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Hand-Drawn Interior Elements

photo: via Porta NYC

Custom work in Interiors is continuing to gain speed as homeowners strive to surround themselves in an environment that evokes a more personal feel that is truly unique. We're seeing more specialty millwork in built-ins and local artisans fabricating custom furniture for designers and their clients. We're moving away from cookie-cutter builds to something that's a bit more warm and nuanced. We want to see those small touches that make our home feel special and different from everyone else's.

Going even further, the idea of a hand-painted or drawn aspect to customization adds even more of a unique touch. This involves either commissioning a local artist to paint on a piece of furniture or draw something yourself on a wall or ceiling. Paint is not permanent, you can paint over it, so it's a perfect opportunity to have some fun and make something special. And the best part is that it doesn't have to be perfect - imperfections make it even more personal and artisan. In fact, imperfect hand-drawn elements are increasingly being seen in design projects across the globe.

In New York, the masterful Giancarlo Valle designed the playful ceiling in the recently opened Porta store, which was painted by Alley Bell. It is delightfully simple yet elegant and adds just the right touch to an otherwise simple atmosphere. In another store front, the decorated panels in the new Wyeth store in Los Angeles designed by Martha Mulholland are also divine, especially up against the wood grain. In the home of Interior Designer Sally Breer, she has hand-drawn the walls to look like imperfect wainscoting done in red ink. Bold!! I love it. I'm unsure if it's intentional or temporary (as some of the walls have regular wainscoting which begs me to consider whether this was a short-term fix or a spark of ingenuity - either one I'm here for it). This trompe l'oeil effect carries through to the hospitality world with Hotel Peter & Paul in New Orleans by Ash World and their saffron-hued armoire with black and white painted lines that brings a larger focus to this otherwise functional furniture piece. Speaking of painted cabinets - I still can't get over the insanely exquisite armoire in Frances Merrill of Reath Design's latest project in Massachusetts which was custom made for her client by Jason Kamps Builders and painted by Irene Marconi. It is jaw dropping. I want to hear more of the story behind the making of this piece. I have also recently loved seeing the work of British artist Tess Newall who adds a bit of whimsy to everything she touches. This dining table in particular (see below) really caught my eye and I think it's just fabulous, as is everything she touches. Her work has a colorful, folk art sensibility about it that is really having a moment.

Top from left: Wyeth store by Martha Mulholland, Sally Breer, Giancarlo Valle at Porta store. Bottom from left: armoire painted by Irene Marconi for Reath Design, Hotel Peter & Paul by Ash World; Tess Newall's hand painted table.

The renaissance of hand-painted artisanal interiors have roots in the past going back centuries but a few come to mind as my favorite design inspirations from the recent past. Cecil Beaton's bathroom is one I keep going back to in my mind. He decorated his bathroom walls with autographed hands from all his guests - I keep imagining what it must have been like to have been at one of his parties, how fun. One can't speak of hand-painted interiors and not include the work of the Bloomsbury Group at the Charleston Farmhouse, which is definitely on my list of places to visit. Every inch of this house is filled with an artist's touch. I love the hand-painted wallpaper in the kitchen and of course all of the furniture and millwork that was painted by a slew of talented artists, most importantly Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Jean Cocteau's Villa Santo Sospir also contains magnificent murals he drew on the walls which elevate the surroundings to an otherworldly atmosphere. One can't forget to reference all of the beautiful folk art furniture that has been hand-painted throughout the years as well. True arts & crafts handed down through generations filled with natural depictions in colorful whimsies. I think about what each of these artists were looking at when deciding what to paint and how their lives were spent. Probably a lot slower and more intentional than ours are now.

From top left: Cecil Beaton's bathroom, the kitchen walls of Charleston Farmhouse, Jean Cocteau's Villa Santo Sospir. From bottom left: an antique folk art cabinet courtesy of John Cornall Antiques, detail of a painted mantel at Charleston Farmhouse, Vanessa Bell's personal armoire in her bedroom at Charleston Farmhouse.

Moral of today's story is: let's all tap into our inner artist and find ways to express ourselves through paint. It doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't even have to look like anything in particular. Squiggles, stripes, circles, hand prints, tiny flowers, and any shape you can think of will work just fine. For me, I'm starting with hand-painted stripes in my guest bathroom. With just a little painter's tape you can create your own personal wallpaper. I chose a neutral stripe in two 'white' hues that are in two different tones and look more like cream and lavender. I love a good stripe, as you know from this earlier blog post, and my bathroom was calling for an upgrade. I'm not able to give it a full refresh at the moment (it needs new flooring, new vanity, new mirror and pendants) but it's amazing what you can do with a little paint, a new shower curtain and a vintage rug. The rest is TBD. Stay tuned.

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