Designer Show House Rooms by Wilson Kelsey Design: The Evolution of Our Style
Between 2007 and 2012, designing and executing a Designer Show House was a Wilson Kelsey Design staple as Sally and I shifted our practice from commercial/corporate interior design to residential interior design. Having transitioned out of commercial interior design around 2005, at the time we saw participation in show houses a great vehicle to showcase our talent, create buzz, name recognition and perhaps land a few design commissions.
Fast forward to today. Until this past week, when I found this sketch of a vignette we did in 2012, the words Designer Show House hadn’t crossed my mind in quite some time.
Seeing the sketch again, made me pause and wonder, “Might the Designer Show Houses Sally and I did reflect a maturation of our residential design skills and style?” I climbed down the rabbit hole for several hours, scouring files, both paper and computer. I’d like to share what I found and learned with you.
DESIGNER SHOW HOUSE
Our first show house was sponsored by the Marblehead Jewish Community Center. Designed by William Morris Hunt, the house sat on the water overlooking the the Atlantic Ocean and was a classic example of Victorian Stick Style architecture. Many of its beautiful interior architectural details remained. Below is a sketch of our design proposal for the living room. We submitted another proposal for another room, but those drawings are long gone…
We were selected to design the foyer and hall, which extended thru the entire house, in order to catch summer sea breezes. Loverly paint color. No?
Our vision was a family with souvenirs and artifacts collected from their world travels being a large part of the hall’s decor – a la the Grand Tour.
I think we got the Victorian thing right, but…
With the perspective of time, my analysis says overall, we missed. It was a well executed, safe, non-controversial design. The space needed more oomph. More, look at me!!! On the other hand, individually, the vignettes show where we were headed. Refined, thoughtful detail and composition.
NORTH SHORE DESIGN SHOW #1:
For a number of years, the Wenham Museum did an annual designer show house in which interior designers designed a vignette in a 10’x12’ space. As I recall the show ran about a month. Sally and I always saw the show as a terrific marketing opportunity. Minimal expense and maximum exposure to a local target audience.
For our first show, we wanted to stand out from the crowd. Inspired by the Modernist Movement off the 1920’s and 1930’s, we proposed a very colorful contemporary sitting area, with hi-gloss purple paneling.
On the hi-gloss paneling, hung a beautiful landscape provided by art consultant Jacqueline Becker and bold photography by Debby Krim. We selected a mid-century modern antique sofa and a French style arm chair which provided an eclectic touch with colorful and unusual upholstery selections. Coffee table and wall hung credenza were custom by Wilson Kelsey Design. So totally not North Shore traditional! (We used to design this kind of space in our commercial work all the time.)
NORTH SHORE DESIGN SHOW #2:
The movie “Julie and Julia” was the inspiration for our second show. The movie reminded us how cooking and the ceremony of sharing food brings people together. Our proposal described the room as, “Modern, clean, bright and eclectic – this inviting dining room encourages entertaining and long lingering conversation over and after dinner.”
To be honest, I can’t remember where the idea for the checkerboard paneling came from… But it clearly gave us permission to be playful and not be concerned about mixing disparate styles and elements such as the antique French mantel, Hollywood mirror, Calderesque mobile over the dining table and Art Deco bar cart.
How would I grade this vignette? Better… I can see our confidence growing as we play with mixing it up. (That’s the beauty of a Designer Show House. You have an opportunity to push yourself. You are your own client.) We’re feeling more comfortable with ourselves as residential interior designers. Perhaps a little tight, but we’re getting there.
NORTH SHORE DESIGN SHOW #3:
The last show was at the peak of the Great Recession. Everyone was concerned about money and budget. Flashy was out. Comfort, nesting and security were in. Sally and I developed a design inspired by Belgian designers – neutral color schemes, warm woods, wrought iron, linen fabrics, candles, throw pillows, and a few old world antiques. They are consummate experts at seamlessly blending old and new. Perfect for Nesting…
In response to consumer’s concerns about budget, we wanted to illustrate how a home owner could refresh their home by simply changing rugs, artwork, and accessories. We proposed two designs. The first we installed for the opening event and first half of the show. It was the more traditional of the two. Earthier with soft rose/lavender, blues and browns.
Mid way thru the the show, we hosted a seminar in which we swapped out the rug, artwork and accessories, explaining the process to attendees as the swap was being done. this vignette was slightly more contemporary with pops of color against that neutral Belgian palette.
We found our voice doing these vignettes. It is expressed thru the implied blending/merging of classically inspired architecture with carefully curated contemporary and traditional furniture, artwork and accessories.
2018 DXV DESIGN PANEL:
While technically not a Designer Show House, our selection as a DXV Design Panelist afforded Sally and me the opportunity to truly spread our wings. The design theme we were given by DXV was Arts The Masters. We could design a bathroom or kitchen inspired by an artist or art movement between 1880 and 1920. We chose Monet because we loved his painting style and he designed the spaces in the L’Orangerie that to this day exhibit his Water Lily paintings. A true marriage of art and architecture.
By the time we executed this design, Sally and I were singing in full three part harmony.
To see our evolution as residential interior designers thru the window of Designer Show Houses has been eye opening and affirming.
We were accomplished modern/contemporary designers when we walked away from corporate/commercial interior design and if feels like the JCC Show House, while pretty, was paint by numbers.
The first two Wenham Design Show vignettes saw us returning to what were were more comfortable with – modern/contemporary detailing and decor, complimented by traditional pieces furniture. We were learning our craft. Baby steps, testing the waters with “what if we did this” and “what if we did that?” against the backdrop of modernity.
Three years transpired between our first Wenham Design Show and our last. It’s amazing to see our growth in the last show. Our confidence expressed by undertaking not one, but two vignettes, each expressing a different style and look.
Finally, there is the Monet inspired DXV Design Panel bathroom, which fully expresses our “bring it on, we can do anything” self confidence. We’ve hit our stride!
Yes, there’s truth to the notion that, like fine wine, designers and architects improve with age.
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
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