enable me reach across to the small niche. If Sally and I do this right, there will be a glorious sweep of color around the entire vignette, becoming the fabric that ties it all together.
The lower bookcase and the two pieces of art above better definitely are a better solution. Being able to bring color up on the wall, repeating in a smaller scale, the same theme from the focal point wall is terrific. The verticality is much better, giving the niche lift. We now have consistency from niche to niche and the ceiling and soffits won’t feel like they are sagging visually. (I’m beginning to see milk paint as the paint of choice inside the niches to add subtle luster and texture.) I accidentally drew the small topiary on the left side. It now is a perfect reminder why it really, really does belong on the right side. The niche now truly contains the vignette and is strong enough to be a focal point for the rooms other axis.
Now that you’ve seen and read about our vignette design concept, how would you describe our style? Sally and I would love to hear your thoughts.