On a Par
Artworks and interior design assume equal standing in a Bay Area residence orchestrated by Roy McMakin.
Monica Geran -- Interior Design, 8/1/2001 12:00:00 AM
They met in Los Angeles, where she was an art collector and he was just starting his career. Their paths crossed again some years later, after she had bought and taken up residence in a 1914 two-level dwelling in the Bay Area. She, Kim Light, had been thinking that after five years' occupancy, interior updating was in order. He, Roy McMakin, himself trained as an artist, by then headed his own furniture production/architecture firm. When fortuitously they re-met, it seemed obvious that he was the right choice for replacing her randomly collected furnishings with appropriate custom furniture compatible with her many works of contemporary art. And so the client/designer relationship was born.
It was an informal association. She had no preconceived notions about changes, asking only that her artworks be accommodated. He brought no blueprint for a regimented layout or "look." His philosophy, if one can call it that, is to do the unexpected and unconventional, sometimes exaggerating an article's scale or perhaps belittling some object's importance. He imparts a sense of levity and tongue-in-cheek whimsy, keeping things simple and uncontrived. It helped that he had come upon the scene while total house remodeling was in progress, thus eliminating chances of having to undo what already had been done. All in all, he claims, his task was confined to designing/supplying new furniture, adding a custom fireplace screen, installing draperies, handling "the color stuff" such as interior tinctures and finishes, and "helping to put it all together."
The ground floor is taken over almost entirely by the living/dining room, an area that exemplifies McMakin's anomalistic design approach. Start with the "occasional table" arrangement fronting the fireplace. This jigsawed congeries consists of six units, one of them a leather-covered ottoman and the remainder composed of a notched-top table, small TV tray support, conventional side table, and bedside unit with giant drawer pull. Or look at the sofa, lounge, and dining chair covers: each is different; none is repeated anywhere. The discrepancies apply to colors, patterns, textures, and construction of textiles and leather. A new pink screen enlivens the fireplace. A bedroom chest in the dining sector is an intentional misfit; its large knobs and the nearby draperies on overly hefty rods are unlikely yet compatible companions for the interspersed art pieces.
And this is where the project deviates most forcefully from seemingly similar counterparts: Instead of stipulating that nothing—not furnishings, not colors or forms, not even exterior views—must compete with the displayed art, must, in fact, fade into oblivion so as to be all but invisible, here art and interior settings are on an equal footing. Both come across strongly, neither takes second place. It's a refreshing change, and it works.