Notes from the Field: Room Recipes

January 16, 2012

By Cheryl Katz

Jeffrey and I are devoted foodies. When we’re not working on design projects in our studio, you can usually find us in our kitchen, sitting at a standard-issue restaurant supply worktable, pouring over recipes in search of the next great dish.

In fact, so enamored are we with food, and respectful of the often excellent and accessible dissemination of information that surrounds it, that we used our favorite cookbook as the model for our first design book, twelve years ago.

Sure, the book would have beautiful photographs of rooms–as delicious looking as, say, a Gâteau St. Honoré. But pretty pictures–glamour shots as they’re often referred to in the publishing biz–were not all that we cribbed. We aimed for descriptions that would be as clear and concise, and as well pictured, as Cooks Illustrated‘s instructions for roasting a chicken. We strove to decode and demystify the design process the way that chefs like Marion Cunningham, Julia Child and Paula Wolfert did for a generation of home cooks. (Okay, so we were a little over-ambitious…)

The formula we used for creating Room Recipes: Ingredients for Great Looking Rooms is still one we use for our design projects today. Simply put, we help our clients deconstruct the elements in a room in order to reconstruct the look. As we stated in the book’s introduction:

As we begin to assess the details of a room [that speaks to us], our first impressions become informed. The more informed we become, the more we are able to make decisions about the kinds of rooms we want to create for ourselves. By understanding the ingredients that give a room its look and feel we make the kinds of rooms that are right for us.

As with any recipe, tastes change, knowledge grows and a global world makes for more accessibility. So here are a few updated recipes that use some new ingredients, as well as some old favorites.

If you have a taste for blue and white:

Fabric from Victoria Hagen; glass mosaic from Stone Source; wallpaper from Madeline Weinrib; surface from Nevamar; trim from Brimfield; carpet tile from Flor; terrazzo from Trend Q; tile from Zodiaq

Or your palette runs to the more neutral:

Fabric and trim from Rogers & Goffigon; limed oak and metal from our sample library; mosaic from Paris Ceramics; carpet from Sam Kasten

Or if you’re hungry for a dash of glamour:

Wallpaper from Osborne & Little; black lace phyllite from Vermont Structural Slate; ebony wood from our material library; woven flooring from Plynyl by Chilewich; mirrored mosaic from Ercole; trim from Houlès