I am delighted to share this lovely article that appeared in Architectural Digest this past week about my passion for working with artists and connecting them with clients. Using original art and educating clients is a cornerstone of my design aesthetic. I am so grateful I found a profession that allows me to combine all of my desired careers (artist, art history professor, curator, and designer) into one! Thank you to Katy Olson for sharing our story and to all the artists and galleries I have had the privilege to work with over the years!
Austin works with artist Charlie Havanich, pictured here, who is represented by Hidell Brooks Gallery. “I adore Charlie and I just acquired one of his works,” Austin tells AD PRO. “The image in the picture is a commission for one of my clients that bears an uncanny resemblance to a young Jackie.” / Photography: Charle Hanavich
Cathy Austin began her career not in design, but in art, working at Sotheby’s across departments including European Porcelain, American Paintings, and American Furniture. “I assisted the experts cataloguing the works for the auctions, handling archives, client contracts, condition reports, and arranging presale exhibitions. I began as an intern and archivist and also worked as an administrator,” recalls Austin. When she transitioned into interiors, Austin kept connected to the art scene, attending shows like Maison et Objet and TEFAF—but also in a more tangible way, sourcing local Southern talent for her interior-design projects.
Austin complemented her space at a recent Traditional Home show house with a portrait, left, by artist Kate Long Stevenson and a large abstract, right, by David Paul / Photography: Dustin Peck
The designer, who tells AD PRO that she has “always been an art history student at heart,” makes it a priority to educate clients. “Since art is very subjective, I encourage my clients to collect works that they respond to emotionally. Original art elevates every interior and reflects the personalities that inhabit the space. By attending art fairs at home and abroad, I seek out emerging artists to introduce to my clients. Getting to know the artists personally and learning about their process and what inspires them is very important to me to pass along that knowledge.”
An interior by Cathy Austin with artwork by Amanda Talley, above the fireplace/ Photography: Gordon Beall
As principal of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design, of Charlotte, North Carolina, one of those talents Austin has gotten to know on a deeper level is a New Orleans–based SCAD graduate named Amanda Talley, whose work she discovered in a local showroom. “I fell in love with her abstract, gestural works and designed my first living room around one of her paintings that I did not even own…knowing that one day I would add her work to my own personal collection.” The designer-artist duo’s first commission together was for a couple who were newbies to art collecting and just beginning their collection; their second commission was for Austin’s home. For each project, Austin sends Talley “inspiration images” as well as examples of her art that Austin’s clients like. Then, Talley “takes over and works her magic! I have loved watching her style evolve, yet still being able to recognize her brushstrokes knowing it is her work.”
What should designers know about sourcing art, particularly from emerging talents? In addition to the perhaps obvious exposure (“See as much as you can. Go to as many museums, galleries, auctions, and art fairs as you can to train your eye and be exposed to what is available in the marketplace”), Austin also advises having an open mind. “Do not be intimidated by price point. Even established artists can be within reach if you look at their complete body of work, including studies and works on paper. You can research artists through wonderful websites like Artsy which can also lead to discovering new artists and art galleries. It has been thrilling to watch the careers of artists I befriended years ago soar through their values increasing and being acquired by museum collections.”
Painting by Brad Thomas through SoCoGallery / Photography by Emily Followill
Another tip? Keep your eyes peeled; sometimes discoveries unfold on one’s downtime. Austin met a valuable collaborator during a volunteer commitment with the Mint Museum in Charlotte. “I was serving as the head of the Mint Museum Auxiliary and working closely with Brad Thomas, our curator of modern and contemporary art, selecting possible acquisitions for the museum’s permanent collection that our organization would underwrite. He was already an established artist, as well as art consultant and artist mentor—but his work was taking a new direction,” she explains, which “combined mixed media, collage, and his distinctive handwriting that became abstract lines when intertwined on the canvas. The words in his works examine the influence writers have had on shaping his worldview.”
The artist’s works are now found in Austin’s collections—and in her clients’. “We recently collaborated on a work for the Atlanta Southeastern Showhouse this spring. I asked him to create a work inspired by a Southern author. He used the Flannery O’Connor quote, ‘To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.’ The abstract work was the perfect finishing touch to my bedroom, that made the space more personal and provided a contemporary juxtaposition to the more traditional elements in the room.”
And for up-and-coming artists? For their part, recommends Austin, “artists can share their portfolios with designers whose work they admire and offer to lend their work for various show houses and charity events,” says Austin. “Attending events at the major design centers and other industry events is a great way to connect with designers. Every city from Atlanta to Los Angeles now seems to have its own design week full of opportunities for networking.”
With the Miami art fairs just a month away, I was delighted to see the December issue of Architectural Digest is devoted to collectors and how they live with their favorite pieces. The Brooklyn home of art world rock star KAWS artist Brian Donnelly reflects his family’s joy being surrounded by artists they admire and find inspiring. The works range from 1950-the present and there is a visual treat around every corner.
