Where does inspiration come from and how do projects develop are common questions to complex and abstract processes.
Design ideas and inspiration can evolve from unique challenges that push us towards new ideas. Solutions are not always simply found in our library or in the isolation of searching the internet or sketching at the drawing board …..but with patience, perseverance and perhaps a little luck and serendipity….the process can be an extraordinary journey.
At the very core of a project, general design direction typically begins with the client…it is their likes/dislikes, desires and goals that provide the inspiration and framework for a project. Their individuality and uniqueness is at the center of the project – if rich vibrant colors are preferred over a pale palette or if there is a leaning towards organic shapes versus more severe geometry….. every project is a new adventure. From there it is our role as designers to imagine, create and build the vision.
Come along for a peek at a project….two paths that converge into an amazing journey.
Path one: A project, of which we were involved in all aspects of the design, presented some very specific requirements: lighting throughout the open floor plan of a lakeside home must be indirect. That meant no exposed light bulbs or glass globes. In addition, the lighting could not detract from the fabulous water views.
These requirements, although unique, didn’t seem particularly difficult. After several phases of design development the general design direction was established. The lighting schedule would be based on fixtures with fabric shades. A theme and variation concept would be developed. Materials and shapes would be repeated in varying sizes. A simple and straightforward plan.
With the concept in place, a fixture or two were selected but the overall plan was still incomplete after several weeks. Our challenge would be in sourcing these pieces. Dozens of fixtures were required throughout the home and they would most likely need to be custom made.
Without the right sources to create the vision, this became a design problem that loomed large. We had time to find the right source, but deadlines would soon be approaching.
Follow along on the journey…..
Path two: I recently have had the great fortune of traveling to Europe for various design shows and during the year of this particular project would be traveling to both Paris and Italy. Paris for the major exhibit, Maison & Object in January and then onto Italy for a little time of work/play. I left for Paris hopeful that the perfect new lighting source for the project would appear. Until this issue was solved, the project was feeling stagnant. Given the thousands of exhibitors at M&O, it seemed unlikely that there wouldn’t be something.
Days into the trip, I found nothing that was right. Tired and discouraged, it seemed impossible that in eight exhibition halls there wasn’t something that shared my vision.
But as can often happen in life, things seem to come to us when we are not looking – when we are exhausted of the search, that particular something suddenly appears, often better than could have been imagined. Such was the case in this instance.
My search magically ended at an exhibition of dinnerware. The showroom was set up similar to that of a home setting – a dining area, a sitting area – and there was my lighting exactly as I had imagined. A series of theme and variation…..all with fabric shades.
So here I was…..finding someone somewhere that had the very same idea. That someone was a group of artisans….the somewhere was Florence, Italy. By chance, my next destination. Come along for the next chapter…..
Fusion of Path one and Path two: I arrived in Florence anxious to visit this shop which oddly enough, was a short walk from where I was staying. In setting up an initial meeting for a tour, I had no idea that I was embarking on a nearly year-long journey with a group of extraordinary designers and artisans. They could make anything….and they made it beautifully. I knew my vision could be realized.
We had several meetings to create the overall concepts – communicating through our drawings as well as a mix of Italian and English. Designs and specifications were refined through email. Fabrics were selected from our common sources. The project expanded and return trips were made to Florence to review the prototypes…..and to see my new friends and colleagues.
After several months, designs were finalized and approved. We then waited for the pieces to be made…..and then for their arrival. The series was based on geometric shapes of hand-forged iron frames covered in horsehair and linen fabrics, creating a juxtaposition of strength and softness. The collection ranged from ceiling fixtures to wall washers to a large billiard table light, all in coordinating fabrics and trims. Adding a touch of whimsy was a pair of bed canopies from the shops extensive vintage and antique collection that were refashioned into new lighting fixtures. Although unintentional, they offered a nautical nod to the home’s beautiful waterfront setting.
It had all come together – the art, the design, the technical challenges – and the early struggles were a distant memory. The bonus of the journey was, of course, the new friends made along the way……and so to my dear friends and colleagues in Florence…..it was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to work with your talented and inspiring team. Many thanks for your dedication in realizing this project and for the beautiful work and exquisite craftsmanship in all that you created. Grazie mille!
Today the pieces are installed….the journey is complete. Please take a look….
This project and the unexpected collaboration was an incredible experience….one that will never be repeated. But to that point, no project is every repeated. Each is a prototype in its own way. Each project, each challenge adds a new perspective to my work as a designer. In turn, that experience brings something new to the next project – new inspiration, new ideas. It is the great gift of this work.