BY CHARLYNE VARKONYI SCHAUB
Steven Gurowitz of Steven G in Fort Lauderdale says art is an integral part of good design, whether it is collected by the designer or the clients.
“We believe that furniture does not make a home,” he says. “It is all about lighting and your finishing touches such as art and accessories. I relate it to a black-tie affair. A woman can have a magnificent gown and not have the right shoes, handbag and jewelry.”
One of the best examples of designing with existing art is a luxury condo he designed in Fort Lauderdale for a couple who relocated from a townhouse in Washington, D.C. The project was a massive undertaking that required Gurowitz to display 167 pieces of the clients’ art as well as add some other pieces.
“The apartment was built around a majority of the collection,” he says. “They are world travelers and as they traveled they collected art, artifacts and accessories. When designing the apartment, they sent us photos and an inventory of all their pieces.”
Once Gurowitz installed the art, he planned the other key ingredient – lighting. The result was a combination of directional high hats in the rooms and a directional monorail system of adjustable lighting in the hallway so each piece of art could be lighted properly.
The entry, which is accessed from a private elevator before you enter the apartment, was designed to feature two of the client’s red paintings, two high-back chairs and a Chinese armoire. The doors reflect the Asian theme – with continuous grooves and a circular area for the knobs reminiscent of those often used on Chinese furniture.
In the foyer, Gurowitz created a series of lighted niches to display artifacts – from statues to ginger jars. The backs of the niches were covered in gold-leaf paper with red streaks bleeding through. The entry also includes a piano topped with a red Italian vase that Gurowitz selected. It also is lighted from above so it is reflected on the piano.
The dining room was designed to echo the red in the clients’ painting – red upholstery on the chairs, red candles and a red Chihuly inspired chandelier custom designed from Murano glass.
Steven Gurowitz: Interiors by Steven G, 2818 Center Port Circle, Pompano Beach, 33064, 954-735-8223,
Designer as collector
Joseph Pubillones, of Joseph Pubillones Interiors in Palm Beach, did what seems like the impossible: He collected and curated all the art for a second home on Palm Beach for clients from New York.
“They wanted a spa-like feeling in the apartment with select pieces of art integrated into the scheme,” says Pubillones, an architect/designer who writes a syndicated column for Creators.com.
Pubillones flew to New York about a dozen times to review his selections with the clients and they gave him free rein.
When designing with art, he likes to create a relationship between the art and the furnishings. He kept the walls white so the art is the star.
The foyer features a trio of vertical panels – photo negatives of palm trees by Madeline and Robert Longstreet. On the opposite wall, are two black vertical sculptures of found objects attributed to Louise Nevelson.
Visible from the entry is a large wooden sculpture – “Birds” by Geoff Smith – that frames the entrance to the living room and the view. The bird theme is repeated in a small metal sculpture between the windows.
“The art affects the selection of furnishings,” he says. “In this case, all the sculpture is geometric and simple. The furniture shares some of that geometry.”
But using such a large piece of art can be a challenge. Pubillones made the 8 foot 6 inch ceilings look taller by treating the perimeter of the room with a soffit reminiscent of art deco style.
The dining room features a custom chandelier based on a Mondrian painting and a painting by A. Dale Nally that reflects the color of the ocean and appears to be “almost a window to the outside,” according to Pubillones. A sculpture by David Smith sits on a zig zag pedestal at the break point between the living and dining areas.
“The pedestal gives the optical illusion of a column,” he says. “It is using sculpture and art as architecture.”
The table and the pedestal are light wood to evoke driftwood. The table’s glass top reflects the openness of the chandelier.
“The look is like Giorgio Armani meets the spa and the beach,” he says.
Someone who saw the apartment offered to buy it with all the furnishings.
The client’s response: “It is not for sale at any price.”
Joseph Pubillones: Joseph Pubillones Interiors, 44 Cocoanut Row, T-14, Palm Beach, 33480, 561-655-1717, www.jp-interiors.com.
Catherine Belkov of Interior Concepts in Annapolis was faced with a challenge in designing a Palm Beach island condo for repeat clients, who have five residences. She had already done the basic design and added a soffit for lighting and a drapery pocket when they sent down a James Havard painting from their storage area. Some designers might have panicked but not Belkov. She improvised.
“They loved [the painting] and they said we want to make a place for it,” she says. “The Havard was a little too large to go above the sofa with the soffit. We said, ‘No problem.’”
Sometimes, Belkov says, you have to break the rules and that’s what she did with the large painting. A hanging bracket was created and it was designed so the sofa doesn’t go back more than four inches from the 78-inch square painting.
The colorful painting is played against a neutral background with neutral furnishings. A splash of color comes from the throw pillows. Belkov says she wanted the design to be dramatic, yet soothing and neutral to show off the painting.
The human pixel portrait of Marilyn Monroe by Craig Alan in the dining area appears to be dots from a distance, but it is actually comprised of tiny figures of skiers and photographers.
“It is a great foil to a painted piece below it,” she says. “It picks up the color and texture of the lacquered piece with bronze channeling and complements the dark espresso wood of the dining table.”
Belkov chose not to frame the Marilyn because she wanted it to feel fresh and new. The surface is reflective, almost a Venetian plaster.
A hand-blown Italian glass chandelier in ice white with clear glass adds a more contemporary vibe. The dining table features only two accessories – an onyx, hand-carved vessel with a lid and an abalone shell mounted on a sterling silver lizard handle.
“I think it’s very, very important to let the art speak first,” she says. “Then the room should settle in and enhance it. Too often designers pull out swatches to match a piece of art. To me that is a very corporate, very safe and uninteresting approach.
“If you are privileged enough to have a fabulous piece of art, it needs to speak first. To me, putting a shocking red canvas into a green or white room is more interesting than placing it in a room with the same color.”
Catherine Belkov: Interior Concepts, 2560 Riva Road, Annapolis, MD, 21401, 410-224-7366, www.interiorconceptsinc.com.
Mimi Masri of MM Design in Palm Beach worked with her client’s collection, much of which was obtained at the Detroit Center for Creative Studies.
“How you design depends on the type of art,” she says. “This art was very colorful and because it makes quite a statement you don’t want anything conflicting with it because you will lose both.”
Masri painted the walls of the dining area in light blue to provide a neutral background for six pieces of contemporary art. On the adjacent wall are four images of Marilyn Monroe.
Her choices for furnishings in this private home on Palm Beach don’t compete. She selected a geometric pattern for the chairs and used a glass top on the table to allow the art to stand out.
The living room area features a bright abstract by Romero Britto. A still life on the mantel is also recreated in part on the easel. Again Masri kept the furnishings neutral and put a large glass top on her client’s base. The curtains are natural hemp to allow light into the room.
“The challenges when decorating with art comes in the editing,” she says. “Some clients want to put up everything. That didn’t happen in this case. You have to realize that sometimes less is more.”
Mimi Masri: MM Designs, P.O. Box 3167, Palm Beach, 33480, 561-671-1958, www.mmdesignsllc.com.