NEW HAND DYED VELVET CUSHION COVER COLLECTION - IN PRAISE OF PUBLIC SPACES
The environments we inhabit and move through have the power to shape our behaviour and emotions and can contribute to or detract from the activities that give life meaning and value. While much of the writing in this Journal is about exploring the elements that elevate our private living spaces, over the years, as I have discovered the impact that spaces in general have on our wellbeing, I have become increasingly interested in the importance of our public spaces too.
Public spaces can encourage social interaction, instil wonder and awe, and even connect us to something beyond ourselves. From parks and public squares to places of worship and memorials, public spaces have the unique ability to facilitate and support the communal elements of our lives, connecting us to one another, our history and ancestry, and even the shared elements of our spirituality in a way that private spaces seldom can.
While our homes are uniquely suited for exploring, fostering, and nurturing the self, public spaces are a shrine to our collective living and in this way play an indispensable role in not only our individual well-being but in the civic and communal foundations of our lives.
Several months ago, while visiting Manhattan, New York, I was moved by the incredible public spaces I had the privilege of exploring. They left a lasting impression, evoking feelings of solace, inspiration and wonder and left me reflecting on the many psychological benefits that public spaces are particularly well suited to offer. The lasting impression left by the experience of walking through and exploring two of these buildings - the New York Public Library Main Branch and Grand Central Terminal –has since blossomed into the inspiration for our latest collection of Hand Dyed Velvet Cushion Covers.
These extraordinary buildings were created at a time when New York was in the process of establishing itself as the new cultural and commercial capital. Many of the public buildings created around the turn of the twentieth century were created with the aim of instilling a sense of civic pride and with this aim were designed to an exceptionally high standard. Thought and care went into designing even the smallest details in these buildings. The impact of this thoughtfulness can still be felt and is still awe-inspiring today.
Both the New York Public Library Main Branch and Grand Central Terminal were designed to be impressive landmarks for New Yorkers and visitors alike. With the intent to impress, the material selected for the construction of the library’s main branch was marble. At the time of its opening, it was the largest marble building ever built in the United States. From the marble exterior with exquisite arches and detailing to the elegant marble staircases and grand interior, the aim of creating an awe-inspiring landmark was most certainly achieved.
Climbing up the grand marble staircase of this impressive building, marvelling at the rich details that adorn every corner, I discovered that the most impressive space within the library – the Rose Reading Room - was reserved for the public for the use of research and quiet study.
Tourists and visitors were allowed in only twice per day for a brief tour so as not to disturb the members of the public who were using this space for scholarly endeavours. I promptly booked one of these tours so that I could catch a glimpse of this impressive space. Upon entering the Rose Reading Room, I was struck by the quiet yet powerful energy within the space that seemed to be emerge out of the symbiosis of the space and its users. The grandeur of the Rose Reading Room provided the most inspiring place for self-development and growth and in return the people using the room provided the space with a kind of quiet yet vibrant aliveness that could not be achieved without their presence.
I admired the decision to reserve this grandest of rooms for the public good and in turn noticed just how much public good was done by offering such an incredible space up for regular public use.
The second public space I want to highlight, Grand Central Terminal, is just as vast and just as majestic. Carefully thought through designs and delightful details can be discovered at every level of this landmark terminal. Just as with the New York Public Library’s Main Branch, it is the level of thought and care poured into creating this public structure that make it such a rich addition to civic life. A lovely example of this thoughtfulness is the innovative design scheme of pedestrian ramps that largely eliminated the need for staircases. The ramps were tested again and again, with old and young people, luggage, and prams to ensure the commute of large volume of people with diverse needs would be as efficient and effortless as possible.
During the time I spent in these public spaces, I witnessed friends, colleagues and strangers using them, as meeting points and places of casual, free communion. What struck me about these public spaces is how they took the experience of grandeur, usually confined to the realms of the wealthy, and opened it up to everyone. Such extraordinary spaces have the ability to inspire a feeling of awe and instil a sense of importance and worthiness in every visitor open to such an experience.
