Saturday, January 22, 2011

Romantic Living Room...Romantic Kitchen

romantic kitchenromantic kitchen
Romantic Living RoomRomantic Living Room

MIMI READ: Sometimes a piece of furniture has so much presence that it looks best by itself, with nothing but air around it. Is that why you isolated this gorgeous table on the loggia of this guesthouse?

ERIN MARTIN: It's a 17th-century French monastery table made of slate and cast iron—and it took me a year of looking all over the world to find it. It fits so beautifully with the style of the house, the bronze railings, and those handmade tiles. A room with a view like that needs only a lid and a shoe, something to cap it and something to ground it. After I found that great, simple iron chandelier, the space needed only a nice little Manolo Blahnik.

Please pinpoint that extraordinary view.

It's in St. Helena in the Napa Valley of California. You're looking out at rows of lavender, lots of roses, vineyards, meadows, and rolling hills. You feel like you are in the clouds in heaven. You can't see any other houses.

Who's your client?

An amazing woman, very involved in the arts, who adopted two children and had four of her own. They're all grown. She lives alone and wanted a place for her children and grandbabies when they visit. She loves France and wanted it to be a French country-style guesthouse.

You're known for being one of the few young designers who's following in the footsteps of Ron Mann and the late Michael Taylor, the legendary designers who helped create the so-called California look in the 1970s. They used generously overscale furnishings and lots of neutral colors, making for a certain relaxed opulence. You're also known for taking old architectural fragments and converting them into tables, lamps, and other things.

Nowadays you can walk into any house and name every big showroom where they got every single piece of furniture. So we use old things or make our own. I like to be creative and take things out of context. In the living room, there are Italian Renaissance giltwood pillars that were turned into lamps. We took antique Venetian doors and now they fold over to expose the television. We had a lot of fun making the drapes from an old blue theater curtain we bought in Lyons, which is famous for its silk; we joined panels of it with panels of a creamy Great Plains linen from Holly Hunt.

The kitchen is beyond charming. I love that extraordinary decorative painting on the walls and across the ceiling.

Michael Duté, a San Francisco artist, did the painting. The design was completely his idea. He's so talented that I just left him alone and let him paint. He based it on patterns in Swedish classical rococo interiors, but it's also suggestive of blue and white china, which is perfect for a kitchen. He was just going to paint the ceiling, but the client and I loved it so much we suggested he do the walls. It makes the room strongly romantic, and isn't wine country all about romance?

What are those wall tiles?

They're Middle Eastern—Tunisian, probably. I lived in Morocco and Israel, so I'm very inspired by things from that area.

What's your favorite thing about the kitchen?

Decoratively speaking, the room has a lot going on, but it's still very peaceful. There's pattern on the tile, the ceiling, the walls, the drawers, the doors and accoutrements, but with all of that, it still has a very clean, classic feeling. Here's what I think—jeans should be blue, tennis outfits should be white, tuxedos should be black, and kitchens should look clean and classic.

In color and in feeling, the blue and white dining room flows right out of the kitchen. And though your color palette isn't neutrals here, you're exhibiting the California look again—good-sized pieces, but not many of them.

You just don't need that much, especially in a room with that much architecture where the walls are solid stone. I love the simplicity of the old Spanish walnut table. It has history, great patina, great marks and dings. The client found the hutch in France, and had no clue if it would fit, but it's perfect in size and scale. We made the fire screen out of an old French garden gate I bought while I was in Montpelier, France. I had to drag to it back to Napa!

What color and texture are the walls in the master bedroom?

Throughout the house, we used a lot of plaster with integral color and different finishes. It added a ton of character. In this bedroom, it's powder blue, the client's favorite color.

Why did you use a settee at the foot of the bed?

As long as it doesn't mess with the feet of a six-feet six-inch man, I like things at the ends of beds. It makes me feel cozy, protected, and warm. In this case, I thought a settee in sky blue linen would be perfect, because it faces a marvelous view. The view out of that bedroom door will make you believe there's nothing wrong in the world. It's like a piece of art. We call it the kissing lookout.

Who designed the prehistoric pizza oven on the dining terrace? It's so sculptural. I've never seen one remotely like it.

The architect. He based it on ancient rural storage structures that still stand in Provence. To go with the primitive mood, we had designed weathered wood cabinets with ropes for pulls. As for the iron chairs out there, they were made by a man that the client stopped on the freeway because she saw metal furniture in the back of his truck. I like them because they're low, big and you can hang towels on them.

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