Contemporary painters are turning to pastels, summer homes are getting sophisticated, and kitchen appliances are being cleverly concealed. Here are the latest trends in art, architecture, and design.
Following in the tradition of such celebrated masters as Renoir, Cassatt, Picasso, and Degas, contemporary artists are working in pastels. These new works, far from the pastoral pieces of yore, are edgy and avant-garde, whether the subject is abstract, figural, or representational. The Swiss-born artist Nicolas Party, for one, has embraced the mellow medium for his supernatural landscapes, portraits, and still-life scenes.
Through the use of soft pastel, Party, who is based in New York City and Brussels, injects an unsettling component into his works, which are familiar yet strangely foreign to the eyes. His February 2020 Los Angeles solo exhibition, his first in the city, featured a series of seemingly traditional-style pastel portraits whose conventionality was undermined by clothing the serious-looking subjects with naturalistic garments ranging from gigantic mushrooms and fully unfurled red roses to frolicking frogs.
Party, who has executed major mural commissions for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Dallas Museum of Art, “detects surprising connections between seemingly disparate worlds—nature, science, the art historical canon—and invites his viewer to consider alternate realities,” according to Hauser & Wirth, the global gallery that represents him.
The traditional vacation home, be it the rustic cabin in the woods or the modest cottage on a private beach, is getting so sophisticated that its aesthetics and amenities not only rival but also often surpass those of the primary residence. Architects Charles M. Haver and Stewart R. Skolnick, whose eponymous firm in Roxbury, Conn., specializes in second homes, says high-net-worth individuals are spending more time at these homes away from home.
“Time is the ultimate luxury, and our clients see these homes as their refuge,” Haver says, adding that some families spend the entire summer there. Adds Skolnick, “These also are places where they entertain guests, and if, like most of our clients, they have large properties, they request multiple buildings.”
The duo designed a 70-acre gentleman’s farm in Washington, Conn., for a Manhattan family that includes not only a traditional-style stone house but also an entertainment arcade in a converted barn that features a billiards room, a movie theater with professional-style seating, and a pub; a swimming pool with a spa; a pool house with a gym and an outdoor shower; and a guesthouse.
They say clients typically request kitchens with a fireplace, a seating area with a flat-screen television, and multiple food-prep stations and sinks so friends and family can help with the cooking. Other favorite items on the second-home wish list include gyms, wine cellars or wine rooms, media spaces, entertainment centers/games rooms, and fully outfitted outdoor kitchens.
As kitchens become more open, their appliances are being concealed beautifully behind closed doors so they blend in with the rest of the home’s decor. “Clients are thinking about their kitchens as actual rooms, not separated from the rest of the house,” says designer Oliver M. Furth, whose namesake firm is based in Los Angeles. “More and more as part of this integration, folks want kitchens to ‘look’ like rooms, too.”
It’s part of a larger trend, he says, to make high-traffic, functional rooms have a cleaner and more streamlined appearance regardless of their design style.
“But a clean look still requires a place to put things—more so if the ‘things’ aren’t going to be out on display,” he says. “That means extra closed cabinetry to hide appliances, storage for equipment and tools, deep drawers for pots and pans, cabinets with doors for mixing bowls, and even garages for small appliances like toasters, blenders, and coffee machines.”
In a recent open-plan project in Malibu, Calif., Furth hid the kitchen’s refrigeration units and dishwashers behind cabinetry doors and added a small service kitchen directly behind the main kitchen. There’s also storage space that, in homage to the main kitchen, is hidden behind cabinet doors.
“This way, my client gets to be in the kitchen and be a part of things,” he says. “There’s also the option to make a mess in the service kitchen and have that whole area be hidden.”