To understand the latest trends in art, architecture, and design, you have to go back to the time when objects were handcrafted, bricks were hand-molded and every element in the house was a work of art. Rediscovered and burnished by a new generation, these old ideals are setting a new style.
Artists are being commissioned to turn out a variety of beautiful and bespoke objects for public and private spaces. “Handmade items tell a story,” says New Mexico-based Lisa Fontanarosa, who curates artists’ luxury objects from around the world. “They have the touch of the artist’s hand and invite us to touch and connect with their creator.” Paris-based Marie Christophe uses her whimsical wire structures, which range from candle chandeliers and floor lamps to elaborate animal forms, to weave her own fairy tales. Her custom Cinderella chandeliers —ball gowns woven in wire —strut their illuminating magic with sparkling crystals. She creates practical, pliable wire menageries—dogs, elephants, octopuses, owls, flamingos, and alligators—worthy of a circus’s big top or home’s tabletop. Her work has been showcased by France’s greatest luxury houses—Dior, Cartier, Hermès, Roger Vivier, Baccarat, and Guerlain—and in hotels, spas, and homes in Europe. “She fashions the extraordinary out of the ordinary,” Fontanarosa says.
Today’s architecture is building solidly upon the past. While star projects like Norman Foster’s glass top hat for the 1920s Hearst Tower in New York City and Daniel Libeskind’s transparent boat-prow addition to the Victorian-era Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany, have adapted landmark buildings for new uses, this idea has been extended to efforts to preserve entire blocks. “What’s changing is public understanding of the importance of community context,” says Clem Labine, the founder of Old- House Journal, Traditional Building, and Period Homes magazines. And grassroots groups have worked to save structures. “An adaptive reuse project is far less likely to attract opposition than a tear-down and throw-away proposal,” he says. Aesthetics aside, there are practical reasons for renovating old churches, firehouses, lighthouses, office buildings, and factories for residential and commercial use. “The greenest thing you can do is recycle an existing building,” Labine says.
Handcrafted custom wallcoverings, which transform flat surfaces with texture, color, and pattern, have become signature pieces —and works of art in their own right. “The entire wall becomes the canvas,” says Joyce Romanoff, CEO of Maya Romanoff, a Chicago-based design studio. “Each is a one-of-a-kind piece; that’s what art truly is.” The studio also makes custom “murals” that layer glass beads over clients’ photos. In 2016, it created a nearly 5-foot-by- 7-foot mural with an image of singer-songwriter David Bowie that was auctioned for charity. The wallcoverings, Romanoff says, “say who you are.”