I took a tour of Grand Central Terminal during which our delightful tour guide explained that the aim of the vastness and beauty of the design was to make every commuter and visitor feel like a king. As people stepped off the platform and stepped into the Main Concourse of this incredible public building, each New Yorker (or visitor) had the opportunity to viscerally sense that they mattered. And as I walked through the intricately designed and carefully thought through public spaces of New York, that is exactly what I felt.
Our latest collection of Hand Dyed Velvet Cushion Covers was inspired by the experience of touring these two landmark public spaces. The overall mood of the collection captures the feeling of the spaces and in particular the colours of the decorative details discovered throughout. The overall mood of muted blues and greens speckled with gold and pale pink captures the feeling of timelessness, class, and grandeur and encapsulates the decorative elements of marble and stone, carefully selected historic paint schemes and gold detailing.
The name of each colour reflects an interesting or beautiful element encountered in one of these two public spaces:
- Rose Reading Room– The Rose Reading Room is one of the city’s great public rooms – a grand shared space devoted to private mental endeavours. Undoubtably the most impressive element of this incredible space is the decorative plaster ceiling with its three-part cloud and sky mural. Our delicate and pale dusty pink perfectly captures the soft, dreamy mood portrayed in the sky mural of the Rose Main Reading Room.
- Vault Blue – when the New York Public Library’s Main Branch vaulted ceilings were restored in 2019, the conservators analysed paint samples and performed exposures to identify the historic colour palette that lay underneath layers of post-historic paint. The result was a sophisticated pallet of greens, blue and gold combined with a delightful stencil pattern. Our unique muted blue colour that shifts from a deep, vibrant dark blue to a muted grey-blue, was named after the rich colour that is the most prominent tone in the vaulted ceilings above the library’s main staircases.
- North Stair – North stair is an incredible green tone inspired by the restoration of the North Stair vault ceiling at the New York Public Library Main Branch. With its incredible plaster work of female figures and floral swags that surround a central skylight, this sage green colour with blue notes, covers an entire vault ceiling with its soft, muted warmth.
- Main Concourse – this warm golden tone captures the bright gleaming feeling of the Main Concourse at Grand Central Terminal. With its tall Caen stone walls and iconic four-faced opal clock, the main concourse is impressively grand yet warm and inviting. The soft golden tone with warm rose undertones and subtle veining throughout, reflects some of that bright gleaming elegance and warmth.
- Campbell Green – This sophisticated green tone captures the essence of the iconic Campbell Bar at Grand Central Terminal. This unique bar is situated in the former office of the Jazz Age financier and railroad executive John W. Campbell. Back in 1923 Campbell restored this incredible space into his private office and reception room. Filled with historic details like the hand-painted celling and original personal safe, in 2017 The Campbell was thoughtfully restored to its present grandeur where commuters and visitors can enjoy tipples and conversation in a completely unique setting. Various shades of sophisticated green tones adorn the space, from the velvet and leather chairs to the quartzite bar to the hand-painted celling. Our Campbell Green, a lively mid-green colour with golden undertones, is a homage to this iconic space at Grand Central Terminal. You can see John Campbell’s original (and unenviable) office space here.
- Leaded Glass – One of the most striking features of the Campbell bar is its century-old leaded glass window. This spectacular architectural feature towers above the main bar area infusing the entire room with soft murky light. Our Leaded Glass colour, a delightfully murky green with strong blue undertones, captures the mood of sitting at the bar underneath the enormous glass window of The Campbell.
- Oyster Bar – A deep grey tone with subtle blue and green undertone named after the iconic Oyster bar at Grand Central Terminal that has been serving oysters for over 100 years. The colour of dark stormy seas, each one of these grey cushion covers is unique in how that particular piece of velvet has absorbed the blue and grey tones into the main grey colour.
- Gustavino Tiles – architect and master builder Rafael Gustavino created incredible vaulted structures using clay tiles set in a thin layer of cement. Many of New York’s most prominent Beaux-Arts buildings are adorned with these structurally innovative and aesthetically pleasing tiles. The large, vaulted ceiling at Grand Central Terminal that includes the Oyster Bar and Whispering Gallery, is a beautiful example of this style of structure. This beautiful blue-grey tone with the subtlest hints of mauve takes inspiration from this delightful building practice.