The earliest and most obvious role for art was the decoration of spaces. This is still a common way for art to be used today. This is because our perception of a room is deeply influenced by its character and appearance. Very few of us would enjoy living and working in spaces devoid of decoration, no matter how nice the architecture. But despite the ubiquity of art in the spaces that we inhabit, we are not always aware of its presence even as we are affected by it.
Simple solutions, like hanging a picture in a room, creates an obvious point of interest. But often the design of the space is more comprehensive than we can immediately appreciate and features strategies other than simple ornamentation. The array of methods to integrate art and spaces is more diverse than a viewer likely realizes, and extends well beyond a well placed potted plant. The room as a whole can be designed such that it is a piece of art itself.
The Ocean Avenue Penthouse features artwork by Susan Hannon. In this room, a pair of hand crafted paper wings adorns the light sandy walls. They were designed to be integrated in a very specific way. Although similar in color palette, the wings emerge from the wall by their texture and the shadows that fall from their form. At a distance, this type of interruption on an otherwise smooth surface can be reminiscent of the impressionable shores of a beach, while the wing shape itself alludes to the lightness of flight and open spaces. This design approach is specific to the space, a top floor penthouse with clear views of the beach. Deeper connotations remain appropriate to the context. The wings, made of antique bible pages, allude to the story of Icarus and provide a clear parallel to the manufactured ascent afforded by the top floor in a modern building. It transforms the air in the space into a theme of the room. Even though these elements are not at once obvious, the careful coordination of artwork to a space can produce a powerful effect.
The artwork featured in the living room space of the Cosmopolitan Craftsman relates to the space more subtle ways. In the far right corner hangs a piece that is sourced directly from nature. It is a petrified fish slab, and its addition to the room acts as both an object of interest and an emphasis of the room’s color palette and cozy earthen aesthetic. Unlike the wings of the Penthouse, its presence does not directly influence the room but reinforces the design and feeling of the space. The fireplace design is a less obvious artistic piece because it also serves a functional purpose. But beneath the umbrella of interior design, all elements in a space are united to convey a single theme or effect, and all objects in the room considered to be art. Interior design exists as a combination and balance of functionality and beauty. Like a painting or sculpture, a well coordinated space can evoke from its viewer specific emotions and moods.
While the Ocean Avenue Penthouse and the Cosmopolitan Craftsman utilized artwork to emphasize certain elements of a space, the Landmark Bungalow dining room utilizes the space as a display for an eclectic collection of artwork. The large wooden cabinet serves as a showcase for various art pieces collected by the owner in his travels. The bust by Deborah Cansler Waters overlooks the vintage dining table. These elements were arranged to support the room's primary function as an area for people to gather, eat, and converse. The artwork provides context and stories for guests as it brings them and the space together in harmony. The vibrant blue painting on the far right by Lori Dorn compliments the effect.
It’s exciting to realize that spaces themselves can be art. Objects and spaces can serve a double purpose, at once functional, and yet organized in accordance with ideas that are artistic rather than practical. An appreciation of the work of the interior designer leads to an appreciation of the spaces we navigate on a daily basis, spaces which constitute our context and contribute to our emotional state. Understanding that the feelings we have in a room are not accidental will lead to a greater appreciation of artful interior design.
SARAH BARNARD is a member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), is certified by the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and is recognized by the International Institute for Bau-Biologie & Ecology as a Building Biology Practitioner (BBP) and by the United States Green Building Council as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP). She has served on the Santa Monica Conservancy’s board of directors and specializes in green interior design and historic preservation.
Sarah Barnard Design undertakes residential interior design projects, commercial spaces and even single rooms. She can help you with space planning, color counseling, kitchen and bath remodeling, historic preservation, and all aspects of green design and healthy living: organic, non-toxic, sustainable and fair trade materials, energy and resource conservation, air and water purification, natural furnishings and fabrics and much more!