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Michael S. Smith: Elements of Style Hardcover – November 22, 2005
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About the Author
Michael Smith is one of Architectural Digest's 100 Top Designers and winner of Elle Décor's Designer of the Year award in 2003. His work is regularly featured in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Town & Country, W, and House Beautiful, among others.Diane Dorrans Saeks is the bestselling author of fifteen books, including Hollywood Style, and was a founding editor of Metropolitan Home and Garden Design magazines. She is currently Interior Design editor for Paper City and a correspondent for W and WWD. She lives in San Francisco.
Top customer reviews
Michael Smith has been described as a classicist with an eye for detail and an aim for comfort. And the images in this book convey this point of view--every room can be dissected for the individual elements and when seen as a whole, there is something so welcoming, so soothing. His designs also have a historical and architectural point of view, they speak of a well read individual who imbues his craft with his depth of knowledge. Style and substance, a perfect pairing.
1. Pairs help to create a formal look: See the 2 leaf green lamps w/blue grey shades, 2 crystal sconces on end wall, 2 ornate crystal candelabra, 2 brass candlesticks on mantle, and 2 photos framed alike.
2. Echoes: Black fireplace box w/white surround & mantle echoes... the black & white photographs/sketches w/white mats & black frames and...the black piano next to all-white floor lamp; Painting of black curving figures on light tan background in brass/gilt frame echo the very solid black coffee table on the cream rug w/tan curving figures.
3. Use of Color in this Room: A subtle example -- There are 3 pieces of furniture with painted wood (excluding the piano): A chair with a cream/white frame, a table/stool in oxblood, and a settee with a blue grey frame. These are shades of the three primary colors. The colors of these 3 painted pieces together comprise the complete spectrum. The "color scheme" of the room as a whole also comprises the complete spectrum. The painted wood is a microcosm of this characteristic of the room. (And the complete spectrum gives us? ...Light.)
4. Gradations of Tints: The use of light-to-dark shades of each color gives a painterly quality to the room, softening the contrasts of colors and emphasizing the volume of the architecture, of the space. RED: cherry rug border, oxblood table, deep coral chair, pink & red flowers (5 shades of red, 3 not counting flowers). GREEN: deep & light green in settee fabric, brighter green in sofa & curtains, slightly brighter green in lamp bases, spring green in leafy bouquet (5 shades of green, 4 not counting bouquet). GOLD: Cream walls & rug background, gilt of picture frame & candlesticks on mantle & gold of print on settee, light tan of painting background and sisal rug, light camel of rug pattern and side chair, deep bronze of oblong sofa pillow and mantle figure, muted yellow of Chinese vase, sunny yellow of blossoming plant on coffee table. (7 shades of yellow, 6 not counting flowering plant). BLUE: Light & darker blue in settee print, soft deeper blue of Chinese vase (3 shades of blue).
5. Use of Black: Always important, but especially obvious here. It's needed to balance the massive black piano.
6. Rooms Need an Element of Surprise. Here it's the settee. The architecture of this room, its paneled walls, high ceilings, wide windows and volume, as well as that 7-foot Steinway (I think.) suggest the use of traditional furnishings. The settee is a subtle and beautiful contrast to the overall English look here. The "surprise" of a steel & glass table, for example, would have been a boring cliché and no surprise at all, don't you think?
7. Now for the Cover Photo. Its design follows that of the previous room, even though the style is completely different. The branches and leaves of the paper, bouquet and table echo one another. Here too the colors yellow, blue/green and red all range from light to dark, pale to bright, and there is a restrained presence of black. The bright blue Chinese vase, the gilt table and the cherry red (of the cherries) in the paper dramatically form a full spectrum, emphasize the full-spectrum of the color scheme and create light right across the center of the photograph. The surprise here is the hand. I think the main role of the pagodas is as verticals against the movement in different directions of all the curvy diagonals in the paper, the table and the vase of branches.
8. True, in the end, it's in the eye of the beholder. And yes, some, even many, of the rooms in this book may not be what you want for yourself. Nevertheless, study this book -- carefully. Then follow Michael S. Smith's lead. Simple as that! (Sorry this is a bit long.)
Of course his budget exceeds that which most of us have. In one case he was thinking of a Portuguese quinta (a traditional manor house), so he flew to Lisbon to get some ideas. I can't say that I did anything like that when I was decorating.
The book itself is beautifully illustrated, with high quality printing using a matte finish paper that shows off the pictures very well without the glare of magazine glossy. The pictures were obviously made in rooms that were carefully prepared. There's not a dirty sock in sight, and I can just imagine what some of the rooms would look like after a five year old boys birthday party.