Friday, March 23, 2012

A Day Of Design

I love design books and read them all the time.  I also enjoy looking at other people's homes.  If I could pick a dream career, it might be as an interior designer.  The idea of helping someone create a "home" and encouraging them to let it be a reflection of who they are is very appealing.  A home should highlight the owner's books, art, travel, souvenirs and family heirlooms.  I have often heard designers say that the most inviting homes are a personal narrative of the way people live.

Recently I read in "House Beautiful" that its editor in chief Newell Turner was coming to Los Angeles for something called West Week and that it was happening at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.  I was curious about this design event and coincidentally a friend sent me some information about it and asked if I would like to go to one of the lectures.  I began to gather some information about what this was and discovered that it was a series of design lectures by some fabulous interior designers at the Pacific Design Center.  And it was open to the public.  I looked forward to gathering some decorating advice for my own home as well as creative ideas in general.   I happily said "yes" and so began our "design" adventure, a day of inspiring thoughts and images.

We got to the Pacific Design Center a little early and enjoyed walking around this incredible building which is an architectural gem.  It is bursting with showrooms filled with fabrics, rugs, antiques, furniture and anything you would need to furnish a home.

The lecture was called "Take Five:  Four Designers Talk About Influence, Fantasy, and How To Stay Inspired."  I loved the sound of this one.  Isn't this what we all want to know about -- creative influence, fantasy, and inspiration?  We would be hearing a panel discussion with Charlotte Moss, Suzanne Kastler, David Netto, and Gaye Tapp, four of the best interior designers working today.  They would be talking about exciting room designs, beautiful places, and brilliant mentors that have influenced their work. We would be seeing slides of the places and people they were talking about. These four designers share a passion for design.  I couldn't write fast enough to take down all the interesting thoughts they shared with us.

Here are some of the gems that were being tossed around the room by these four luminaries in the field of interior design:

They were asked about the five most exciting rooms they have ever seen --  

David Netto's choices included Harry's Bar in London because of its gorgeous salmon color and wonderful lighting which add up to an inimitable atmosphere, which David said was the most important aspect of a successful room.
Gaye Tapp (who also writes the blog Little Augury) picked a bedroom by Nancy Lancaster  because it is so quirky and truly reflects the person who inhabits it, and the idea of finding a room you can call your own.  She believes that everyone is looking for "a room of one's own."

Charlotte Moss picked Monticello as one of her inspirations, also citing University of Virginia, both of which were designed by Thomas Jefferson.  She noted that Jefferson was a gardener and she will never forget the first time she saw the serpentine brick walls of the gardens at University of Virginia and smelled the boxwood.  Jefferson's architectural and gardening achievements demonstrated great attention to detail, which is one of the hallmarks of Charlotte Moss' design style. 

Suzanne Kastler chose the restaurant at the Ritz Hotel in Paris as one of her favorites.  She showed us a photo of this space which features a tree in the middle of the room.  She borrowed that concept and used it in the barn at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.  Travel is one of the most important sources of inspiration for all of these designers, and they incorporate ideas from their travels into the homes they design.  I also loved Suzanne's philosophy of decorating:  "A room should be collected not decorated."

They also talked about the people who have provided inspiration for their design style as well as inspiration for their lives.  The list was far-reaching --

David Netto talked about his godfather Alan Campbell, who was a fabric designer and provided artistic influence.  He also cited Gregory Peck for his sartorial elegance and moral integrity and the diarist James Boswell for his zest for life.

Gaye Tapp cited Virginia Woolf and her concept of creating a "room of one's own" as a huge influence.  Gaye reads a lot and is a student of cultural and literary history and finds her inspiration in books.  If you read her blog you will know what I mean, there is the spirit of the scholar about it.

Charlotte Moss is inspired by Bill Blass, a great raconteur and Diana Vreeland whose ferocity of spirit lends itself to great style.  She talked about the importance of books in a house and how they add such an important dimension to every room.

Suzanne Kastler has found inspiration in her parents who taught her to never lose her spirit no matter how tough things become.  She also admires the designer John Saladino who makes history fresh in his interior designs. 
It all comes down to inspiration and being receptive to it.  These designers recommended relaxing, carving out some time for yourself, loving life, not having an agenda and just going out and letting the inspiration come to you.  They all believe in the intangibles of home design:  a feeling of joy, atmosphere, patina, and a home that feels well-loved and lived in. These are the intangibles that add up to a beautiful home and these are the ideas we took home with us.

