I worked hand in hand with Joan and Jayne Michaels of 2Michaels Design, creating two rooms for the 2008 Hamptons Cottages and Gardens Idea House. For the record, Joan is my significant other, and the person I constantly ask, "Does this go with this?" Given that Joan and Jayne are identical twins, it was not entirely surprising that our group was assigned to create twins’ bedrooms.
The experience of working on a designer showhouse was not what I expected, if only because I had no idea what to expect. I signed on anticipating that it would be an interesting learning curve. It was certainly that. It was other things also, but we’ll stick to the interesting learning curve. Mostly, I learned that it takes a ridiculous amount of work to design even a tiny room (let alone two), and that if the site is three hours away, it is best to measure everything twice when you are there. Moreover, I learned that manageral effort increases exponentially with each person you bring in to work with you, and that a 30-mile radius around New York City covers a lot of territory when it comes to picking things up. I certainly know enough now to leave the business of interior design to design professionals like Joan and Jayne.
On our first trip out to Sagaponack, we were confronted with two very small and very unfinished rooms, not much bigger than large closets, with low ceilings and low-riding windows. We decided to compensate for the low ceilings by keeping the furnishings low to the ground, and the low windows by mostly covering them up. The concept for the rooms, as it evolved, called for doing one room for a boy and one for a girl, the two being 11-year-old twins. The boy’s room would be cobalt blue with a mood of night; the girl’s room would be bright orange, yellow, and white, with a cheerful, daytime feel. The boy’s interests would include astronomy and science-fiction; the girl’s would include art, Barbie, and kite-flying. Our mandate would be to use as many sustainable materials as possible, meaning in practice that the furnishings would involve recycled or repurposed materials, or would be vintage.
The way a showhouse works is you basically go to everyone you know to borrow things, or enlist free services (even so, you need to pad your bank account before taking on a showhouse project). Fortunately, among us we have an extensive network of sources and resources. We called on friends and associates to pitch in, and received humbling amounts of time and effort in return. Eva Lee supplied a cosmic video and decorative painting for the walls of the boy’s room, and decorative painting on the bed panels in the girl’s room. Carlos Salgado designed and fabricated a desk for the boy’s room out of scrap wood. Kate Korten designed the fabric for the boy’s bed, made out of recycled crushed plastic. Nancy Angel fabricated all the curtains, bedding, and custom pillows in both rooms; and Keith Edmier, the New York artist, actually made a wax doll for the installation. Without their gracious and often frantic efforts, we would have wound up with two very small, very empty rooms.
A serendipitous trip through the Lower East Side connected us with Marilyn Garber and brought to our attention the work of Bannavis Sribyatta of Project Import Export. Bannavis is a young and talented architect thinking in cutting-edge ways about sustainable, repurposed, and recycled materials. He supplied us with the recycled aluminum chair in the boy’s room, and the decorative panels of coat hangers in the girl’s room. Many of the vintage pieces came from 4 PM, the vintage design business I own with Joan and Jayne, and with Todd Pickard. Exceptions included the daybed in the boy’s room, a 1940’s French design from Magen Gallery; the George Nelson steelframe chest in the girl’s room, from Miguel Saco; and the space toy and Barbie photographs from David Levinthal.
In the end, everything turned out as well as we could have hoped, and by this I mean that everything fit where it was supposed to go. This was quite a relief to me, particularly in regard to the poster bed in the girl’s room–the centerpiece of the room. Joan and Jayne designed this bed, but I was responsible for measuring the various elements, which included the metal framing, the wooden panels, and the mattress and bedspread. Until the bed was constructed on site, I was afraid the girl would be sleeping on the floor.
Would we do another showhouse? Ask us together and you’d get a resounding yes/no/maybe.
Screens are plastic, from a 1960’s bank; light and nightstand are also vintage.
The wall’s decorative panels are composed of recycled coathangers.