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A Refractory Renaissance, Pt I

refractory lighting

R HUGHES Welcomes Refractory to the Showroom

Founded by Angie West from Texas and Alberto Vélez from Bogotá, the studio embraces a fascination with materiality, a deep respect for craft as an integral aspect of design, and an obligation to participate in the shepherding of American making. Based upon a sense that there are stories as-yet untold in design, the work is both provocative and exploratory.

This embrace of the unusual, the unforeseen, as well as the durable and resilient, are part of Refractory’s ethos, as expressed in its name. The term refractory references an unyielding nature and applies to both personality and process. While inspired by the powerful and mysterious forces of nature, evolution, and transformation, the work also bears the mark of disciplined, classically trained designers. Refractory is engaging in an open-ended renaissance of American artisanship and small-scale urban manufacturing.

When we came across Refractory, we felt it was seemingly conceived overnight. The real insider secret is that this kind of finesse takes decades of experience and editing to perfect. It burst into our imaginations with its innovative use of noble materials and inspired branding. We are thrilled to introduce this once in a generation brand to the Southeast design community and hope to grow with Refractory for many years to come.


Q&A with Angie West and Alberto Vélez

The Buildup

Angie West and Alberto Vélez

R HUGHES: You both have extensive experience in the design industry. It begs the question, how did you get your start? What drew you to this life?

Angie West: I was born and raised in rural West Texas. From a young age I was naturally drawn to composition of objects and forms, curation, and proportion. During college years this propensity carried through to photography studies, and I later became a commercial photographer in the design industry. My personal passion for photography lies in reportage, street, and journalistic image-making, but for some reason I knew how to look at a chair… perhaps because I saw it as a sculpture and not a chair… and that was a way to make a living in two worlds that I loved. Via working in different capacities in the industry, I had an opportunity to purchase a tiny foundry in Chicago (over 12 years ago now), and that has afforded me the privilege of working with phenomenal talent on the design side as well as the magic-making fabrication side.

Alberto Vélez: I grew up in Bogota, Colombia, blessed with a family with several accomplished creatives in arts, photography, architecture and design. It just felt natural to follow the path and was influenced and exposed to that world very early on. I was the kid that dismantled and rebuilt every toy before playing with it and also spent countless weekends lost in nature which was a huge influence as well. I studied Industrial Design and worked at my uncle’s interior and architecture studio through college doing mostly CAD drafting. Later, I moved to New York and those technical skills opened doors for me, becoming a very competent draftsman and design illustrator while slowly finding a voice and refining my aesthetic judgment as I worked with some of the best in the business at the time. I gradually specialized in furniture and moving to Chicago to lead the Holly Hunt design studio really consolidated my interest and expertise on the subject working with her on hundreds of concepts over a decade. Angie & I met in 2010 and started a prolific collaboration as client/fabricator through my previous job and we became good friends in the process.

The Beginning of Something Exciting


RH: How did you two meet?

AW: In 2010, after working in various capacities for HOLLY HUNT for eleven years, I was looking to shift toward entrepreneurship. I had packed up my things to move to Austin, and Alberto was on his way to Chicago from New York to take my position as Design Director at HOLLY HUNT. Just before my departure, I was celebrating my birthday with some friends when one of them mentioned that a small foundry we had once worked with at HH was going to close.

Still thinking about it the next morning, I told my roommate, who knew me very well, “I think I need to buy this foundry.” Her exact response was, “I don’t know if you should, but I think you can’t-not.” I made a phone call, we had a meeting, and a week later, I was having lunch with Holly to tell her about the idea. She said, “It’s a little crazy, but you should do it. I’ll keep you busy.” Immediately, she tasked Alberto to design items for West Supply to fabricate. There is no way we would we be sitting here if she hadn’t been so generous and visionary about where it could lead. She knew I had the passion and the potential to do well and that what we would make would also be good for her company, so she advocated for us. That’s fundamentally how it started and made it through the first few years.

