Friday, January 7, 2011

Style All Their Own

If there is anything I love more than TED conferences, it has to be New York Times Home & Garden slideshows. You can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this article touring the home of Richard Saul Wurman. Wurman, founder of TED, showed the Times around the 19th century French manor he shares with his wife in Newport, Rhode Island.

Wurman is no stranger to design, he was once an architect friendly with greats such as Louis Kahn and Frank Gehry. Feeling limited as a in the traditional trade, Wurman dubbed himself "Information Architect" so he might connect and build upon the numerous ideas sifting through his head. As his Wife Gloria Nagy ellaborates:
“What Richard does is allow his brain to operate like a great big cellular Cuisinart, mixing all his knowledge, thoughts, frustrations, observations, visual, conceptual and gathered information and feelings about everything together, hitting the high switch and pouring it all out in the form of ideas baked in one mold or another".

The couple made a surprising move from SOHO loft to the grandiose mansion 17 years ago. Nagy admits: "We are down-to-earth, not fancy people, who happen to live in a fancy house. And nobody knows what to do with that." Despite the obvious divide in their personal taste and architectural confines, the pair ignored naysayers and made it work.

It's rare that one can take a property so highly stylized and use it as a blank canvas. The French foundation has become nothing but a frame for their own aesthetic; plopping down submarine buoys in the formal garden and hanging contemporary art in the grand foyer. Just as Wurman stacks one abstract idea on top of another, so does he layer contrasting aesthetics.

This design approach is reminiscent of the Exceptions de
Grange collection. Each piece consist of traditional style overlaid with unexpected design. Bold colors and patterns adorn the pieces, taking the furniture far from their historical French context.

The unique finishes found in Exceptions de Grange might even inspire clients to play with wood and colored finishes more freely in other Grange collections. Mixing and matching finishes can set apart a piece until it is one of a kind. We could all learn a lesson from Wurman and Nagy's unrestrained yet confident taste. Who knows what might come of a classic armoire or dining set if Wurman let his ideas run wild.

(See more pictures of the interior in the New York Times slideshow.)

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