Make A Statement - 27 East

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Make A Statement

Number of images 2 Photos
Custom neon sculpture by Mondo Neon at a waterfront apartment. CHRISTIAN HARDER

Custom neon sculpture by Mondo Neon at a waterfront apartment. CHRISTIAN HARDER

Elfenbein chair by Max Eicke in an East Hampton junior primary bathroom. CHRISTIAN HARDER

Elfenbein chair by Max Eicke in an East Hampton junior primary bathroom. CHRISTIAN HARDER

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Interior Report

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Jun 28, 2021
  • Columnist: Andrew Bowen

When it comes to interiors, so much time and energy today is spent on deciding the basics: wall coverings, area rugs, window treatments, etc. And rightfully so — these elements set the stage for any room, and help to define the experience that guests will enjoy.

In today’s world, with the recent return of chintz not yet meeting the mainstream, there remains a prevalence of solid fabrics and unsaturated colors in these more permanent and/or background features of many homes. You know the East End paradigm: a bright white room with billowing beige or off-white drapes, set upon white oak floors outlined neatly by a custom natural sisal rug.

However, these kinds of places can quickly fall flat; they are often memorialized en masse in a sea of forgettable vanilla interiors. To fix this, the boundaries need to be pushed. Cue the statement piece.

A statement piece is any item or detail that provides a solid visual anchor for the room. It commands your attention and sparks conversation. It reveals something about the inhabitant you may not yet know. Above all, it is memorable and interesting. And sometimes, it might even go a little too far and make certain people uncomfortable — arguably, that’s the sweet spot.

So where do you find a statement piece? Usually, the reality is that the best way is by not looking at all. The best statement pieces usually find you. It might manifest as a life-size wicker motorcycle that is perched atop a ramshackle podium at a flea market, which you happen upon during an impromptu weekend trip upstate. It could be a gargantuan hunk of driftwood that washes ashore one hot night at the beach that you stumble upon after wandering a bit too far from the bonfire. Or it could be an incredibly moving light sculpture that you discover hanging on the wall at a friend’s house one night for dinner, only to serendipitously find out that the artist is also present at the table and has agreed to make you one next week.

Whenever that moment comes, it’s important to seize the opportunity; in other words: act first, think later. Even if you don’t immediately know where this new marvel will “go,” if it’s something that you deeply connect with, you will find a spot.

When it comes to “art”, think outside the box. Framed photographs, paintings, drawings, and other mostly two-dimensional works can be and often are incredible possessions that demand attention. But a true statement piece usually doesn’t quite fit into any definable box.

Take for example a vintage fiberglass hand-painted shark that we own as part of our staging collection. Recently used at an oceanfront home in East Quogue, we mounted it directly onto the wall over the guest bedroom. Its three-dimensional form and startling appearance always has some fans and yes, some haters. But it defines the room nonetheless. It is very much appropriate given the beachside location, and its colors were in fact the decorating starting point for the soft blue-grays and off-whites in the balance of the room’s composition.

If a phobia-inducing creature at scale is not your thing, consider an unexpected light source. While it is no secret that neon has had its moment, there remains an enchanting and timeless quality to colored light. Consider also an LED, fluorescent, or similar illuminated art piece the next time you’re considering what to hang above your sofa. Not only does it all but require your fixed gaze for its own appearance, it also has the secondary effect of changing the entire color temperature of the room itself, bathing an otherwise normal living room in a mysterious hued glow of your choice. (And, to boot, when hung above something else, the furniture below it will serve as a protective barrier against their notoriously breakable surfaces.)

When it comes to furniture statement pieces, this is the moment for that beautiful form-over-function chair you’ve been eyeing but never had the courage to buy. Sag Harbor-based design studio Max ID NY has some incredible items, a personal favorite being the elfenbein chair. Perfect as an accent piece in a hall or landing, against a wall flanking a credenza, or even floating in space in an otherwise tricky corner, these attention-grabbing gems are the perfect addition to a wide range of styles both historic and contemporary for their incredibly simplistic but fascinating form. We’ve even used them in bathrooms as complements to soaking tubs. They serve as sculptures as much as they do furniture, and this inherent tension is exactly the sweet spot when choosing a statement chair, table, or other freestanding item.

At this stage of our Information Age when it seems that so many personal styles are converging in favor of an Instagram-friendly common denominator, it’s easy to fall prey to the interior design problem whereby every piece you buy is marketed for its “clean lines” or “simple construction.” In the end, though, when buying exclusively this way, not a single thing is interesting. Like a concert that requires a performer to take center stage, every room needs at least one thing that will scream while everything else whispers. If you’re feeling ambitious, make it two.

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