AV: Fast forward to 2020, I had been through a decade of product development cycles at HOLLY HUNT and introduced literally hundreds of concepts and collections there. It was wonderful, but as a designer, I think you’re always yearning for what is next. I had started itching to try something new. As it turns out, the jolt of the pandemic created a perfect window. After departing HOLLY HUNT, Angie was my first phone call. We were both just trying to stay alive, literally, but, in speaking further, we realized in this moment of stillness, we had a unique opportunity to do something new.

AW: In February 2020, just before everything shut down, I had just finished building out a big, beautiful, white studio above the foundry so I could also begin producing my own work. When COVID hit, it was sitting there, empty, and we didn’t have any orders coming in from usual clients. We either had to start reducing staff or create work to do. After many sessions with Alberto, we saw this window to start a new endeavor, which we later named Refractory. The small business stimulus from the government allowed us to protect our fabricators’ paychecks, and the empty studio space became a cocoon for our creativity.

refractory foundry

This pause, that we otherwise never would have had, has been a silver lining for our team and all our existing clients. We were able to innovate, experiment, and have essential, long conversations with the fabricators that we were previously too deep in our lanes to have. This allowed us to unlock talent and potential at West Supply in the form of a truly new chapter.

RH: When did you realize that Refractory was what you were meant to do together?

AV: We started Refractory together in late 2020 during the pandemic and as was true for so many other creatives, it was necessary to start something new, to make use of this forced pause and keep Angie’s crew intact and inspired. Our first collection was launched in late 2021 and consists of about 35 pieces. Now we have closer to 45.

AW: Refractory launched October 1, 2021. This was basically the moment that we came into existence via an online presence. We debuted our work internationally at Alcova during Milan Design Week June 2022, and domestically in New York at Salon Art & Design November 2022. The first collection consisted of an ensemble of various editions that formed the foundation of our offerings. The work will veer in more conceptual directions from this base.

The Debut Collection


RH: What do you want people to take away from the debut collection? What emotion do you want people to experience when they see these pieces?

refractory tallow table

AW: Lately we have been leaning hard into the word durability. We want the work to be touched and to bear the evidence of use over time. We also intend for the works to have aesthetic durability.

RH: What’s an upcoming project you are most excited to be working on?

AW: We are working with Erden on a dining/sitting room in Telluride in which the furniture and the custom rug will be in concert with one another. This will be via motifs, shape, as well as mechanics. The dining table will be able to split into two and pivot, and some of the adjacent sitting area furniture will seemingly grow from the rug. It is definitely a collaboration that goes beyond “custom” in the typical sense of the word. It will be a very functional art installation in many ways.

RH: What has been the most challenging piece you’ve worked on?scimitar dining table

AW: The Scimitar Dining Table is a monumental and formidable work. The full ends in bronze coming together with the wood top – matching radius and detail, intensive construction from the underside, installation and assembly, etc – its simplicity is misleading.

RH: We are big on monthly playlists at R HUGHES with our OFFICE Radio series. So help us out, what song would you add to our next playlist?’

Sturgill Simpson’s cover of When In Rome’s The Promise 

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R HUGHES Welcomes De La Vega Designs

Mark de la Vega

R HUGHES is honored to announce that De La Vega Designs is joining the showroom. Mark de La Vega opened De La Vega Designs in 2010 within a 7,000-square-foot loft in a historic dock building in Brooklyn creating bespoke furnishings for luxury retail clients such as Harry Winston, Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany & Co.

Taking cues from a variety of global and historical references, DLV uses the highest-quality materials to re-invent forgotten techniques.

R HUGHES: What instigated you to open a 7,000 square foot space in 2010? This wasn’t a particularly easy time for the design industry.

De La Vega Designs: When we first moved into this space, it was a total steal. The rent was low, the space was gorgeous, expansive, and by the water – and we knew we would grow into it as we did. However, starting off we were just thrilled to have a place to work that was beautiful and inspiring. We used to skateboard around the loft and installed a rope swing for our kids.

Now… we have the space designed to function as a busy atelier.


RH: What is the collaboration process like between you two?

