While I sometimes rage here at MarlaneDesign, I almost never gush, but today I have found a reason. It all started when I was flipping through the October issue of Home Beautiful, a magazine I have started picking up at the local library. Unlike other design magazines, it doesn’t bore me with the same “try baskets for storage!” routine. I stopped buying these kinds of magazines as of yesterday, when our gateleg IKEA table showed up in one as the idea of the century. In this particular magazine, however, they had an interview with designer Peter Frank, who lives and works in the Hudson Valley. Most designers I read about are a little, well, design-y for my taste – the minimalism is too minimalistic, the color too colorful, the sophisticated too sophisticate, with the overall effect being that you could never pick up something on a whim because you would always be worried you were going to mess something up. I should have known the second I read the title “Quirky and Deliberate” that I was going to love him. I love both those words. They are great.
So, here’s the interview, peppered with some of the photos from it. And my own little comments. Because isn’t that why MarlaneDesign is so delightful? I digress:
Rima Suqi: Does your house always look this perfect?
Peter Frank: Yes, it does. I’m exacting. I style interiors and sets for a living. This is what I would say too, except I don’t do it for a living and I would be lying.
Are you an obsessive rearranger?
There is a lot of rearranging. When I have a party, I do a sweep through the house and change things around. Sometimes I find something new that I love and have to have and add to the mantelpiece, which of course means I have to change everything in the room. We are practically bosom buddies. I do this too. I once heard that the way your house ends up at the end of a party is how it should begin, so I always move things to places that will best facilitate drink holding and moving around. Doing this almost always gives me a great idea that sticks! P.S. I die for the lines on this furniture above.
So what do you think that says about your personal style?
I’m pretty omnivorous. I like a lot of periods and styles, and I like to mix them. Most of my art is by friends or people I know, and my connection to them is as important to me as the piece. I’m not disciplined enough to have a collection of anything — it’s more of an accumulation. I guess I have a lot of stuff.
ME TOO ME TOO ME TOO! Gushing COMMENCE! Lots of periods and styles, check. Art of my own and of family, check. I don’t collect anything either. No stuff for stuff’s sake, but definitely stuff!
Have you always been thing-oriented?
I tried living a pared-down life for a while. I fell prey to the idea that it was morally superior. But I got back on track when I bought this house and started filling it up with the things I love. But I do a big tag sale every spring, where I pull out anything that looks tired or trendy and sell it. I sell a lot of stuff on Craigslist every spring. It used to be because I was moving, but now I support it just because things change! I know what he means about the moral superiority of a pared-down life – I feel like when things become things it is time for them to go, but before that they are art and function at its best!
Because in your line of work, there’s always more stuff to be had.
Sometimes I’ll buy something I’m shooting that I didn’t even know I wanted, but I get attached to it. In that respect, my style is somewhat accidental. I do love things, and I love antiques. There are only four items in my house that are in production. One thing! One! (Gateleg Norden table, sigh)
Do you ever order from catalogs?
I’ve spent 20 years styling catalogs, but I have to confess that at the end of the day what I really want are great, quirky, one-of-a-kind things. Me too, me too! Has anyone else else noticed how CB2 (Crate and Barrel Two) has started labeling some items “One of a Find”? LAME.
What are some of the catalogs you’ve styled for?
Ralph Lauren, Pottery Barn, Garnet Hill…. One of the reasons I bought the house was I knew it would work well for photo shoots. Yeah, me too…hmm.
I hear you camped out in the house for ages before doing anything to it.
I lived here for about six months with a folding table, a couple of chairs, and a mattress on the floor. I wanted to figure out how to set it up so that I used all the rooms. I got to know all the rooms at different times of day and in different seasons, and it influenced my color choices. I loved the idea of some rooms being for morning, some for evening. Daniel and I kind of did this too, but I didn’t think it was by choice! Taking time did help me decide what the vibes of the different rooms should be, and lighting played into it! Our room is a completely different color in the morning than at night!
Why the two front doors?
This is a big house — the original was a two-family house, with two distinct sides. I basically live on one side of the house, and there’s another side that’s the “company” side of the house, with a formal living room that I never go into unless I have guests. Okay, well, must be nice.
Seriously? You have a room that you only go in when you have company?
And if I had kids they wouldn’t be allowed to go in there, either.
I actually am going to have to say that I don’t agree about spaces that are never used – but I do feel like kids should learn to respect spaces at an early age.
That reminds me of my aunt’s house when I was a kid — she had a room with a wooden gate around it and plastic on the furniture.
Well, I wouldn’t go to that extreme. The room I use as my own sitting room is the inky blue room. It’s the coziest room — rich and layered, but very relaxed. The sloppy slipcover on the sofa really goes a long way toward making it feel dressed down. I like the flowing fabric, but it could feel too sloppy for a small space. I am undecided.
That slipcover is so not sloppy! Yes it is, Rima.
You don’t think so? The sofa was left behind by the previous owner. It had a canvas drop cloth over it when we renovated, and it looked great. I tried to replicate the look. I draped the body in loose vintage French linen sheets and had covers made for the cushions out of another sheet. I actually made a slipcover from king sized sheets at my old house (it went away with the roomie, her couch after all) and making it was a MAJOR event. This seems much simpler. I also love the idea if you have cats – imagine them trying to claw that! P.S. Blue is exactly the color of our living room.
What’s the secret to mixing eras, styles, sizes, and shapes without it looking like a disaster?
It’s all trial and error. I put in tons of stuff and then I take it out. You have to mix things and be honest — if it doesn’t work, change it. I’ve made lots of mistakes. My attic is full of them. My best advice is to admit your mistakes and try again. yes Yes YES!
Are there any mistakes evident here?
Painting the screened porch white. Sooner or later it will end up something a little darker.
Clearly you have plenty of style, but there are others who might not be so sure of theirs, or how to express it.
Oh, I see that all the time. Homes where everything matches and it looks like you’ve walked into a showroom. Some people think a house that’s consistent from room to room with just one type of thing is good style. A lot of what I do is the icing — bringing in accessories. That’s what gives a house a lived-in look.
Yay! I actually went so far as to name my rooms, to help me define their individual personalities. The one thing I have kept harmonious is the color palette – I like matte colors.
Living Room: Library Chic
Kitchen: Retro Cooking
Dining: Tuscan Cute
Office: Primary School Eclectic
Bedroom: Soothing Rainy Day
Bathroom: Indian Beach
Backyard: Restoration Mediterranean
Yeah, but not everybody can ice the way you do.
It all comes down to contrasts: mix hard with soft, square with round, blocky with leggy.
Any other tips?
I find rules and guidelines are for the faint-of-heart and basically worthless. When I read lists of “Always do this” and “Never do that,” they never make much sense to me. A very good decorator told me that all four legs of a piece of furniture must always sit within an area rug. That’s absolutely right, except when it’s absolutely wrong. I have both situations in my house, and both are correct. I love this because I have gone back and forth about the desk in our bedroom, but have finally decided on the back two legs off the rug. He’s right – it looks fine!
P.S. – I actually had a little leather ottoman like the one above for the longest time! The only thing I don’t like is triangles – the Southwest has never really done it for me.
|I would die for this chair.|
More pictures from his lovely house….
|Cutest pantry ever|
|Don’t love the brass chandelier, and the pitchers look a little too unusable, but I love the white fireplace.|
|DOES THIS CHAIR LOOK FAMILIAR ANYONE? If only it had a coat of red paint…|