Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to visit the home private office (le Bureau Prive’) of the head curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? Well, mix master designer, Raji Radhakrishnan, has taken her design prowess and signature aesthetic (key on fusing together modern, classic and a touch of whimsy) to bring the le Bureau Prive’ to the Kips Bay Show House. So, if you have not yet been to the Kips Bay Show House, you have another week (through June 14th) to see some of the best design talent share their design visions, while also paying homage to the GREAT Albert Hadley.
In the 3rd of his interviews with some of the brightest and well known talent at Kips Bay, Charles Pavarini III, Chairman of the Designer Committee, chats with Raji.
CP: Raji, you are based out of the Washington DC area. What brings you to the Kips Bay Decorators Show House here in New York City?
Raji: Well, Kips Bay is a dream! I have the utmost respect for this legendary show house and what the Kips Bay organization stands for. Besides, I have begun working on projects here in Manhattan, so it was a great way to debut.
CP: Many designers used this year’s Show House as a way to pay homage to Albert Hadley, and in fact, you mentioned that you incorporated the red Zig Zag table for that very purpose? What about this petit table is reminiscent of the great Mr. Hadley?
Raji: The red Zig Zag table from Levitt Weaver is the same iconic one Albert had in his own (much photographed) Manhattan apartment. It is a small way of showing my respect for Albert. The news of his passing away came a few days after I found out that I was selected for this year's Kips Bay. And I knew immediately I wanted to pay my respects to this incredible but perhaps the most humble designer I've ever known. Seeing that little red table in my room puts a smile on my face. Like Albert, it packs such a good punch while occupying the least amount of space.
CP: We adore everything about Le Bureau Prive’ that you have designed for the “head curator at the Met.” It is timeless and yet fun. Are there any exhibits at the Met that you have seen that stand out in your memory. Why?
Raji: Thank you! Let me just say, museums in general have always been a wellspring of inspiration for me. I've been accused sometimes of spending more time at the museums than with my family! Curators and their work have always fascinated me. Of recent exhibits, it's the McQueen exhibit that still vibrates in my memory. The dim lit mood they created, the music, even the funneled crowds all played a huge role in making it one of the most talked about show in recent history! But if you asked me, I'd say the fact that it was held at the Met has as much to do with the show's success as much as McQueen's works and that's the kind of thing that completely excites me about great museums and the wonderful collaborative work of curators.
CP: In the Curbed NY review of the Show House they point to details. We did not even notice the sculpture on the ceiling until we read the article. Can you tell us what it is and why the ceiling placement?
Raji: I decided not to hang a chandelier or a suspension in this room but still wanted to ensure there was enough visual interest on the ceiling too. It's a sixth canvas. I also knew I wanted to keep it simple and modern enough to work with the rest of the room. At first, I considered geometrical criss-crossed lines on the ceiling but then I wanted it to be some thing with more substance and with a sculptural quality - almost a modern take on a traditional medallion. So, I drew this amoebic shape (my favorite shape) on my iPad app called Penultimate and while at it, I remembered a poudrier (compact) by Line Vautrin and how for so long I haven't been able to shake off that image. So, inspired by the poudrier, I drew several lines within the amoeba thinking that if done right, the gilded lines will give enough texture and interest to the piece. Then I emailed it to Eva Lee of Christianson Lee Studio who then beautifully made it with plaster and later hand gilded the piece.
CP: The Sebastian Ezzaruiz tilt bookcase adds a touch of whimsy. What books did you place in it that the curator would have in his library? What do you think he/she would be reading now?
Raji: Yes, it does! Sebastian's works are both whimsical and monumental at the same time and this one fits perfectly in the room giving ample space for a small collection of art books including those published by noted museums around the world and auction catalogs. I imagined this is where the curator's next exhibition plans and vision are seeded. Hence, it was important to have books on a variety of art disciplines and periods and also from other Museums, in case he/she wants to loan some pieces for the Met. As for what they are reading now? Hopefully, he/she is reading all the press about this fascinating showhouse where some one actually created a home office for the chief curator of the Met!
CP: The murals that you have incorporated are so powerful. Can you share with us the choice of artwork behind them?
Raji: Photo murals are something I've been creating for a long time now and for me what it does is, brings a beautiful counter point to otherwise very modern rooms. It's like a contemporary version of the beautiful and ancient frescoes you see in so many parts of Europe while allowing me to manipulate the scale of these installations as needed.
The mural you see above the Chesney's mantel is actually a photograph I took over six years ago of the King's Chapel in Versailles. This particular one has so much visual and architectural depth but at the same time it also reminds me of Thomas Struth' photographs, so I could still treat it like an art work rather than a wallpaper. So installing it above the mantel and framing it by two pieces of trim all the way to the ceiling works well.
The second, is also a photograph I took more recently of a painting by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon at the Met. I remember browsing through my own library of potential images for photo murals on my Mac and when I came to this image, I loved the softness of their faces, the colors of their clothes all set in a very dark background like most Elizabethan portraits. The kind of work you think of when you think of the Met!
CP: Washington has so many incredible museums. What are some of your favorites?
Raji: Like New York's Museum Line on Fifth, DC has the Smithsonian (Stretch) on Constitution. I really love all of them including smaller ones like the Phillips Collection, each has it's own character, it's own flavor but my favorites are the Hirshhorn and the I. M. Pei built National Museum of Art (East Wing).
CP: Are there any rooms in the Show House that left an impression with you. Which one(s), why?
Raji: So many of them and knowing how much effort every designer put into each of their rooms, it's hard to pick any one. That said, I really appreciate what Bryant Keller did in his foyer especially given that he only had one week to pull it off while the rest of us had at least 4 weeks to plan and execute. Not many people know that.
CP: We hear that you are on your way to opening a New York office. Does that mean we can expect to see more of your work here in the area?
Raji: Yes, I already have since we've begun working on projects here in Manhattan.
CP: By the way, in your design of the room, was your fictitious curator a he or she? How would it have changed if the other way around?
Raji: Aha! that question had to come! I made sure the design of my room fits both a he or a she. It shouldn't matter but I know it does. In this case, my goal was to create a calm space to work in but interesting enough to be inspired and work on new acquisitions or new exhibitions. So you see, it's that creative process and the work that drove the design - man or woman - it's the same. I consider a curator's work as fairly intellectual and visual. Hopefully, he or she is not bringing staffing and other administrative issues back home!
Thus, the only way it would have changed is due to personal preferences which if you think about it would be the case anyway from man to man or woman to woman. Not necessarily burgeoning the difference between men and women.
A versatile designer known for her cerebral, respectful approach to different architectural and design styles, Raji Radhakrishnan's personal aesthetic has been defined as one of a “mix master.” With a passion for creating interiors that bring out the best of traditional and modern design, Raji's work has garnered critical acclaim in the industry and has been published in Metropolitan Home, MODERN, Traditional Home, The Washington Post and numerous other print and online publications. Current projects include both city and country homes in New York, Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. Raji travels the world extensively, collecting beautiful and distinctive furnishings and objets d'art for her client projects and recently launched a limited edition furniture line.
Raji Rm & Associates; Ph: 917-825-2201 /202-330-3866; Email: email@example.com; web site: www.rajirm.com