DLV: We have a great understanding of each other’s roles, and our duties are siloed for the most part—design vs operations. We do draw inspiration from similar sources and agree on most everything—we understand each other well. Maggie nudges me on certain things, but my process is more instinctual and creative, a bit like lightning.

RH: What was that first commission process like with David Collins for Madonna? Having this be one of your first residential projects is certainly a feat.

DLV: It was a thrill, and at the same time very scary. We were new and inexperienced, but we knew it was something we had to pull off. I remember volunteering to deliver it personally and waive the delivery fee. The table was huge and heavy, and navigating it through the stairs to place in front of the fireplace in the Great Room gave me a tremendous amount of pride.

It wasn’t until later that we realized just how important this table would be to the company’s success. It became a symbol of our commitment to quality and service, not only for our clients but also for ourselves.

RH: DLV designs are playful, yet refined. Mark, how do you strike a balance?

DLV: I approach my designs as if they were a sculpture. It tends to be a process rooted in historical references, which are usually from early modernism, but I always like to branch out. There is definitely something playful about the way I work, and perhaps that comes from my enjoyment of what I do. I love my job!


RH: Using materials like Coquille D’oeuf, Verre Eglomise, Cast Aluminium, Silicone Bronze, Eggshell, leather & more to create eye-catching pieces through unconventional & long forgotten methods. Firstly, what is your preferred material to work with? (You can see a list of all materials used by DLV HERE)

DLV: That would be like choosing your favorite child! I truly love them all. I think that’s part of the reason I gravitated towards design in the first place—to be able to explore new materials and new ways of using them. I believe it’s important not just to use the same tool over and over again, but also to learn how each tool can be used differently, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

de la vega designs in studio

de la vega designs in studio

RH: Secondly, what is one of those forgotten techniques you’ve enjoyed discovering & enjoyed exploring?

The Coquille D’Oeuf, eggshell mosaic, is definitely the most special technique. Most people have never heard of it and it allows me to play and explore my background in fine art and graphic design. I love working with the eggshells because they are so fragile. It’s like a puzzle—grouping the fragments together. The broken edges can even be used as part of the design or just left as an interesting texture.
My work has always been about combining different things that I love into one piece.


RH: What is the most challenging technique when creating pieces?

DLV: Working with wood and metal, I find the two to be equally challenging. Both have their own sets of rules that must be respected in order to become adept at craftsmanship.

RH: You’ve mentioned before that “A well made, well designed piece of furniture becomes more than a reliable friend, it becomes a member of the family”…what is one piece in your home do you view this way?

DLV: The Abuelo Bureau is actually the piece that triggered the quote that you are referencing. Not only did the original come from my grandparents home in Mexico, but it has now evolved into a beautiful and well made collection. I interact with it every day. My kids interact with it everyday… decades later, generations later.

RH: We are big on monthly playlists at R HUGHES with our OFFICE Radio series. That begs the question, what song of his would you add to our next playlist?’

DLV: Right now, anything from Samm Henshaw – his song Broke is a real ear worm.

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APPARATUS + Business of Home: 5 PART PLAY

“Since its founding in 2012, APPARATUS has exploded. The brand has two dedicated showrooms in the U.S., with another forthcoming in London; more than 30 stockists internationally; and more than 100 employees. The company is that rare beast: both a financial and an artistic success story. It’s a result, says Gabriel Hendifar, of a design vision based around emotional resonance more than any one aesthetic.”

In an episode from early October 2022, Business of Home podcast host and NY School of Interior Design Dennis Scully interviewed APPARATUS founder and Artistic Director Gabriel Hendifar to understand the nexus of the brand’s creativity – its past, its present, and its future. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, Scully and Hendifar take the listener through a five part play, revealing glimpses into the brand’s hero journey. As the audience, we know the magic is partly in awaiting the collections – also known as ACTS – that APPARATUS launches with baited breadth, knowing the curtain is about to lift upon the most enveloping story that unfolds through various channels.

“What good is the set if you don’t actually have the play to watch? Those moments of communal joy and celebration and seduction and excitement and intrigue—that’s the whole point,” Hendifar shares.

