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Design

A Room with a Quarantine View

April 22, 2020
A few years ago, I was invited to speak at a design conference in San Diego dubbed, “What Drives You?” While masterful design, both from today and throughout history, certainly drives me, I’ve come to realize that recently, simply finding beauty and surprise (and a hit of whimsy!) have risen to the very top of my list.
Seeking out beauty has become a way to catapult my creativity, whether it be virtually or physically. Formerly the art director and designer for the Style and Home Design sections of The New York Times Magazine and currently the principal of Rouemy Design, an award-winning studio excelling in branding, book design, and custom typography, my passion for collecting type books has shifted to collecting bolts and bolts of designer fabrics. Combing through Chairish, Etsy, Ebay, and Instagram accounts featuring art and design is my playtime. I am constantly searching for something shocking, unexpected or beautiful—now more than ever.

During one of my recent Instagram forays, I spotted the stunningly haunting image seen above on sculptor David Wiseman’s Instagram story. Wiseman had marked it ‘‘Quarantine View.’’ The blooming fuchsia Empress tree is accentuated by the sinuous silhouetted forms in the foreground that frame the moment like a kaleidoscope, and the whole scene instantly symbolized for me our ever-changing times.
I reached out to Wiseman about this striking image. ‘‘I’ve worked on my house for the last couple years, built a front patio, created some chandeliers, installed my wallpaper, welded a gate and trellis canopy for vines, but I never really spent time here,” he explained to me. “Now that I hardly leave, I am enveloped, sheltered and protected by the work I’ve done. It’s a prism through which I view the world outside that reminds me of who I am, what I’ve done and what I love.’’

When Wiseman sent me a pulled back shot, above, to clarify the origin of the artful photograph, I was wowed all over again. Just inside his front door, the amorphously shaped wall mirror conjures the base of a tree and reflects the signs of spring outside, and bronze “shutters” sculpted in a collage of alternating fan shapes and fish-scale patterns cover the windows. It got me thinking: What other extraordinary quarantine views could I find while safely sheltered in my own home?

 

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So down the Instagram rabbit hole I went. Escaping into the Italian landscape lined with towering umbrella pines, above, helped transport me to another place and time. The hand-dipped glass tubes of the chandelier remind me of an overscale wind chime, hovering as they do above the much-appreciated fresh flowers that adorn this dreamy room. ‘‘Do I admit that these forsythia branches were foraged from an overgrown bush at a local gas station, down the street from my home, during a major rainstorm? I plead the Fifth,’’ says Jewel Marlowe of the sunshine-hued flora she featured in her feed.

 

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Another distraction of late is getting lost in evocative artwork. Pieces by the conceptual artist Sarah Meyohas, as seen in the feed of Kelly Wearstler, above, epitomize my ever-present reflections on where I’ve been and where I am going, and when? I’d call this one Don’t hold your breath!

 

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Old and new. Light and dark. Familiarity and distancing. These dualities are all found in the surrealistic artwork of Marie Cécile Thijs, above. This image resonates with me during this time in quarantine. The stillness and suspension of the ephemeral dandelion puff sitting pretty on top of a thorned rose stem reminds me that despite our challenges, it’s often the little things that bring us the biggest joy.

 

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A passionate and purposefully designed bathroom by @casa505interiors, above, offers the ideal escape for decompression and relaxation. The only things missing are some bubbles and a glass of Cabernet to complement the wandering red veins in the calacatta viola marble enveloping the room…. I can dream, right?
Antelopes fabric
Although all of us are grappling with an unknown end to our altered reality, the sprinting animals in Schumacher’s Antelopes fabric, above, inspire a sense of freedom, release, hope and optimism. I became smitten with Paul Poiret’s work while designing the below fashion feature entitled, ‘‘Hip, Hip Poiret!’’ for The New York Times Magazine. I’m so delighted to have discovered that the pattern was created by Poiret exclusively for Schumacher. Every time I gaze into this magical forest, my aspirational thoughts run wild.

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Books have been my saving grace. This sun-kissed library above, with its gilded architectural details and marble floors that mimic the endpapers of books opened wide, took my breath away at first sight. The ethereal white ladder and the monochromatic rows of muted spines read as graphic wallpaper, adding a modern touch to this classic Baroque masterpiece located in Austria’s oldest remaining monastery.

 

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Then there are those books that mingle on shelves with family heirlooms, quirky found objects, meaningful photographs, collected paintings and prints. Together they create a layered tapestry of varied scale and texture that immediately connects to my soul. Included on the bookshelf in the image above is a photograph of stylist and writer Mieke ten Have’s great-grandparents astride camels in Egypt two months after Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. It has captured her imagination since she was a girl.

 

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The restraint of the dining room on the feed of Ken Fulk, above, is equally mesmerizing, but in a different way. The custom variegated walls reflect light like the vibrant blue shades of the Aegean waters—a perfect backdrop for Tony Duquette’s Splashing Water chandelier and striking black and magenta chinoiserie chairs. The matching blue lacquered table creates the illusion of melting into the back wall and almost disappearing over the golden, sandy floor. Staring at this photo I feel lost at sea, and yet it’s really all OK….

 

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No words needed for the above. Just a whole lot of smiles!
‘‘My garden room puts a smile on my face, especially now during this difficult time. Nothing is more relaxing than watching tropical plants bloom and grow—they bring life and peace to our home,” explains my mother, Marlene Harris, of her verdant solarium, above. Last week I had plans to join my family on the island of Cadiz, Spain. When the trip was cancelled, a quote that my mother often repeated when I was as a child came to mind: ‘‘Home. A private island in a public world.’’
With that thought in mind, I’ve been “laying out” these days on my living room chaise, soaking up the beauty of my home and those of so many others.

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