Interior Design

Before & After: Charity Works Green House (Part One) by Raji Radhakrishnan

#TBT: CharityWorks GreenHouse is a project Raji RM worked on in 2009 along with many other local designers. (This was originally posted in Design Dossier in September 2009 )

Initial rendering presented in early 2009 by  Raji RM  for the Foyer

Initial rendering presented in early 2009 by Raji RM for the Foyer

I've often described interior architecture as akin to a great body especially before adorning a superb dress. If you fix the shell of a space as best you possibly can, what ever furnishings or decor you put in it is going to be even more amazing than when you first found it. While this seems quite logical and given, it's still not the first priority for so many. The instant gratification that many seek and evidenced by so much more willingness to rush and furnish spaces while understandable is exactly where restraint is lacking. Sure it takes time, a higher budget and a lot more patience to wait and get the floors, walls, ceiling and mill work just right. But the results are not only far better but also long lasting especially in keeping you happy knowing you have done all the right things. How long can you cover up with just make-up before your skin starts to show? But then, if you are really happy with your interior space, it's layout and the finishes you should certainly go ahead and get that instant gratification!

The new wainscot paneling  Raji RM  designed for the main entry

The new wainscot paneling Raji RM designed for the main entry

The house is a custom LEED certified green house thoughtfully built form scratch by the builder, Mark Turner of GreenSpur and beautifully designed by Cunningham Quill Architects. The interiors were left to be designed by the selected designers and the first time we were actually able to step into the house, the foyer and the hallways much like the rest of the interior were just plain dry walls. While I regard my spaces in the upcoming Charity Works Green House (the front porch, foyer, hallways, stairs and upstairs hall) as very important first impressions for the whole house, they are nevertheless a group of small, narrow meandering spaces. To make the best of it, the first thing I designed was a five feet high wainscot paneling (see photo above). This gives the narrow space some instant character not to mention some clear architectural heft. While the simple squares in the panel are a nod to the craftsman style of the house, at only five feet high from the ground keeps it from overwhelming the narrow spaces. Had I not added it, the entire onus of making the space would lie on the decor, but then again, there isn't much room for that either. And let me tell you, whatever few furnishings do finally end up in these spaces is by no means "just there". Think about all the factors that are going to count in the selection process -

- First and foremost it has to be very eco-friendly. That is the first criteria for everyone of the designers working in the house. Add to that my self-imposed green standard that it burns almost no fossil fuels, meaning use vintage, antiques or pre-owned as much as possible

- It has to fit the scale of the spaces yet be unobtrusive for the heavy traffic that will invariably be walking through these spaces back and forth

- Besides being luxurious and not bland or basic just because they are "eco-friendly", everything in my 'Foyer & Galleries' space has to be interesting and attractive enough to warrant a "pause and behold"

- At least a few good innovative ideas that can easily be parlayed by visitors in their own homes

- Has to be current for today's clients and their lifestyle yet in some ways at least agreeable to the craftsman architecture of the home without looking dated,

- And my own goals of keeping a good mix of things both traditional and modern in style to give the impression of things collected over a period of time through the different design eras the owners might have lived through and their own travels.

Go to charityworksgreenhouse.com for more information. A complete greenhouse inside out.

Stay tuned, next week we will show you all the after photos - fun, completed spaces!

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

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How To Design A Room Like A Couture Dress - Part 2 by Raji Radhakrishnan

I think Domino called it Outfit to a Room?! When an outfit or an image of it arrests you so much that you can't forget it, it can very well translate to a room's design - just pick your battles. Not everything is for everybody. That means choosing outfits/images that you not only love but making sure the details are well within your reach or at least knowing how to make-do without some of that cache. In a previous post I shared photos of a September 2007 Vogue image which I loved so much and which inspired a room I designed. In this second part, I thought I'd share the details of how I actually went about designing the room. Let's break it down.

First off, the Christian Lacroix dress that Raquel Zimmerman wore is incredibly beautiful! The variety of colors, fabrics, textures and of course the cut and flow all had a role in it and so did the black hat. While the dress itself has a heavy influence from a Jane Austen like period fashion, the styling of Raquel's hair was much more contemporary with a very short, razor sharp cut and exaggerated volume. But you can still tell the Elizabethan influence there. I think the large black hat coupled with the hair style, cut through the period feel of the dress and brought it all down to earth, quite perfect for today. As if all this complexity was not enough, Grace Coddington ramped up the image's magic with the setting she chose - a very elaborate and detailed period room. So that puts the whole thing back to somewhere up there. I love the dress, but from a designer's point of you I love it way more in that particular setting. It makes all the difference (and more complicated!). So, of course, I took not just the dress but the whole photograph.