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Under the Stars: Dinner with OCHRE

ochre r hughes dinner

A dreamy night dining with OCHRE at the R HUGHES showroom. The mood payed homage to the delicate balance that OCHRE consistently achieves – between organic forms and elegant materials. As guests entered the showroom, there was an intrinsic draw to the glimmering features of the gaia pendant and the seed cloud installations. The decor on the tables mirrored the natural shapes and themes of the evening, while the menu featured seasonal provisions.

ochre r hughes dinner
Guests enjoyed dining under OCHRE pendants in the R HUGHES Dark Room.
ochre r hughes dinner
Dinner was served by Le Bon Nosh featuring beet and chevre salad, poached halibut with tomato fondu of field peas and fines herbs, and strawberry tart.
drinks at ochre r hughes dinner
R HUGHES kept it spicy featuring not one, but two cocktails featuring mezcal.
drinks at ochre r hughes dinner
Beverages were prepared by Kirk Gibson.
ochre r hughes dinner
To bring the production together, R HUGHES enlisted event designer Sheyda Mehrara who then commissioned Lauren Hill for the floral displays. Taking inspiration from OCHRE designs themselves.
ochre r hughes dinner
The evening was captured through the lens of Joanne Choi.
ochre r hughes dinner
Steven Leonard lighting the tapered candles before welcoming guests to their seats.

ochre r hughes dinner

event design: Sheyda Mehrara

dinner: Le Bon Nosh

floral design: Lauren Hill

photography: Joanne Choi

beverages: Kirk Gibson

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Harwood House: Cortney Bishop’s Exploration into Textiles

Charleston-based interior designer Cortney Bishop is no novice when bringing a fresh & honorable take to existing design communities. Take, for example, the launch of Harwood House – her textile collection – with the well-respected Holland & Sherry that pays homage to her late father who had suits made by the London fabric house decades ago. And now her most recent collection named Kalos is a sentimental nod to her Greek heritage…specifically her influential Yia Yia. You can almost say that this venture is a love letter to her past. 

The ethos of her textile line all ties back to family & the little reminders of cherished moments that connect us to one another. We wanted to hear more from Cortney regarding her influences & desires with the line. 

R HUGHES: Where did the name Harwood House come from specifically? 

Cortney Bishop: HH was the name of my mother’s interior design firm. It seemed fitting to honor her and my heritage at the same time. Harwood is my maiden name.

RH: With various designers launching their own textile lines, how does one offer a fresh point of view? What makes Harwood House standout in your own words?

CB: Harwood House has a muse, a story to tell. It is a love letter to people who have influenced my life. It’s also an illustration of colors, patterns, and textures that offer layer-ability within the collection itself. It was important to address all applications within each collection. As a designer, fwe need specific weights for different applications. I encourage the collection to be used together, it’s a vibe. 

RH: How did creating your own line of fabrics provide a solution for your design problems?

CB: In creating Harwood House, we are able to explore a variety of qualities and hues we are feeling inspired by for our own projects. I am drawn to earthier colors and small-scale woven patterns; this is not always easy to locate in the market. With Kalos we found ourselves looking for something a bit richer and sexier, so we created it for ourselves. 

RH: What does a woven fabric collection crafted with a classic nod to the southern cool mean to you? What does it mean for a potential client?

CB: The South is grounded in hospitality and tradition. My intent with the Cardinal collection was to honor classic patterns while incorporating a fresh edge that brings the pieces to life. These fabrics are timeless yet modern, they will always be cool. 

RH: What lessons did you learn from your first release that you were able to apply to your second?

CB: With Cardinal, I learned so much about the creative process; how important it is to take time to feed your soul and create something meaningful to you. With Kalos, I was able to dive a bit deeper into quality, weights, and patterns to explore more ways to layer the collections together. 

RH: Cardinal introduced many wovens which you were able to expand upon with Kalos. Are there any special weaves or techniques that you would like to highlight?

CB: We created these collections with a variety of applications in mind. From heavy upholstery to sheer woven drapery weights. We love the nettings and sheer stripes we designed and use them obsessively in our projects for window treatments. I often use the same sheer netting throughout the house to bring a sense of balance to the play of patterns I like to layer throughout a room. 

