On Painting Things Red
For a good part of my career, objects and decoration I encountered could easily be refreshed with color, especially red. Even the most mundane and certainly the more exotic could be transported by a skim of red. In the 20th century, Tony Duquette, Charles and Ray Eames, and many of the Italian designers furthered the decorative use of red.
The work of Tony Duquette. Photo courtesy of Christie’s; Crystal Palace–Exhibition of 1851, Interior color schemes by Owen Jones
There is certainly precedent in the 19th century, as well. I am reminded of the Victorian fascination with vividly painted architecture, particularly the schemes proffered by Owen Jones. Then there are all the recent applications of red in the decorative arts (see designs from the MoMA Store.) Key in my personal collection is a pair of Vesta Heads by Oriel Harwood.
Myto chair by Konstantin Grcic for Plank. Miss K lamp by Philippe Starck for Flos. Products available through momastore.org.
"Vesta heads" by ceramic artist Oriel Harwood on span between bookcases at my loft. Photo by David Gilbert.
A signature of mine has been thin mirror frames painted Benjamin Moore Geranium (#1307). The first example of this was for parlor at the Rectory of St. Mary the Virgin Church in New York (this appeared in the December 2001 issue of Interior Design) and I recently reprised this design in my apartment in New Orleans. I still like the surprise of the geometry and color, but at the same time, I am tired of relying on the superficial use of color to create the effect of "new." Does this mean a return to neutrals or some other subtle palate? Is it possible we are ready for completely different forms and approaches to color?
Front Parlor of the rectory at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City. Photo by John M. Hall; Thomas Jayne’s New Orleans sitting room. Photo by William Waldron.