Left image from  Vogue ; Interior image on right by  Raji RM & Associates

Left image from Vogue; Interior image on right by Raji RM & Associates

Now for a little background on the room I designed. Unlike the gorgeous room in the Vogue image with all the period detailing, the room I had to start with was rather contemporary in feel with tons of windows and a whole lot of sun light. I first decided that there was no fighting that. You go with the light, respect the architecture and in fact celebrate both. We don't live in the good ole' days of 18th Century France, so why try? The painted walls, medallion curtains and carved and gilded moldings was not going to happen either. That means, I have a prosaic white shell. Nowhere close to the setting in the inspiration image. But, that's OK. Because I can still sneak in some of the gilding and the painterly patterns in the furnishings.

Hickory Chair Sofa

Hickory Chair Sofa

Still, my first order of business was to introduce some of that warmth that you see in the Vogue image. Which, mind you, is also a reflection (captured by the photographer David Sims) of the light streaming by that window yet slightly shaded by the curtain. In cases like this it is that feeling you are trying to capture - that warmth. So, in came the large greenish beige sisal rug that instantly helped to warm up the room. Next came the large skirted sofa by Hickory Chair.  This large beige sofa helped so much in two ways. First, the huge swath of beige fabric on the sofa again eased up all that white and brought in more of that much needed warmth but in a different tone from that of the rug. Second, the couture like detailing in the box pleated and buttoned skirt helped to bring some of that finesse and formality in the Vogue image but in a much more realistic and livable sort of way. Not to mention how it dueled a bit with the casual sisal rug. Layering of different tones, different styles and textures always helps.

Pair vintage Gio Ponti chairs from  maison et toi

Pair vintage Gio Ponti chairs from maison et toi

Next came everyone's favorite piece (and I think the couture equivalent) - the vintage Gio Ponti lounge chair. We upholstered the chair in a gorgeous pinkish plum velvet by Fabricut and paired it with a Rogers & Goffigon textured beige linen fabric for the sides. This contrast not only makes the chair interesting but gives the room that added layer of color contrast. But, it's the plum velvet and the lines of the chair that is the killer here. The modernity of the chair contrasts with the traditional style of the sofa beautifully. Now, bear in mind that when you translate an image of a dress into a room, you not only just take the colors but also the color proportions and the scale. Look at that Vogue image again. How much of the plum/pink in the dress occupies the whole image? About 25-30% may be? Then, that's all the plum that should be in the room too.

Raymond Subes Style Coffee Table from  maison et toi

Raymond Subes Style Coffee Table from maison et toi

Now it's time for some gilding and pattern to appear. The coffee table I chose is vintage and very much in the manner of those that French designer, Raymond Subes designed in the 40s. It has a terrific design and is unbelievably heavy. The base is gilded iron with a wonderful scroll pattern which reminds you of all the carved and gilded panel moldings in the Vogue image but in a more modern kind of way. The top is an assemblage of mother-of-pearl, blocks of marble and poured resin. The gold, creams, browns and whites together with the materials in the table top add that first layer of pattern to the room. But, I felt the room needed a little more gilding and added the Giacometti lamp in the corner. The style of the lamp artfully injects more modernity to the space and I topped it off with a simple black conical paper shade much like the hat on Raquel! A sprinkling of the blueberry in her dress comes in the blue tones of the flower vase. Shades of maroon and brown on the pillows complement the dress further, and you start to see it coming together.

Giacometti Lamp from  maison et toi

Giacometti Lamp from maison et toi

But, something was still amiss - we needed more pattern like the ones on the walls. True, pattern could have been introduced in those curtain fabric but like I said, that wasn't happening either. So where to introduce the pattern? The space needed extra seating anyway, so I found a pair of vintage bamboo stools in their original fabric - a floral patterned one in exactly the kind of color tones I was working with. Voila! That did it. Or so I thought. Dear lord, something was still amiss! That could be because the stools were actually quite small so the pattern on the fabric, while a real find, was not good enough scale-wise. At least not by itself. Remember how much pattern there is on the walls of that image? If I can't get the pattern on a wall full of windows by god I was going to create a mural! As a homage to the Vogue image but really on a whim, I painted a figure (on an old 4 x 8 mural) more like a silhouette with a semblance of the Lacroix dress. And I think that worked.