RH: Why collaborate with Holland + Sherry? What made them an ideal partner?

CB: Holland and Sherry was the dream. Their timeless elegance and quality is iconic in the men’s fashion and home industry. I knew it had to be them even years before the connection came to be. Dare I say I manifested?  

RH: We know choosing a favorite fabric might be like choosing a favorite child…but which one is currently yours? 

CB: ‘Quilted Folkore’ in Rust and Olive, rich and moody, they upholstery so beautifully. ‘Infinity’ in slate – so sexy in drapery application and bedding. I am also amazed by ‘Prizm’ and how beautifully each color combination upholsters because the pattern has great depth. The ‘Striped Sheers’ – these are finding their way into every project we are working on right now. 

RH: What has been your greatest challenge as a designer?

CB: Saying no. I have learned the hard way and sacrificed valuable time engaging in projects that have drained my creativity. Choosing the right partners and nurturing good relationships is my forever focus.

RH: What is your dream project?

CB: Our soon-to-be created River House. My husband and I recently purchased a beautiful spot on John’s Island, miles from where I grew up on Kiawah. Grounded with incredible Angel Oaks on the deep water, I plan to build our ultimate weekend retreat. A place to enjoy my favorite people and pieces in harmony.

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The Power of Storytelling, Collecting Art, & the Australian Aesthetics with Dylan Farrell

The power of storytelling when intertwined with interiors can provide one with a dynamic sense of place that leaves a deep imprint, almost as if it’s a page of a book you earmark to never forget. New York born, Sydney-based interior and furniture designer Dylan Farrell has made a name for himself creating spaces & pieces that dance between personal & universal narratives. And, the result of his designs are most often rich with harmonious paradox. We were recently entranced by his latest collection aptly named Oceania with Jean de Merry & wanted to learn more.

R HUGHES: What ignited your desire to have your own firm?

Dylan Farrell: My wife and business partner, Nicolette, and I believed that we had something unique to say in the industry, both through our methods and resulting aesthetics. We wanted to look at projects somewhat holistically so that we could explore all of the aspects of a given residential design, so we thought the best way to do that was to have equally direct access to the clients, artisans, and service consultants alike – being the principal creatives at our own firm allows for this.

RH: What is the design community in Australia like? And what differentiates your designs?

DF: Australian design, speaking in broad brush, has a more clinical approach than American design… more of a leaning toward ‘case study’ type homes and clean aesthetics that do not interfere with the stunning nature that surrounds even the urban homes. This has advantages and disadvantages. When we came from America, our aesthetic at the time nodded to a more maximalist bent – we were young and aesthetically eager. So there was an automatic point of difference between our design instinct and Australian designers upon our arrival. Practicing in Australia taught us to edit – and I would like to think I have become more refined with age. When I complete a design concept nowadays, my last thought is almost always ‘what can be eliminated’.

RH: You create verbal narratives at the start of each project that serves as an anchor for how you approach the design of the space & client. Can you give an example of one that filled you with inspiration?

DF: We had an early client who asked me to help him create a new construction “Australian Homestead” in the Yarra, a wine country outside Melbourne. He however was definitely not an “Australian Homestead” type. What we immediately understood was that (1) he wanted a modest country style structure to set the mood for a certain desired casual and wistful lifestyle, and (2) he wanted to maintain some sense of classicism in the product. However beyond that, the brief needed much more honing… and a search for an honest representation and expression of the owner.

We had several rendezvous to explore through discussion… and drinks. As we dove deeper, we discovered that he wanted a stripped back cottage with finishes that were “rough as guts” and spaces that could house contemporary, vintage, and antique objects alike. He was a collector in waiting. He wanted odd items that were rare; one-offs; reclaimed junk made into treasure; museum quality art; taxidermy; and he had a period Chinoiserie grandfather clock likely valued at more than my total personal net worth at the time. Cocktail parties were important. He wanted a friendly kitchen, but he did not cook often. All of this, and more, began to paint a beautiful picture.

