Hang the garland high or close the door and throw away the key...
When I was working on my Victorian remodel project (2146 Pine Street, a fictitious address on a real street here in San Francisco) I was thinking of ways to update the exterior of the house while still keeping some traditional features...or at least the idea of the traditional features.
Plaster garlands and wreaths are a common decorative feature around here, especially in my neighborhood (the Castro.) As I learned in school, these details were a way to make new world houses look more rich and stately.
Now, my idea might not have ever passed any sort of review by the local historical preservation society or whoever it is that watches over the remodeling of these wonderful old home, but as a project I wanted to infuse the exterior of 2146 Pine with my style. I have a background in fine art, and up until I decided to study interior design last year I had kind of forgotten (or perhaps never fully realized) what that meant. For me, "fine art" wasn't about painting lifelike landscapes or portraits or creating incredibly detailed sculptures. Don't get me wrong, I was more than welcome to create those kinds of traditional pieces as long as they had some sort of deeper meaning or concept.
Studying art in London in the '90s meant that every one of us was primed to become one of the Young British Artists, like Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread, Chris Ofili, Sam Taylor Wood, or any number of thirtysomething Britons who made sensational, often controversial pieces that challenged your mind and perceptions. (In fact, their biggest collective show on either side of the Atlantic was called Sensation.)
So how does this relate to my current pursuit of interior design? I've found that my projects revolve more around a central concept or theme, and that I'm trying to challenge conventional notions of what can be used in an interior (or in this case exterior) space. Part of this Victorian remodel project required me to keep traditional features and honor the heritage of this house. So you want garlands and wreaths and pediments and a widow's walk? Check. But I'm going to etch them onto glass instead, making them spectral, ghostly reminders of a bygone era. Like this:
I ended up exploring the possibilities of turning the exterior inside-out, trying to reverse or invert as many details as I could. The dark exterior color became an homage to Queen Victoria herself, as I imagined this house as the grand dowager monarch of Pine Street, a bold contrast to the lighter, brighter houses surrounding it. The cornice at the top of the house was restructured so that it stepped inward, instead of flared out. Even corbels were flipped around so that they became vertical elements instead of decorative supports.