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  • August 20, 2014

Design by Nancy Robinson - Ladue News: Home

Design by Nancy Robinson

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Posted: Thursday, October 17, 2013 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:37 pm, Thu Oct 17, 2013.

Falling for Fuchsia

Daring color is in the air this fall. F. Schumacher is calling fuchsia this season’s ‘it’ color and the perfect upbeat alternative or complement to neutrals. Although fuchsia seems ultra-contemporary right now, a closer look reveals this buoyant hue has been a key part of the style lexicon for centuries, from the grandeur of Versailles to 1920s London, adding a pop of unexpected color and a jolt of confident chic to the most traditional interiors.

 

Castle Design Wins Bath of the Year

The work of St. Louis architect and interior designer Emily Castle, principal of Castle Design, took first place and Bath of the Year honors in Kitchen + Bath Business magazine’s 2013 Design Awards. Located in T.S. Eliot’s childhood home in the Central West End, Castle’s award-winning design incorporates modern efficiencies, while celebrating the gracious traditional elements that have earned the home landmark status. Judges remarked that “every plane in the space was considered in the design of this project,” which is featured in the magazine’s September issue. Castle Design is a full-service firm with four designers on staff and specializes in residential, commercial and hospitality design.

 

Office Suites at the Interior Design Center of St. Louis Debuts

ADJ Interiors and K Taylor Design Group are the first two firms to take up residence in the new Suites at the Interior Design Center (IDC) of St. Louis. Located at 11610 Page Service Drive, the 3,000-square-foot development features six suites that were specifically created with interior designers and other related professionals in mind.

The IDC is St. Louis’ only dedicated center for residential and commercial interiors with a wealth of high-end brands and products filling some 80,000 square feet of showroom space, including KDR Designer Showrooms. The addition of professional office space puts design and architecture services on site, adding to the usefulness and appeal of the center, which is open to the public.

“The suites are well-suited to interior designers, architects, specifiers and custom-home builders, offering them professional office space that is strictly dedicated to the industry in which they work, making for an energetic collaborative environment while still maintaining their individual business identity,” says Kevin Kenney, president of the Interior Design Center and KDR Designer Showrooms.

“Our design group is primary focused on residential remodeling and interior design, so the resources available to us here are key,” explains Kim Taylor, whose work is currently featured in the 2013 Ladue News Show House. “We use KDR Designer Resources for many of our fabric and furniture needs. We also enjoy being able to work with AUTCOhome, Premier Plumbing Studio, Working Spaces, and Beck Allen Cabinetry, and we have great relationships with other many area contractors, vendors and suppliers.”

Taylor says the newly constructed office suite features large windows that look onto a courtyard, providing a “beautiful and peaceful view,” as well as natural light for color selection. “Our new office furniture is light and simple,” she adds. “We used French gray, natural maple, and white with accents that we will change with the seasons.”

 

Furniture Brands to Launch Home Isaac Mizrahi

Clayton-based Furniture Brands International, owner of Thomasville, has signed an exclusive licensing agreement to manufacture furniture and distribute the Home Isaac Mizrahi label. The collection will be available through better department stores and Thomasville furniture stores, two of which are located in St. Louis, beginning in spring 2014. Mizrahi inked an earlier agreement with home décor company Safavieh, which gave that company the license to manufacture and distribute furniture, rugs, decorative pillows and lighting for the Isaac Mizrahi brand. Mizrahi has been a leader in the fashion industry for almost 30 years since his first collection in 1987 and has received four CFDA awards, including one in 1996 for the groundbreaking documentary film, Unzipped.

 

Stephen Emer Takes Top Post at Mackey Mitchell

Meet Stephen Emer, the newly elected president of Mackey Mitchell Architects, a nationally ranked top 10 architectural firm based in St. Louis. A graduate of Washington University, Emer is the third president and the only elected president in the history of the 45-year-old design firm founded by Gene Mackey in 1968. (The title was conferred to Dan Mitchell in 2002.) In addition to designing and/or working as a project architect on many significant structures in St. Louis, Emer has a keen interest in architectural history and served two terms as commissioner of the Kirkwood Landmarks Association, where he helped guide and encourage people interested in restoration projects. We asked Emer to weigh in on St. Louis architecture, the mystery of McMansions, and what he hopes to bring to the Mackey Mitchell culture as its new president.

LN: What’s your favorite project to date?

SE: When I was a young architect, I worked on a private residence for a family who loved their home but needed more space. The design was brick Georgian, and the clients wanted the replacement home to closely resemble the original. Instead of providing a larger duplicate, we immersed ourselves in the architecture of Colonial Williamsburg in order to gain a deep understanding about the buildings of that period. This research allowed us to draw inspiration from the historic construction methods and reinterpret those details using contemporary construction techniques. I enjoyed the effort it took to get the scale and proportions of the various elements correct. Working on this project, I learned many valuable lessons about being an architect. I continue to draw upon those experiences to this day.

Another project that tops my favorite list is the dining hall/leadership center we did for Westminster College, which has become a hub of community for students, faculty and the community.

LN: What was the most challenging project you’ve worked on?

SE: The residential project I described above was both my favorite and most challenging. When you work on someone's house, everything is extremely personal. Invariably, there will be crisis situations along the way. Being able to calmly navigate through the process requires patience, good communication and the ability to solve problems quickly. Honing those skills is a process that takes years. On that particular project, my personal journey began in earnest.