So I came back with a concept… “James Bond hiding from a villain at his grandmother’s house”. The possibilities were endless, but there was a definitive narrative touchstone that every decision came back to. If we needed to source a table, we would say, “did James Bond bring this table from his city apartment to feel at home?… did his grandmother already own this table?… or maybe James Bond went to the local country thrift shop and found the best version of a table that worked with his sensibilities… what might James Bond get out of a local artisan if they together imagined up a table?….”

Viewed through this lens, it was easy to take chances without losing the plot. The finished product is pretty unreal.

RH: Have you worked on any homes in the States?

Yes, but not in the last 6 years, because proximity in recent years has been an issue. We have 2 children (5 and 8), and being away from Australia for long stints while they were toddlers was not easy. Further, launching a business in Sydney kept me on the ground in Australia. Then add covid, so travel was difficult over the past handful of years.

HOWEVER, now that both the business and children have matured, we are opening a gallery-come-studio in 2023 in New York (Eastern Long Island, targeted). Prior to 2017, we worked on properties all over the world, both independently and then as the Creative Principal at Thomas Hamel and Associates. We have practiced on projects in New York, California, Colorado, Florida and Hawaii, amongst other countries beyond the U.S..

RH: Please share, if you have any, your thoughts on “Southern” design & architecture. And are you coming to Atlanta anytime soon?

DF: I would love to come to Atlanta, and we are openly looking for collaborators in the US, especially in the South where I have less professional experience. 2023 will be about growing the community of my design practice, and we are hoping to work with all sorts of professionals and specialists in the US.

As for “Southern Design”, I have a great admiration for certain easy-going-eclectic aesthetics – often much less wound up than Northern Atlantic design. Specifically, we are often inspired by the work of Bobby McAlpine and Jeffrey Dungan. Regardless of differences, I hope to have moments of similar eclectic comfort in our own works.

RH: How do you balance the furniture design & your own interiors practice? How do you approach both in relation to each other?

DF: I like to think we have three different wings of common practice under the same roof. There is our interiors practice, our collection with Jean de Merry, and our freestanding object design practice. They all bleed into each other to create a fluid balance.

Our collection with Jean de Merry has almost been a separate personality that I view as a fantastic cabaret performance. It is a collection of inspired statement pieces – they are bold, opinionated, and filled with specific intention. They are not designed to be sympathetic and gently slide into every decorative mix.

Conversely, our interiors, whether they are bold or more reserved, are an empathetic response to a deep collaboration with a specific client, a unique house

or block of land, and an endless negotiation with scores of other decorative objects and motifs. Those solutions need to sensitively address all the personalities and sensibilities in a room. And though I do encourage our clients to be confident, our interiors viewed in whole are rarely as boisterous as our individual works with Jean de Merry.

In keeping with that reality, we also design objects that are not yet part of a specific collection, and these less promoted and often one-off objects and furnishings are usually birthed by necessity (lack of a solution in the marketplace) in response to a very specific interior brief.

All of the above said, each of these aspects leak back and forth into each other in terms of inspiration and logistics – and this is intentional. We want our practice to be fluid, so solutions flow freely, in a gravity-like path that leads to a well of inevitable design solutions.

RH: We’ve read that you are influenced by paradoxes when designing. What about them leads you to use the materials that you do?

I think of design like a great conversation or an engaging piece of music. There should be ups and downs, changes in topics and tones, opposition as well as consensus, and genuine investment in the moment. Perfect harmony can be great, but as Diana Vreeland suggested, too much of it can also be boring and clinical. So I like to invest in paradox to create metaphorical texture… or if you want to stick with comparisons to harmony, I decidedly invest in the use of occasional dissonance in addition to harmony.

So when I want something to feel shiny, I first polish it, and then I ponder placing it next to something that has a hyper-weathered surface. If I want a graphic to pop with vivid and lively color, I first develop a punchy color concept, and then I consider placing it on a minimalist canvas of chalky white plaster or dulled concrete. These intentional points of difference push the desired expression and create an engaging visual rhythm that is more interesting than the beat of a single snare drum.

