Designers on Designers: 24 Essays on Influential Interiors

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9780071421607: Designers on Designers: 24 Essays on Influential Interiors

"Great design doesn't exist in a vacuum, and "Designers on Designers" proves that behind every bright idea is a startling inspiration. Susan Gray lets the world's top designers tell their own stories about who and what influenced their work. The result is funny and poignant, wry and informed. And truly inspired. - Mitchell Owens, ELLE Decor. The personal inspiration we gain from others in our field makes for fascinating and thought-provoking reading. I love seeing what my colleagues have learned from others; my own experience has been expanded by their insights." - Michael Graves, Architect and Product Designer.In these pages, you will discover how Orlando Diaz-Azcuy's admiration for the work of John Dickinson led to his firm's perennial quest for design perfection. Married designers Ashley and Allegra Hicks disclose an intimate view of Ashley's father, David Hicks, Britain's most celebrated interior designer - who was so obsessed with design that he checked himself out of the hospital while dying because of the overabundance of plastic and the nurses' unappealing apparal. For contrast, Cuban-born, multi-talented Manhattan designer Vincente Wolf offers a different and distinctive view of David Hicks' great appeal. You will share Bunny Williams' appreciation of Sister Parish and that designer's comfortable, timeless, and witty sense of style. New York society decorator Thomas Jayne gives you new insight into the Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman classic "The Decoration of Houses", still used as a textbook a century after its original publication.Open this book and meet masters of design - Billy Baldwin, Donald Deskey, Dorothy Draper, Elsie de Wolfe, Philippe Starck, Michael Taylor, Rose Cumming - and their admirers Thomas Britt, William Sofield, Carleton Varney, Suzanne Rheinstein, John Stefanidis, and more than a dozen other great names of interior design. With color, wit, and passion, "Designers on Designers" sensuously captures the essence, soul, and inspiration of the mastery of interior design. On designers and by designers, it is a sumptuous work that architects, amateur decorators, and designers themselves will be powerless to resist.

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Review:

Illustrated throughout with color photographs of interiors, this volume contains 24 essays from top designers paying tribute to the mentors who inspired and guided their work. Contributions include the reflections of Pamela S. Banker on Sir John Soane, Ronald A. Grimaldi on Rose Cumming, and Bunny Williams on Sister Parish. The volume also features a section of "decorating do's and don'ts" provided by each of the contributors, along with biographies and contact information. Photographer and writer Susan Gray is also the editor of Architects on Architects. ( Artbook News Annual 2005-02-01)

Susan Gray has a talent for bringing people together. Her first book Writers on Directors and subsequent title Architects on Architects invited leading talents to wax poetic about those who inspired them in their respective fields. Now she has recruited more boldfaced names for Designers on Designers. Like Cracker Jack and the prize hidden inside, the conceit is doubly satisfying -- you take a glimpse into the work of icons through the minds of the creatives who are following in their footsteps. Orlando Diaz-Azcuy (whose bedroom graaces the cover) relays his admiration for John Dickinson, Ashley and Allegra Hicks reveal the design obsession of Ashley's father David Hicks, who escaped the hospital while dying because of the preponderance of plastics and style-challenged nurses' unifroms. Other masters include Billy Baldwin, Donald Deskey, Dorothy Draper, Elsie de Wolfe, Michael Taylor, Rose Cumming, Sir John Soane -- and those offering up the paeans are Thomas Britt, William Sofield Carleton Varney, Suzanne Rheinstein, John Stefanidis and Pamela Banker, to name a few. Illustrated with photos of interiors by both the masters and their admirers, the book engages with intimate accounts of the creative process at work, an inspirational page-turner you won't want to put down. ( Array 2004-09-01)

Review by Christine Houde

Inspiration springs undisputedly from the eye of the beholder. What Monet found in a backyard swamp covered with water lilies, Degas found in dozens of tiny ballerinas. But since the spark that ignites the flames of creative genius if often highly personal -- one man’s love can easily be another man's loathe -- it can also be highly inexplicable.