Vintage Rattan Stool from  maison et toi

Vintage Rattan Stool from maison et toi

I know it isn't that simple. In fact, in reality designing any room inspired by Fashion or anything else is pretty complicated especially if you are fixated with an image like this. This is just a peak into how, as a designer, I get inspired and think through the process of designing. I hope you enjoyed it!

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

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Fashion & Interiors: #Vogue #RaquelZimmerman #DavidSims #GraceCoddington by Raji Radhakrishnan

Isn't it amazing that in a day and age when we are all bombarded with images from Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and countless number of magazines, books, web sites and blogs, some images are just unforgettable?! They are so timeless that they stop you in your tracks again and again even years after they were originally shot. I was googling the other day searching for a Christian Lacroix bracelet I have and which needed some repairs. Browsing through images, I came across the first image below and it stopped me once again in my tracks as I fondly remembered the spread in the September 2007 issue of Vogue produced by Grace Coddington, shot by the uber talented photographer, David Sims and of course of the versatile Brazilian model, Raquel Zimmermann. Like for many, these images rocked my world for a long time and I still have these pages dogeared, tucked in my image screen, saved in my computer and on my phone.

Not even all of Vogue's spreads capture one's attention and hold it for years after like this spread did and still does! Everything about it - the rooms' setting, the model, the couture dresses, the hats, the hair, the make-up, the photography - the whole orchestration is magical. Being an interior designer of course, I noted the hand painted and gilded paneling and jib doors, the ormolu-like carved and gilded details of the architraves and it's variations in the blue room, the gorgeous and billowing curtain fabric with it's large floral medallions, a perfect complement to the walls and the Louis XIV & XV furnishings that are to die for!

So much so that these images influenced my design for a project I had loads of fun with!  Particularly the first image where Raquel is wearing one of the most beautiful dresses by Christian Lacroix. The mulberry, plum and blueberry hues are shot through with the sharp velvet black hat, the fox sleeves and lacy chartreuse chiffon neck line all together poised in front of the complex creamy background. I loved it so much that I had to redraw the dress in the background of the room I created! The second image with John Galliano's champagne silk-taffeta embroidered with pearls jacket over a white tulle skirt for Christian Dior inspired another room I designed. Obviously they are not literal translations and aren't quite comparable. But, they are nevertheless inspired (and much more simplified) modern color stories I was happy to work with. And, I'm sure it's not the last time they will move me. As I say, il est tout ma tasse de thé!

Check back soon for Part 2 of this post - a step-by-step on how to design a room like a couture dress!

Interior Design by  Raji RM & Associates

Interior Design by Raji RM & Associates

Image on left from  Vogue  and the  Raji RM  interior photo at right by  Rikki Snyder

Image on left from Vogue and the Raji RM interior photo at right by Rikki Snyder

Interior Design by  Raji RM & Associates

Interior Design by Raji RM & Associates

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

Contact us to learn more about our work

Sneak peak: Raji's home on the cover of Luxe! by Shruti Narasimhan

"Spurred on by show house success, designer Raji Radhakrishnan transforms her own Northern Virginia residence with equal amounts couture and comfort."

- Luxe Interiors + Design, Spring 2014

We are thrilled to see Raji's home grace the cover of not just one but two covers of Luxe Magazine - Luxe Regional (DC, MD & VA) and Luxe National. The magazines hit the news stands mid-April. Look for the Regional issue through out news stands in DC, MD & VA and the National issue will be available in Barnes & Noble and for subscribers of Luxe.

A huge thanks to Editor-in-Chief Pamela Jaccarino, writer extraordinaire, Charlotte Safavi & to the fabulous photographer, Rikki Snyder.

Luxe Interiors + Design, Spring 2014 - Washington, DC Maryland & Virginia

Luxe Interiors + Design, Spring 2014 National Issue

Raji RM & Associates | Interior Designer & Decorator

Washington DC | New York

Contact us to learn more about our work