RH: Something so striking about your designs are the art pieces that feel referential to the space & its respective clients. How does art shape your design process? Do you bring your clients to the art or do you work around the clients existing art?

DF: Art is critical. It is considered at the very beginning by addressing what the client has or desires as well as the client’s personality if the desires are not immediately defined. It is then again considered loosely inside a budget that is developed at the earliest stages of the project. It is again considered at the earliest stages of mood-boarding as we develop the concepts. We then consider art placement at the earliest stages of planning, deliberately designating spaces and vistas for art placement. So, we have a loose plan for art before we ever start building or purchasing. I cannot imagine considering an interior without thinking about the art it might exhibit.

Clients mistakenly think that to have an amazing collection of art, you need to take out a second and third mortgage. Th

is is true when one wants to consider blue-chip artists with established contemporary reputations. However, art should be about a personal preference rather than a measure pronounced by a community of gallerists, auctioneers, and museum board members. Do not get me wrong – I love what I will here call ‘high-art’. But just like a Bentley: just because I cannot afford one does not mean I should give up driving.

I recently picked up an artwork by a Sydney graduate student for, speaking judiciously, well under $10K AUD at about 6 foot x 6 foot. It is on the center wall of my studio, and I love it! I then referred work by the same artist to a new client, who could surely have afforded something more dear. I am hoping it is also a good investment, but that is beside the point in this instance – they loved the work. Conversely, we recently helped a client acquire a work of similar size for just shy of seven-figures, and they too were enthralled with the acquisition and motivated by investment potential.

How we land on final art selections is never the same. Sometimes clients have a large collection already before we meet. Some buy from our personal collection of acquisitions in our studio. We also have relationships with dozens of galleries that give us first look as newly acquired or represented works. Equally as often, clients have their own routes to purchase art, in which cases we always prefer to consult with the clients to assure that the works are properly considered inside of the interior design.

RH: We believe that certain objects & furniture pieces are considered art. Do you view your collection of furniture as inheritable objects? And what makes an object or piece of furniture a smart investment?

I definitely think certain furnishings should be and are considered works of art. My desire would be to make mostly inheritable objects, but whether or not we are accomplishing that, I will leave to others to decide. However, if an object is well-built, unique in its expression, and not patently subject to trend, I believe it will naturally find its place in a line of inheritance or vintage significance otherwise.

RH: Why did you choose Jean de Merry instead a Circa or Arteriors? What has that process been like?

DF: Jean de Merry chose us! We received a call from them about a decade ago; they had seen design works I had created while working with Thomas Hamel, and they asked to have an ongoing relationship for an evolving capsule collection. I had been an admirer of their furnishing and interesting promotional campaigns for some years prior. It was flattering to receive consideration from such a company.

It is interesting to have a third-party design brand oversee the finalization of our design concepts, especially designs that are more ‘poetic’ than industrial. During engineering and logistical analysis by JDM, our design concepts often are required to evolve. But I believe in JDM as wise practitioners, so I always leave room and consideration for their feedback and alteration to our designs, as they have certain essential commercial practicalities in mind that I might not when designing for a one-off fabrication. Further, unlike certain other companies, JDM has a penchant for artesian techniques, which is a special draw. In the distant past, I had a fruitful career of creating licensed furniture designs for more commercial/industrial brands. Those designs usually did not inspire. There is something about the artisan approach that makes an object more personally engaging – JDM has that ability, and we appreciate it.

RH: What continues to inspire your unique collections? Movies, people, fashion…

DF: Add music, especially. Inspiration sincerely comes from everywhere. Even attitude, eg Gore Vidal. I think the key to having a fruitful practice (and interesting life) is to keep an open mind and always evolve. More specifically, recent items on/in the inspo mix and boards…

RH: What about travels…What location has inspired you most?

DF: Well, I have no choice but to say “Australia”, as I am here as an expat. I will be in Tasmania next week, which I find an amazing place; and then Byron a couple weeks later, which is wonderful in a different way. Australia has been a forever inspiration in so many ways.