That's exactly what makes Designers on Designers: The Inspiration Behind Great Interiors so captivating. In the book, editor Susan Gray, a people and portrait photographer who also gave us Writers on Directors and Architects on Architects, asks famed interior designers to put pen to paper and pinpoint who and what, exactly, has shipped their passions into an aesthetic frenzy.

Before they can delve into the depths of their inspired souls, though, many of the designers express confusion over the very essence of inspiration. In the opening words of his essay, Juan Pablo Molyneuxargues: "People are always trying to turn the creative impulse into a parlor game, as though it can be spelled out in a few sentences, a few pithy points. After working for almost 30 years, I'm here to tell you that it cannot."

Robert Couturier begins: "It would be foolish and pretentious for any designer to say his or her creations are totally unique, owing nothing to even a single figure in history."

Even so, these, and other famed designers thankfully bite firmly into Gray's bait, offering rare views of the design world though 24 pairs of highly skilled glasses. It's a humbling and poignant look at a profession that relies so strongly on instinct, and can be so daunting to the layman. Elissa Cullman admits she "borrowed" ideas from Henry Francis du Pont by showing pictures of her New York City dining room, which bears an obvious similarity to the Chinese Parlor at his Winterthur estate. Ashley Hicks reveals which rooms in his own home his father, designer David Hicks, would have hated.

No matter that some designers are the friends, students or sons of their subjects, while others like William Sofield, only know their muse's work through books and pictures. Each carefully, and in his or her own words, explains why that Chippendale chair, map of the world mural or smoky taupe rug caught their eye.

The words are eloquent and heartfelt, but it's the pictures -- worth a thousand words, as they say -- that make this book sing. Through them, it's obvious how Roberto Peregalli interpreted the stucco walls and ceilings of Renzo Mongiardino, and that Ronald A. Grimaldi loved the draped beds of Rose Cumming. Unfortunately, many of the photos are badly captioned, introducing some questions about whose work is being displayed.

Following the essays, a list of do's and don'ts from each essayist provides an instructive and, at times, amusing capstone. Don't "forget the age of the occupant" warns Pauline C. Metcalf. Orlando Diaz-Azcuy reminds, "an interior without accessories is an interior without expression." And Betty Sherrill, it's revealed doesn't believe in do's and don'ts at all. The book closes with biographies of each designer, along with contact information for those still working.

Designers on Designers is an intriguing glimpse into the minds and muses of some of the design world's greatest. Most of all, the book lets the reader in on a sly secret -- even the most talented can envy the skills and abilities of someone else. (Shelter Interiors 2004-07-15)

engaging...captures...insights, thoughts and inspirations of some of today's top interior decorators and designers...great gift for anyone interested in art, architecture, design, or the creative process (ArchitectureWeek 2004-07-01)

Illustrated throughout with color photographs of interiors, this volume contains 24 essays from top designers paying tribute to the mentors who inspired and guided their work. Contributions include the reflections of Pamela S. Banker on Sir John Soane, Ronald A. Grimaldi on Rose Cumming, and Bunny Williams on Sister Parish. The volume also features a section of "decorating do's and don'ts" provided by each of the contributors, along with biographies and contact information. Photographer and writer Susan Gray is also the editor of Architects on Architects. (Sci-Tech Book News 2004-05-01)

Excerpts from Gayle A. Williamson, Fashion Inst. of Design & Merchandising, Los Angles

Gray (Architects on Architects; Writers on Directors) has gathered the writings of currently practicing interior designers -- Mattia Bonetti, Betty Sherrill, and Vicente Wolfe, to name a few -- who reflect on the use of color, light, texture, and layout by interior designers who have inspired their own style. Some have chosen designers with whom they have worked, while others review the designers' style from extant buildings or illustrations. Each essay is illustrated with photographs and drawings of work by both designers, clearly showing how the essayist was influenced by the designer he or she chose...The book concludes with a section of decorating "Dos & Don'ts" by the writers and short biographical sketches of all the designers with contact information for those still practicing. For the intimate, personal reflections of the designers on their mentors, this book is recommended for academic, professional, and large interior design collections. (Library Journal 2004-03-01)