LN: Do you have a favorite style of architecture?

SE: I think there is a danger in thinking about architecture in terms of style. Working to solve design problems should never feel like standing at your closet and thinking, "Ah, I'll wear my Edwardian suit today!" There are lessons to be learned from all previous periods. I view architectural history as a continuum, where successive generations learn from previous builders, while using construction methods and technologies of their own time. Through my own journey of learning, I have been intrigued by the various ways architects have attempted to achieve beauty through rational human constructs. During Classicism, the ancients used mathematics to arrive at their ideal proportions for various building elements. Even the Modernists of the early 20th century, who abandoned the use of traditional ornament and form, held fast to many of the same rules and systems used by ancient builders.

When I entered architecture school in the early 1980s, Post Modernism was the label that defined the work being done by many star architects. Those practitioners advocated a return to buildings adorned with ornament and the use of traditional forms, but done in an almost cartoonish, exaggerated way. Much of the work was witty and clever, but little of it has stood the test of time.

LN: Which St. Louis building do you consider to be the most beautiful?

SE: St Louis has many beautiful landmark buildings. It’s difficult to single out only one. However, the one that first comes to mind is the Wainwright Building. At the time of its completion, it was radically innovative and ground-breaking. It was one of the catalysts of the boom of tall skyscraper construction that would forever reshape major American cities in the early 20th century. Louis Sullivan's design is simultaneously traditional, with a clear expression of base, shaft and cap, and daringly modern in terms of height and elegant verticality. His brilliant use of ornament - inspired by nature - is not applied as an afterthought, but is integral to the overall design. The carved spandrel panels stacked between windows emphasize the brick pilasters vertically, making the building seem much taller. And the decorative top with projecting cornice provides a strong silhouette against the sky.

The Gateway Arch is a close second—if not a tie for first—in terms of beauty. Though it is less of a building in the strictest sense, it is an amazing sculpture you can actually inhabit. I never cease to be awestruck by the various ways there are to appreciate the monument's form. Its appearance changes as the skin reflects natural light throughout the day, in changing weather and the progression of seasons. Our civic identity is inextricably linked to the Arch. Without it, the St. Louis skyline would be utterly without distinction.

Other noteworthy buildings include the Cathedral Basilica, St. Louis Union Station, City Hall, Continental Building, Civil Courts Building, Old Courthouse, the Cass Gilbert-designed Art Museum and Central Library, the Harvey Ellis Water Tower, the Muny, the Climatron, and the Contemporary Art Museum, to name a few. I'm surely forgetting several.

LN: Do you think St. Louis has more and better residential architecture than most U.S. cities?

SE: St. Louis is known for its wonderful residential neighborhoods - Lafayette Park, Benton Park, Soulard, Lindell Boulevard and the Central West End, particularly the private places. In the outlying cities of Clayton, Ladue, Huntleigh, Kirkwood, and Webster Groves, there is an abundance of lovely and historic homes, as well. There was definitely a golden age of residential projects in the city, roughly from the late 19th into the early 20th centuries, when there was just the right mix of wealthy visionary clients and talented local architectural firms who collaborated well, and focused on producing quality design and craftsmanship. Maritz & Young was one of those prolific firms that produced a number of fine homes over an impressive span of time. Several St. Louis architects of distinction who practiced later in the century, such as Harris Armstrong and Fred Dunn, were highly influential to a great many other architects, thereby elevating the overall quality of design. Kansas City, Philadelphia, Boston and New York also have many notable residential areas. But I feel St Louis is uniquely blessed with a fine variety of well-maintained neighborhoods.

LN: What started the McMansion trend and why does it persist?

SE: The ‘McMansion’ phenomenon probably started around the late ’70s and early ’80s and coincided with another pejorative term that described the rising class of young and upwardly mobile professionals, or yuppies. Conspicuous consumption and keeping up appearances was regarded as imperative to maintaining one's new social position. The prevailing mindset seems to have been one of achieving luxury through size. If you need a garage large enough to store four cars and perhaps a boat, it is easy to see how the homes would also get inflated. In addition to inappropriate size, these residences were typically an odd collage of design elements assembled with little logic or sensitivity. The architectural fundamentals of scale, function and delight got lost in the shuffle. ‘McMansion’ conjures the worst aspects of the fast food business. The reference is apt. Now we know much more about healthy eating, organic food and local produce. I like to think today everyone is better-educated about the importance of appropriateness, energy efficiency and even a certain level of modesty in residential design, not to mention the imperative for including professional architects in the process.

LN: What do you hope to bring to the Mackey Mitchell corporate culture?

SE: I certainly hope to build on the wonderful spirit of creative collaboration established by Gene Mackey, who founded the practice 45 years ago, and Dan Mitchell, who has been with the firm for 35 years. I always want Mackey Mitchell to be a place that attracts the best and brightest young architectural minds who are nurtured and mentored by a dedicated, passionate and wise group of seasoned professionals. In such a culture, everyone has a voice and contributes to the mission of client problem-solving and vision-shaping.

 

Do you have design news? We’d love to hear from you! Please email DesignbyNancyRobinson@gmail.com.

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