Paintings, ceramics, and a knockout chandelier are the main course in a dining room by Harry Elson
Jill Connors -- Interior Design, 3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
Renovating a prosaic 1990 builder house in Palm Beach, Florida, for lifelong collectors of contemporary ceramics and photo-realist paintings, architect Harry Elson placed a sanctum at the center of the perfectly 75-foot-square footprint. "It's the idea of dining room as courtyard," says Elson, an emerging New York talent. At once enclosed and open, the room possesses no doors, simply openings that afford a dinner guest glimpses of other interior spaces as well as the rear terrace. And the walls, not merely dividers, are figural elements in themselves, varying in thickness from 7 inches, displaying a portrait of the home owners by Joe Nicastri, to 30 inches, holding glass shelves for a changing array of ceramics.
Other aspects of Elson's design reflect his considered approach to making the collections, not the architecture, stand out. The built-in cabinetry has no pulls or molding to distract the eye, the walls are painted in a satin-finish greige that is neither too glossy nor too flat, and the floor is 16-inch French limestone squares that are honed rather than polished. "The surfaces are discreet, so the artwork provides the texture," says Elson.
Four skylights define the 11-foot ceiling, and from that center point hangs the dining room's most commanding element: an upside-down tree chandelier by sculptor Donald Lipski. Suspended over the table, the branch ends glowing with tiny bulbs, this giant trunk is deceptively lightweight. ("Two people can lift it up high without any trouble.") For Elson, it was the solution he had been unable to find while looking at a tremendous range of chandeliers, from antique to hypercontemporary. In his own words, it's the product of "organic concept plus functionality."