An array of artworks covers a wall in the living room. An Ettore Sottsass cabinet and a Pratt chair by Gaetano Pesce help partition the space. Wyethsofa covered in custom linen. Pillows by KAWSand Alexander Girard pillows from Maharam. Child’s chair by Gaetano Pesce. KAWS BFF plush chair by Fernando and Humberto Campana.
Poppy, wearing a dress by Huishan Zhang, in the sitting room. A custom sofa by Joanna Plant is upholstered in a garnet velvet by designers guild. Lightning mirrors by Bride and Wolfe; Hans Koegl Palm-tree Lamps.
I love it when Architectural Digest publishes interiors articles online before the actual magazine hits the stands. It is the perfect teaser to anticipate what lies ahead in the upcoming issue. The November issue will feature the light filled London home of “It-Girl” Poppy Delavigne and her debonair husband James Cox. The home beautifully reflects the couple’s personalities with its eclectic mix of objects ranging from neon art and lighting shaped mirrors to banana leaf wallpaper and peacock chairs…also with a dash of pink mohair and beloved DeGournay wallpaper thrown in the mix.
I am not sure where Ernest Hemingway wrote this, but I would like to think it was on his terrace overlooking the Grand Canal while staying at the legendary Gritti Palace in Venice. We were fortunate enough to stay in this beautiful palace on our recent trip to Venice with the Rubelli Group who had supplied many of the fabrics for the restoration overseen by Donghia’s creative director Chuck Chewning in 2013. My pictures and words did not do this masterpiece justice so I found these wonderful articles from Architectural Digest detailing the process. My own candids follow at the end.
While you are watching Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, be sure to take note of the fabulous Architectural Digest Green Room! Over one billion film buffs, fashionistas, and design lovers will be tuned in as well….ENJOY!
Created by the L.A. design studio Commune, with assistance from actress Julianne Moore, the Architectural Digest Oscar Greenroom is floored with Antium brushed limestone tile by Walker Zanger. The tile complements brick walls painted in a Sherwin-Williams Emerald interior acrylic latex in alabaster and neutral Shepperton and Neves carpets from Stark. Furnishings include seating by Holly Hunt, including a Holly Hunt Studio Haka director’s chair and Christian Astuguevieille Ilorg armchair. A Samsung Galaxy Tab S tablet lies on a Holly Hunt Caste Bridger bronze table. A custom-designed banquette lining the main wall is upholstered in a Clarence House fabric and accented with pillows in velvets and velours.
With a nod to the iconic designs of the 1950s and ’60s, the Greenroom features a picture window composed of 16 Samsung LED displays that stream a sweeping view of L.A. from atop the Hollywood Hills as the city changes from day (shown) to night.
Banked with tropical plants, an Oscar statue stands in a niche beside the Greenroom’s Samsung LED display picture window (here showing a night scene).
A geometric-shaped bar crafted of Caesarstone’s Calacatta Nuvo is flanked by Holly Hunt Studio’s Marteau barstools.
The Greenroom’s custom-made doors are inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and are accented with Emtek hardware. This section of the Greenroom is outfitted with a Holly Hunt Studio table, a custom-designed chandelier from Remains Lighting, and Bernardaud porcelain on the console table.
In keeping with Commune’s indoor-outdoor concept, the patio area features a built-in banquette with seat cushions and pillows covered in Perennials outdoor fabrics. Sutherland’s 500-pound African table by John Dickinson is complemented by the firm’s Salão lounge chair.
Next week design blogs will be blowing up with editorial commentary from Blogfest 2012. The event has been organized specifically for interior design bloggers by host sponsors Kravet, Lee Jofa, and Brunschwig and Fils. The fabric houses have partnered with the industry’s top design magazines to plan 3 days of programs in stunning settings with today’s interior design icons.
Architectural Digest’s Editor in Chief Margaret Russell welcomes the designers to Blogfest at the Kips Bay Decorator Show house. I do not know if I am more excited to see the show house or to meet the charming Ms. Russell! I became a huge fan of hers during her early days at Elle Decor and more so watching her as a judge on Bravo’s Top Design with Kelly Wearstler and Johnathan Adler.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of the show house which benefits the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club. Typically the show house takes place in a townhouse or brownstone. The 2011 show house will be in two 6000 plus square foot penthouse units above the Penn Station rail yards at the Aldyn overlooking the Hudson. The designers have been faced with the monumental task to turn these empty rooms with little architectural detailing and massive windows into aesthetically pleasing and breathtaking spaces. In today’s New York Times, Bunny Williams, the show house chair and design guru, comments that visitors come to see the show house, “for the fantasy, the playfulness, and the flair of artistry.” Guests can escape the reality of everyday life and appreciate the time and talent these designers have donated all to raise money for a wonderful cause.
After the kick off event at the Aldyn, we will then head to SoHo to Savant to have cocktails with the dashing Thom Filicia. Thom designed their massive showroom which integrates Apple based technology into beautiful room settings as seen below. As a self diagnosed I-Phone and I-Pad junkie, I cannot wait to see how this technology can streamline everything in the home from the lights and thermostat to becoming a personal media player and sound system.