Interior Designer Spotlight: Tilton Fenwick

Tilton Fenwick - Anne and Suysel

New York designers Suysel dePedro Cunningham and Anne Maxwell Foster, known together as Tilton Fenwick, have become seemingly ubiquitous in the interior design world — appearing on the pages of TradHome, Lonny, Apartment Therapy, So Haute, and more.  Additionally, they were recently chosen to design the 2011 Hampton Designer Showhouse presented by Traditional Home.  We asked Suysel and Anne to share with us their story, their inspiration, and a few design tips.  Enjoy!

How did you get your start in interior design?
We both had a similar start in the field, starting our careers out of college in advertising and later making a complete shift to follow our true passions in interior design.  For both of us, the first move was landing an entry level job at a prestigious NYC design office, even if it meant filing paper, answering phones, ordering office supplies or organizing the books in the office library.

Who has influenced your career or style the most?
Those firms where we learned the business: Markham Roberts, Brockshmidt & Coleman, and Ashley Whittaker Design.  With a combined decade plus of experience at these firms, they have all had a huge impact on how we work in color, furniture plans, materials, composition, details.  They have all had an incredible influence on our style, what we view as great interior design, and the way we run our office day to day.

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Barbara Barry: My Favorite Things

Barbara Barry

Barbara Barry’s name is synonymous with luxury — not an overwhelming, ostentatious luxury, but the kind of luxury that represents a life well-lived. Like the luxury of drinking tea in her serene California home. The luxury of the finest materials, of clean lines in an uncluttered space, of reading a classic novel in a sun-washed room.  These are, afterall, the things that make life special — and how else would you define luxury?

We asked Barbara to share with us the things that make her happiest — those items that inspire her designs, her watercolors, her life.  Her answers are often simple things — but they each represent her unique brand of luxury.

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Celebrating our craftsmen

Both Baker furniture and the Labor Day holiday trace their roots to the late 1800s.  Then as now, American labor was changing — with hand craftsmanship growing more rare, the demand for creativity more pervasive, and the implementation of technology more important.  At Baker our craftsmanship is at the heart of what we do, and the associates who work in our factories are the lifeblood.  On this Labor Day, we want to celebrate all of our associates — and introduce a few of them to you.

Sandra Benfield – Master Decorator

Sandra Benfield - Master Decorator - hand-painting

Sandra stands behind one of her current projects - the new Tortoiseshell Centre Table from the Stately Homes Collection

Sandra has been painting for thirty years, the last seven with Baker. Her work includes hand-painting and metal leafing, among a number of other inventive techniques. While she might very well have painted your accent table, she almost certainly helped our product designers refine their vision for it — a favorite part of her work.  Sandra explains that “Baker finishes are almost entirely freehand, with the emphasis on depth and detail, and no two are exactly the same.”

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Ten Pieces Our Designers Can’t Live Without

Here at Baker, our showroom designers become as familiar with each of our designs as they are with their own wardrobes.  They have a broad number of styles to mix and match to create a cohesive look: those special pieces that act as the jewelry of the room; the casual pieces that offer the comfort of a pair of blue jeans; the knockout designs that everyone will notice; and of course, those little-black-dress pieces, the go-to designs they turn to all the time that mix well with anything, no matter what the occasion (or room) calls for.

We polled our designers on what their go-to Baker designs are — the pieces they love to use in any space, again and again.  Here are ten designs (in no particular order) they can’t live without!

1) The Barbara Barry Collection Loose Back Sofa (no. 830-86)

The Barbara Barry Collection Loose Back Sofa - no. 830-86This bestselling sofa is a go-to because its simple design works in any room — yet with its countless options, it can conform to any style. Dress it up with a luxurious fabric and trim, make it modern with colorful fabric on its three throw pillows, add subtle interest with a contrasting welt — the possibilities are endless.  And, as part of our By the Inch program, its length can be customized to be the perfect fit for any space.

2) The Bill Sofield Collection Salon Chair (no. 6340)

The Bill Sofield Collection Salon Chair - no. 6340

Here’s another example of a chameleon design. While unmistakeably modern, the Salon Chair can work anywhere from a formal, feminine room to a casual, masculine setting.  Choose a white gold finish and contrasting fabrics for something more opulent, or make it subdued with a standard finish and neutral fabric.  The Salon Chair makes a statement on its own, but its modest footprint allows it to work in pairs in a sofa setting.

3) The Thomas Pheasant Collection Oval Coffee Table (no. 7854)

The Thomas Pheasant Collection Oval Coffee Table - no. 7854

At 48 inches long, the Oval Coffee Table is the perfect size to complement any sofa — from loveseats to longer, three-cushion sofas.  With its clean glass and brass design, this table can work in both traditional and contemporary settings.

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Barbara Barry: On Watercolors and Inspiration

Barbara Barry

When I design I think about the mood and the feeling a room can evoke through its forms, shapes and colors.  How we feel in the rooms we create is what interests me in design, and is key to my process.

The Barbara Barry Collection

For my new collection for Baker, I wanted to create the feeling of stepping into a beautiful painting, where the summation of the elements come together in a composition that feels balanced and inviting.

