ON A GRAY morning a few weeks back, my fingers were wandering the Internet, as they do, more often than I like to admit.
Flipping through the New York Times Styles section in desultory fashion (I really can’t stand Prada), my eyeballs were arrested by a book jacket, by a detonation of color and pattern so stunning that I sat and stared at the room pictured for what seemed to be, and may have been, hours.
First there was the explosion of pink that covered the room’s walls. A dahlia, I think (is there a more psychedelic flower?) painted in a giant splash in the center of a living room wall and surrounded by more colors and patterns, vaguely floral. Hung atop was a painting of pink roses, or maybe they’re carnations, set off-center above a long sofa heaped with pillows embellished with painted roses in colors not found in nature, and fronted by a low Chinese red coffee table with odd containers filled with masses of flowers. Since there was scarcely a color unaccounted for in the room, nothing clashed with anything, although one would not be inclined to think any of it went together–a bohemian rhapsody.
I wanted to crawl into the room on that miserable chilly morning and settle. What I would do there? Just be, I suppose.
The inner pages of Modern Living: Grandiflora: Interiors Inspired by Nature, Claire Bingham’s
new book from German publisher teNeues, is as thick with wonder as the cover. Homes around the world that play with the outdoors indoors in such unexpected ways.
Frequently juxtaposing the rough and old–a peeling radiator, a broken concrete floor–with the refined, the exquisite. Some of the rooms are clean-lined, almost naked, virtually colorless. Others are overstuffed and insanely vibrant.
An austere white studio becomes a forest when leafy branches, treated as cut flowers, tower in glass vases, and are scattered about the space, the tops of the branches bending at the ceiling. Remember the aisles of Westminster Abbey at the wedding of Prince William? Like that. But freer.
A living room with walls painted as an impressionistic forest, birch trees on a foggy spring
morning. The furniture gray and black with hints of green, like leaves just beginning to emerge.
A dining room with nicotine-colored walls, a Toulouse-Lautrec backdrop, with an immense, ornately framed mirror reflecting a pale table set with amethyst-colored glassware surrounded by six chairs upholstered in turquoise velvet. Tall, elegant, parlor palms fringe the corners. A single perfect pear is set at each place. What more do you need to eat in such a setting? Oh, perhaps some Brie.
I envy the creativity of the people that people these spaces, realizing that little of it is (necessarily)
wallet-dependent: One can clip a graceful branch from a tree and stick it in a samovar; paint a room black–look at how trifles and trash take on a resonance against it; drape a floral kimono or scarf on an armoire door, or from a hook.
Some how-tos are included: Spray-paint dried flowers chalk white, paste them to canvas, and frame – voila a frieze; let dried flowers spring from a frame, as if their exuberance can’t be contained; transform a bare concrete wall with chicken wire and the last vines, leaves and berries of fall.
My fingers itch to play, though I know I’d end up hot-gluing them together.
The writing is spare, each setting distilled to a paragraph and translated side by side into French and German (teNeues is an international publisher; I suppose this saves the cost of printing in multiple languages).
You’ve not seen anything like it before.
You’ve also never seen anything like a second book teNeues is promoting this season: Insecta by Charles and Adrienne Nesbit. If you’d enjoy looking at astoundingly detailed 10-by-12-inch photographs of lovingly arranged crickets and centipedes and other totally disgusting bugs in luminous color, you’ll love this. Having once been trapped in a bathroom by a centipede, it made my skin crawl. But that’s another story.
Just now flipping through it again … I need a shower.
LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” writes the Green Acre column every week. To read earlier columns, type Green Acre into the Search box at the top of the page.