I left feeling inspired and enlightened, realizing that there is nothing more appealing than hearing how  professional designers, or any creative souls for that matter, have turned their passion into careers.  They  keep it fresh by being receptive to ongoing inspiration and staying curious and interested in life.     


  1. Thanks for sharing the fruits of these lectures, Sunday. My favorite is Suzanne Kastler's "A room should be collected, not decorated." We've all seen rooms that are merely decorated: they look dead-on-arrival compared to their more authentic counterparts.

  2. Connie, I couldn't agree with you more. That sentence was one of my favorites in the whole lecture. There is something so appealing about a room that looks lived in and loved. Those rooms have an ambiance that is warm and inviting.

  3. Sunday, Connie actually commented exactly what I was thinking. The statement "a room should be collected...". How refreshing after several years of what I call "cold" decorating. It sounds like a wonderful outing. I wonder if there are transcripts. Hugs, Bonnie

  4. Sunday, I was an interior designer for about 25 years, and had a successful business. It is however, one of those jobs (like many others) that seems more fun and glamorous, than it actually is. It's very hard work, and you have to be ready to be psychologist as well. I worked close to 70 hours a week - exhausting.
    I completely agree that a room should be "collected, not decorated" - but in actuality, the client has to have the "things" to help make that work. Otherwise, I would work very hard to make it appear "collected", which was fine, but of course incredibly time consuming.
    I still love doing my own home, and working, or helping friends with theirs, but I would never want to do it for a living again.

  5. Kathy, I can definitely see the problems that would come with this career. I know several decorators and I hear from them how exhausting and frustrating it can be. But I have also seen their work and I know they are satisfied to see the finished product when it turns out well. Being such a homebody myself, I enjoy reading about designers and getting ideas for decorating my own house. Which was why this lecture was so incredibly inspiring. I had no idea you had been a decorator, but it makes sense considering your artistic sensibility. You will have so much fun decorating your new home, but I'm not surprised to know you are relieved not to be doing it for a living!

    1. It's very true, when the home is finished, the feeling of creative satisfaction is huge, and what keeps most designers going.

  6. What an inspiring day for you. Thank you for sharing. I too love Suzanne Kastler's idea of collections and incorporating your travels into your home. True collections show us the owners personality and that's what makes a home ones own.

  7. What a gorgeous blog you have! I am visiting you via Bonnie at "Living Life". I will be following you know, we seem to have lots and lots in common, and like the same books and movies.

  8. What a fascinating seminar that must have been--so much talent in one room! I will have to go see Harry's Bar in London since you mentioned it. I learned when in Paris this weekend that the Ritz is going to close for 2 years! I wonder if the restaurant that you mentioned will be changing its look??? Thanks for stopping by my blog--I love making new friends in the blogging world. I'll be following you now....


  9. Sunday,

    I do not know how i missed this! What a wonderful day and way to spend with a friend! I am sure that you learned a lot of great things! I love that idea that a room should be collected, and I think that you see that frequently amongst the bloggers. There are many ladies and of course me in blog land that are not professionals but their homes look spectacular and it has nothing to do with income! They have great eyes for design.

    I hope you have a fabulous week!


  10. I love the idea of a home reflecting its owner. Beauty for beauty's sake! xo

  11. Speaking of Nancy Lancaster, my favorite design book is a book about Colefax & Fowler. I wasn't happy with my own living room and would keep going back to that book and think, "what are they doing that I'm not doing?" I ended up moving everything to a new place and I'm so much happier now! I still feel as though I need more chintz, though... I studied interior design for a semester--it wasn't for me! I love looking through interior design resources and going to look at houses, though. Probably comes from having an architect dad.

    Sounds like the lecture was a success! I love how you're always finding interesting events to attend.

  12. I would have loved to have heard this talk - I admire all of those who presented and loved the topic. I had just been to LA for the design blog conference and was sorry that West Week was so soon thereafter and conflicted with the Architectural Digest Home Show in New York and BlogTour. It seems that there are so many great design related events happening concurrently now!

  13. Sunday-what a pleasure to connect with you in LA. I knew there were devotees of Ottoline, so glad you are reading it. So glad you enjoyed my thoughts about being inspired-Nothing replaces Inspiration in our lives. pgt