…And Everything in its Place
Design Director, Arlen Sam Brown, on staging Rago’s Remix Sale
3 October 2018
by Arlen Sam Brown, Design Director
Our homes offer insight into who we are, how we perceive ourselves, and how we wish to be perceived. Interior design is the process of expressing, through the selection and staging of objects, the intersection of these insights. It’s a matter of balance. As an interior designer with 30 years of experience, I’ve mastered this balancing act fairly well, but every now and then a design challenge comes along that adds another element to the mix - a new variable to consider in calculating the tension between function, form and personal expression - that calls on all my abilities as a designer.
Rago’s Remix: Classic + Contemporary Auction on October 20 is such a challenge. The aim of Rago’s Remix Auction is to present a sale of furniture, accessories and decorative art that reflects how people actually live; not in sterile, gallery-like settings, but in kinetic mixes of old and new, casual and classic, supple and sleek. This design philosophy is expressed through the staging of room vignettes; imagined spaces brimming with inspired pieces going to auction. It’s in this staging process that this additional challenge lies, as each of these vignettes must present a space that is collectively appealing while also presenting each element as individually desirable.
As Rago’s Design Director this formidable task falls on me. What follows are a few of my faves among the room settings I pulled together.
For this vignette, I set out to create a space that expressed empowerment and femininity in equal measure. This room began with a Ruth Reese mixed media quadriptych Flamboyant! Audacious! Daring! Extravagant! - a powerful study influenced by the work of Louise Nevelson and created for a 2007 Exhibit, Dangerous Women Two. Because the work is edgy and modern, I went looking for curvaceous antiques to soften their influence and found just the thing in the ca. 1805 Scottish Regency mahogany sideboard seen below the paintings, with its beautifully detailed gallery and twist trim. I accented this with the opulent Buccelatti silver tea and coffee service, the patinated bronze bust of Sappho and the diminutive George IV mahogany hall chair, ca. 1825, seen to the right of the sideboard. To cement the “Remix” factor and highlight the art, a pair of mid-century Stilnovo frosted glass sconces were added as well as the elegant mid-century Pearson Lloyd swivel lounge chair.
As a bit of a Francophile, I took one look at the gorgeous antique French bakery display seen here and immediately began to build a room around it in my mind. Presenting a warm patina, stone top and fantastic inscription, it also creates the color scheme and tonality for the space, which I reinforced by adding the style of William Morris period rug. In pursuit of some well-rounded anachronism, I included the tall back Karpen lounge chairs and dining table as well as a contemporary art collage by Gabriel Loire with muted, inviting tones. The large cut crystal lamp fashioned from a vintage apothecary bottle on iron stand adds a touch of elegance. The Mary Merkel-Hess reed sculptures work to cement the room’s colors scheme and, in conjunction with the Wedgwood Queen’s Ware porcelain pig and whimsical Chinese roosters, bring the focus of the room back to its rural roots.
There are times when a single element can set the tone for an entire room. This is one such example. It all started with the ca. 1880 French two handled urn, placed on the gilt wood wall bracket, which I discovered while rummaging for inspiration. Captivated by the azure color, I plucked an equally brilliant and classical blue Moroccan Rabat rug from a nearby rack and then set to work filling the space in-between. In pursuit of contrast, I selected the Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe black leather sofa. The Frank Gehry for Knoll bent maple “Icing” coffee table lends a perfect complement to the sofa in terms of style and scale while the fabulous Leonard Herman black and white photographs of music legends pulled the existing elements together. I then injected a touch of glamour into the room by way of the simple lines and gold finish of the ca. 1940 French Maison Bagues faux bamboo side table, as well as the gilt table lamp and the silver Castillo pitcher that rests upon it.