The Barbara Barry Collection - New IntroductionsThe new pieces are a collection of simple shapes, beautifully made, that work in harmony with each other to create an elegant backdrop for the lives that are lived in them. I love rooms that speak in quiet ways to their inhabitants, holding their attention as their eye moves melodiously from form to exquisite detail to sensuous form.

John Singer Sargent's The Grand Canal VeniceMy inspiration for the color palette came from John Singer Sargent’s watercolors of Venice.  The watery tints of pale gemstones shimmer and play off one another in a subtle way that feels soft and sensuous. Rose quartz, aquamarine, citrine and amethyst are punctuated by the glint of gold leaf.  A wash of smoky sapphire is paired with classic grey and warmed by burnished bronze.  These soft neutrals work well with brighter colors, yet softly stand on their own.

Barbara begins each design with a watercolor. Here, the Arc Bench comes to life.

For me, luxury is defined as comfortable elegance, where rooms support you in understated style.  In this way one is beyond fashion or trend, and into beauty, quality and craft – where purchases hold up to their investment.

The Barbara Barry CollectionI am thrilled to be working with Baker because of their commitment to the things I believe in. I find the process as fulfilling as the product and hopefully the end result is a testament to this.

Baker has recently introduced many new designs to The Barbara Barry Collection.  Visit our website to view the designs.

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Made in America: 3 fun facts about American furniture

As we in the States prepare for the fun and festivities of Fourth of July weekend, we experience a swell of pride for all things American.  (And we at Baker celebrate our American-made furniture in particular!) Our furniture experts here are full of fun facts — so we asked them to provide a few about early American designs. Enjoy!

Fun fact #1: The doors on American cabinets were often made with thirteen individual panes.

The Historic Charelston Collection - China Cabinet - No. 2535

This China Cabinet from The Historic Charleston Collection has thirteen curvy panes of glass on each door.

Elite American cabinetmakers, with even more elite patrons, celebrated independence by honoring the thirteen original states as a part of daily life.  Such elegant cabinets, and the books they held, were intended to make a statement— about wealth, erudition, and liberty.

Fun fact #2: After the signing of the Constitution, the eagle became a common symbol of freedom in America.

Vintage Baker furniture - Ohio Painted Cupboard

This vintage Baker cupboard has a gilded eagle prominently displayed.

Just how common?  Well, this particular cupboard resided in a popular tavern around the time its Ohio home became a state!  The eagle was a unique symbol of both freedom earned through revolution and freedom discovered on the frontier.

Fun fact #3: Each American colony had its own, sometimes entirely unique, cabinetmaking tradition.

We’ll give you two examples!

The Historic Charleston Collection - Chest on Chest on Chest - No. 2905

Chest on Chest on Chest from The Historic Charleston Collection

The chest-on-chest-on-chest was the invention of Charleston, South Carolina cabinetmaking legend Thomas Elfe. It celebrated portability as a fact of life rather than lifestyle (as it was easier to move three smaller pieces than one large one). The well-traveled elite of this international city often moved to summer homes (or elsewhere) as the seasons changed.

The Historic Charleston Collection - Bow Front Chest - No. 1978

This Historic Charleston Collection Bow Front Chest has two types of wood veneer decoration.

Far to the north in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the two-tone chest—largely unknown elsewhere — was an example of necessity, and availability, being the mother of invention. Cabinetmakers in this colony didn’t have access to some of the more exotic wood species available in other colonies (such as those with ports involved with the triangular trade) — so in an attempt to make their cabinets look more interesting, they used two types of wood in their designs.

The Historic Charleston Collection - Bow Front Chest - No. 1978

A close-up of the two-toned veneers on the Bow Front Chest

Hope you enjoyed our trivia! Have a safe and happy Fourth (whatever your nationality)!

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The enduring style of Japanning – by Louise Devenish

Louise Devenish is a Certified Decorative Arts Appraiser. She has been a prominent member of the arts community for over thirty years. Along with her auction house and antiques gallery experience, she has taught extensively.

Red Japanned Bureau-Bookcase

This beautiful scarlet japanned bureau-bookcase (circa 1720) is attributed to the work of John Belchier, who is first recorded working at St. Paul’s churchyard in London in the 18th century.

I was first introduced to japanning when my husband bought a red japanned bureau for our gallery on Madison Avenue many years ago.

The first thing we did (as we always did with a new antique) was take the piece apart and turn it upside down and inside out, as it were – a great way to learn about each piece.  We even took off the estucheons, which had never before been removed, to check the color of the ground beneath!  This was my first experience with lacquer, so we took the research books on English furniture from that period off the shelves and began searching for similar pieces.  One of those books was R. W. Symonds’ “Old English Walnut and Lacquer Furniture,” which made a lasting impression on me – and had me hooked on anything to do with japanning and chinoiserie from that day on.

Black Japanned Lacquer Writing DeskAsian lacquer became popular in England after it was introduced to the court of Charles II by his wife Catherine of Braganza, who brought oriental lacquer cabinets as part of her dowry.  John Evelyn noted in his diary on June 9, 1662, “The queen brought over with her from Portugal such India cabinets as had never been seen before.”  (Goods imported from China were referred to as “Indian” because they were first shipped to ports along the Indian coast before they were sent to England.)  Europeans began imitating these pieces, calling their furniture “Japan work.” Continue reading

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