Whether we’re talking trends in art, architecture, or design, it’s all about seeing the beauty of traditional materials used in new ways. It’s looking at ordinary objects in a different light. It’s rethinking the purpose of conventional spaces. But most of all, it’s about being open to possibilities.
Picture frames increasingly are being recognized as objets d’art that raise the aesthetic as well as the monetary value of the masterworks they surround.
“Every great artist, from Michelangelo and Van Gogh to Thomas Hart Benton, got involved in designing and sometimes even building great frames for each work they created,” says master framer Eli Wilner, whose namesake studio in Manhattan has restored and replicated frames for private clients and museums around the world. “The frame is a tool by which art gets elevated and energized. I consider it an adjunct to the artwork.”
Wilner, who replicated the mammoth $3.5 million frame for Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, says that “when the right frame is paired with the right picture, it can add 10% to the value of the work.” And, he adds, “With major artworks selling for upwards of $10 million, that’s a significant amount.”
Eli Wilner & Co. made this frame for the portrait of Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi.
The newest residential towers in big cities are merging working and living spaces to create self-sustaining communities. Long-underutilized riverfront properties in cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are becoming prime places for mixed-use “mini-habitats” that pair public and private spaces for a vibrant human/nature interaction.
Southbank, a seven-acre development on the south branch of the Chicago River-—built by Lendlease, an international firm based in Sydney, and designed by the global architectural firm Perkins+Will—recently opened the first of five buildings on a half-mile stretch that incorporates the city’s riverwalk into its design.
The 29-story, 452-unit luxury tower, known as The Cooper, is anchored by retail stores and features an amenity level, with a listening lounge with playable musical instruments, a shop space with sewing machines and craft supplies, a hair-and-makeup studio, a game room with a pool table, a club-level fitness center, and co-working rooms. An outdoor terrace, complete with pool and spa, has a pizza oven and grilling stations, a bocce court, a movie-screening area, and fire pits.
“The Southbank development is about the synergy among the residences, the river, and the green space,” says Perkins+Will design principal Todd Snapp. “It’s designed to bring the public and the tower residents to the riverfront by weaving in water-taxi stops, fishing holes, and kayaking stations.”
The Cooper Tower in Chicago's Southbank neighborhood
Elaborate design treatments elevate the status of the ceiling, enhancing its role as the fifth wall.
“In classical styles of architecture, the ceiling was the sky, the cosmos,” says New Orleans architect Ken Tate. “It was something grander and bigger than the wall.” Tate says the treatments, which reference the style of the architecture, imbue the space with personality that “can be subtle or over-the-top.”
In a 12,800-square-foot Palladian-style villa in New Orleans that he designed, Tate allowed the vast ceilings to soar inhigh style with groin and barrel vaults, antique wood beams supported by classically carved brackets, and plaster coves.
“I kept the plaster walls neutral,” he says, “because not only is it in keeping with the Italian Renaissance style, but it also was a way to make the client’s large contemporary artworks stand out on their own.”
And for a British Colonial–style home he designed in the Bahamas, Tate created traditional, pyramidal tray ceilings for a climactic effect. “As an architect, I see myself as a composer and conductor,” he says. “Ceiling designs can reference each other like the repeating notes in a song.”
Ken Tate's ceiling treatment for a New Orleans villa