Just a month before Covid hit, I spent another long stint in Bali, Indonesia, which I also have found wildly inspiring. I find both the contemporary and traditional aspects of Balinese culture completely intriguing.

RH: What’s your most treasured possession?

DF: I really have transient feelings about possessions, so I do not really put too much stock into any objects that I might own. But if pressed, perhaps a pair of oversized clear, red, and indigo Murano Glass perfume decanters that were given to me as a gift by a client… or a 18th century etching of a party scene inside a colonial Hudson River cabin, the work titled “Snap Apple Eve”.

RH: We are big on monthly playlists at R HUGHES. What’s your go-to song at the moment?

Spirit of the Beehive, “The Server is Immersed”

Image Credits:

Featured Image / Photo credit: Dylan Farrell // Interior Design in progress by DFD. JAX Table with artworks by Nick Vasey.

Dylan Farrell Portrait // Photo credit: Dylan Farrell // Portrait of DF in studio with LADY LEVELLER, Custom Tension Lamp, and antique side table. Artwork by Scott Richler (Gabriel Scott).

Factory Image // Photo credit: Dylan Farrell // SPIKE Pendant in factory displayed for aesthetic review

Art Image // Artist Sophie Victoria, work Entreferen

LEVELLER Chair and RACHIS Table // artworks by Scott Richler (Gabriel Scott) and Paul Rousso.

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Betsy Berry’s Modern Approach to Decorative Lighting

APPARATUS Lariat Sconce

Highlighting the ever-evolving advances where technology and design intersect, ADAC is hosting Digital Day to keep the industry in the know of digital advancements & their respective impact on the spaces we live in. Knowing that these changes can be difficult to navigate, especially when it comes to lighting & illuminating designs, we have partnered with ADAC to host “A Modern Approach to Decorative Lighting” – a conversation between Russel Feldman, Owner of Simply Wired PRO, Betsy Berry, Principal Designer of B. Berry Interiors, & Nick Grinder, Vice President of Sales at APPARATUS.

Ahead of this conversation on Wednesday, March 9th, we caught up with Betsy Berry to get her take on the importance of lighting selections in a project & what her favorite pieces are to use.

RH: Betsy, you are educated and trained in New York City. How did moving back to the South in 2013 influence your aesthetic? 

BB: I was actually born and raised in South Carolina, so I always had a southern aesthetic per se. I think my education and work in New York really taught me to refine my design on all fronts. Southern design has had a huge influence on me. Be it my home growing up or my grandmother’s home, the layers and the warmth with elegance throughout isn’t something you forget. It’s a feeling you keep coming back to.

RH: When planning decorative lighting for your projects, where do you begin? A specific room, specific finish, or specific vibe?

BB: I always start with the architecture and bones of the house. I think it dictates the true story of the space. Lighting for me is always so exciting to select – it is one of the most critical choices in the process. I love the juxtaposition of a traditional backdrop of a historic home combined with a modern light fixture. I always strive to keep things timeless yet sexy.

RH: We’d use the phrase “timeless, yet sexy” to describe APPARATUS lighting, and we see you often sourcing their pieces. What about APPARATUS draws you to their designs? Are there any design challenges their offering has helped you solve?

BB: I simply love their products. I think APPARATUS is a go-to for me because it is all of the things I appreciate in design – simplicity yet the highest quality, the ability to live beyond trends and timestamps and the balance of feminine and masculine. Their lighting is easy to love and therefore easy to specify – it helps me solve the problem of finding the perfect piece.

RH: The recently released ACT IV incorporates several new finishes including molded glass, new suede colors and wool satins. Which of these finishes are you most drawn to and which are you most excited to use in an upcoming project? Do you have a favorite piece or pieces from ACT IV?

BB: I love the Starlet sconce from ACT IV specifically – I can’t wait to use it in our upcoming project in Mexico. The combination of the aged brass, bronze suede and satin is to die for…

Outside of that collection, the Lariat pendant has always been one of my favorites – it is the perfect piece among so many backdrops and the alabaster combined with the antique brass is simply gorgeous.