African masks, glass paper weights, soap stone sculpture, photography – however it starts and at what age, at some point, the majority of us, whether young or old, will have a collection of ‘something’. As a designer, I love being able to incorporate a client’s collection into their home and once in a while the room design can start with a great collection. While making a visit to a Toronto Beaches home that was in a state of semi-demolishment, I was asked to come up with a colour palette – on the spot – while the trades (painters, floor refinishers etc.) stood waiting for direction. Feeling much like the Oracle in the Matrix, I asked the client if he collected something, anything. He was a patron of the water colour artist Toni Onley. Fifteen minutes after he had brought out his favourite painting we had the wall colour, the trim and cabinetry colours and the floor stain chosen. Designing should be about the people who inhabit the space; it should function for their particular needs and reflect their style. Another family room design began with a tribal mask collection that had taken several African trips to collect. And soon I am hoping to curate a client’s passion for bears and their dozens of soap stone sculptures. Rather than being scattered around the home willy-nilly I see a number of them displayed on a long, narrow, live edge wood ledge above a sectional – softly lit from below – a dramatic focal point. Collections present so much better when kept together. One of the best seminars I’ve attended was presented by Kravet – one of the premier fabric houses in the world. Marianne Resman flew in from Manhattan where she is VP of product development for Ralph Lauren. She spoke about how his stylistas scoured the globe for the next big bang, the back bone for the next trend. It might start with a paisley shawl plucked from a Parisian flea market or a roll of antique wall paper from Coventry Gardens. It could be a native blanket, a piece of Ikat fabric from Bali, a teapot from Tibet – a starting point that sends the rest of their design teams trekking through archives or creating new uses for objects such as a simple antler. Did I mention Ralph (et al) is at the top of my list of great designers? His ability to take a formal piece of furniture and cover it with something as basic as denim, making it functional and casual, is brilliant. He is also a master at displaying collections of ‘things’ - including his own native Indian blankets at his Double RL ranch in Colorado. This stockpile has been translated into fabric collections such as ‘Corral Canyon’ so the rest of us can enjoy the geometrics and colours of this native art form - which can look amazingly modern. Juxtaposing vintage and modern or formal and casual creates the eclectic but can also personalize an environment. The trick is to add a dash of one style to a majority of another. A home with very modern lines and organic material (read natural stone and lots of stained wood) feels comfortable with quilts hung on the walls. Each of the quilts we recently installed at a client’s house has a ‘travel’ story, a history and in an instant their new house became a home full of good memories. Are your travel photos still on memory sticks? Why? Why not on a floating shelf, perhaps 4 inch deep with small lip to the front so you can lean picture frames of various sizes along a wall? By using readymade frames with easy-to-open backs you can switch up the photos at will. Keep the frames to one style and colour in up to three sizes and with mats. I will often buy high quality postcards along the way – the photography is always better than mine and they are easily transported.
Buddha once said ‘It is better to travel well than to arrive’. But it is nice to re-visit the journey once you are home again – and remember to ‘keep it together’.