No one knows design like designers, and no one knows the interior design trade like those whose names ring with well-earned fame. In this collection of essays, the world's greatest contemporary designers share their sources of inspiration, including encounters with the work and personalities of legendary figures in the field--often mentors with whom they've shared years of experience. Illuminating photographs highlight each designer's essay to give the reader a clear idea of why the selected mentors have had such a powerful influence on them. Introduction by Albert Hadley, ASID. Edited by Susan Gray. (ASID ICON magazine 2004-02-15)

As designers comment on other designers here, different relationships abound: mentor-protege, teacher-student, father-son, icon-admirer. The commented-on artisans all have one thing in common, though: they represent the greats from throughout the world and over three centuries. Editor Gray, known for elegant home fashion journalism (Architects on Architects, 2001) wisely allows each contemporary designer to speak in his or her own voice about the geniuses they reveal. This way, each portrait includes revelations about both parties, both in the narrative and photographically. It's said that Billy Baldwin defined design as "all about making people feel wonderful in their homes"; Stephane Boudin was the wizard behind Jackie Kennedy's restoration of the White House; and Rose Cumming summed up the profession by saying, "Either you have a flair or you haven't." At the end the do's and don't's are fairly instructive; watch for "do start a collection," "don't be afraid to be whimsical," "do be able to make a decision," and "stop trying to edit, edit, edit." (Jacobs, Barbara Booklist 2004-02-01)

Review by Stanley Abercrombie

Following the pattern of her Architects on Architects, Susan Gray now offers two dozen contemporary designers describing their mentors and role models. The brief profiles accompany photographs of interiors by both the subjects and their biographers. A few of the latter have unfortunately seized the opportunity to write more about themselves, but most share a rare and warm appreciation for their subjects.

Pamela S. Banker tells us that Sir John Soane’s convex mirrors "keep light on its toes."

Thomas Britt, writing primarily about Billy Baldwin, also acknowledges designers Bill Pahlmann and Tony Duquette and educators Van Day Truex and Stanley Barrows.

Orlando Diaz-Azcuy—whose own New York bedroom appears on the dust jacket—quotes John Dickinson: "The more you’re dealing with taste, the more you’re on shaky ground. Vulgarity to me is another matter. Vulgarity has great vitality."

Juan Montoya recalls his introduction to Jean-Michel Frank’s work, being "thunderstruck by the economy of the rooms—you could even say their emptiness."

John Stefanidis describes Philippe Starck as a "tease," his style "defoliated but imaginative."

Carleton Varney says of Dorothy Draper: "To this lady, everything was a Christmas package. Timid she was not."

Never mind the gratuitous appendix of "Do's and Don'ts"—the book’s delightful tributes leave us wanting more, and it would have been especially nice to see a few more modernists. What would designer Carol Groh say about Davis Allen or designer Joe D'Urso say about Ward Bennett? Perhaps Susan Gray will assemble a sequel. (Interior Design 2004-01-01)

Great design doesn't exist in a vacuum. At least that's the point behind Designers on Designers, a 240 page tome in which today's top decorators share their thoughts on their legendary counterparts from the past. Thomas Britt talks about Billy Baldwin and his personal tour of the Park Avenue apartment Baldwin crafted for editrix Diana Vreeland. Bunny Williams explains the genius that was Sister Parish while Carleton Varney comments on Dorothy Draper's (one of Parkish's close relatives) clever use of color. And the list goes on and on. ( Gotham 2003-12-01)

In Designers on Designers, today's top decorators reveal the ways in which their legendary counterparts influenced them. ( Elle Décor 2003-11-01)

About the Author:

Susan Gray is a people and portrait photographer and writer who has worked with a number of major corporations, magazines, and museums. The Eastman Kodak Company sponsored her first book, Writers on Directors (Foreword by Leonard Maltin) and her critically acclaimed second title, Architects on Architects (Foreword by Paul Goldberger) was sponsored by USG Corporation and reviewed in major publications including The New York Times Book Review (a "revealing ... collection") as well as Publisher's Weekly ("architects and enthusiasts will delight in this moving, erudite collection.")

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