Design New England

For cutting edge art and design, head to AD20/21


In the Palm Springs, California, home of Andy Williams, an abstract painting turns a room furnished with traditional American furniture into a space that is lively, inviting, and at once current and timeless.

It’s no secret, we love this show. As we said in this issue’s Take Note column, AD20/21 Art & Design of the 20th & 21st Century it is a modern achievement.

So we were delighted to moderate a panel of experts at incorporating Modern and contemporary art into homes large and small. Our A-list of areas designers included Kate McCusker of Theodore & Co., the Beacon Hill design firm featured in our show house section of the March/April magazine.

McCusker designs, and lives, by the premise that a house is not a home without art. She demonstrated that a room is not truly brought to life until the art, which can take the form of furniture as well as paintings and sculpture, is in its proper place.


The living room at the Junior League of Boston Decorators Show House in Newton last fall before Kate McCusker and her partner and mother Paula McCusker installed the art.


The room after the designers installed a spectacular piece of abstract art by Luc Leestemaker. Though the furniture is traditional, the painting set the room firmly in the modern realm.

Andra Birkirts of Andra Birkirts Design in Wellesley, Massachusetts, herself an artist, brings a trained eye to the selection of art and its placement. The most important rule to follow, says Birkirts, is that the art work for the space, for the client, and for the art. She showed the audience, mostly comprised of fellow interior designers, some unconventional uses of art that meet her criteria.



In this office/study, designer Andra Birkirts hung a beloved painting the homeowner already owned high and off-center on the fireplace wall with three contemporary sconces in interesting juxtaposition.


Again working with art of the client’s selection, the horse lamp, Birkirts incorporated the unusual and large dark piece so that it seems almost casual. “I didn’t want it to be ‘the room with the horse,’ ” she says, so she balanced it with a piano that was of equal visual heft. The large windows looking out to the landscape are a natural backdrop.

Dennis Duffy of Duffy Design Group in Boston has a lot of experience commissioning artists to create pieces for specific spaces. Most artists, he says, like to do commission work, which is very satisfying for them and for the client.


For a major renovation, Duffy had two niches for art built into a curved wall during construction. One was for a painting the owners already had, the other was for a new piece of glass sculpture commissioned from the artist.


The painting and the glass sculpture installed in their custom niches.

Duffy notes that thinking about the art first in new construction and renovations also allows the designer to plan the proper lighting, which can enhance the art and put it in its best, well, light.
Duffy has been in Boston for 16 years. During that time, he has moved — a lot. But he has not divested himself of the art he loves because he lacks space or the right place to hang it. “I’ve stored art,” he says. Some people do the same until they find a place for it in their present or future home. Others, especially folks who are downsizing, give it to family or friends so they can visit it from time to time. Others loan it to family or friends until they can accommodate it. But most people hang on to it. “It is so personal,” says Duffy, “you can’t just get rid of it.”



Duffy had this piece commissioned for his own home. It was site specific but when he moved, and moved again, he always found the right place for it.


Art & Design in the Home presentation included, from left, sponsor David Sandborn, Eco Modern Design at the Boston Design Center; Andra Birkirts, Andra Birkirts Design, Wellesley; Gail Ravgiala, Editor, Design New England magazine; Kate McCusker, Theodore & Company, Boston; Dennis Duffy, Duffy Design Group, Boston.

There are so many beautiful things to see and appreciate at this year’s show, we’ll just say that if you love art and contemporary furniture, you can’t miss. We did find two new vendors we would like to call out, however.
Fabulous, and we do mean fabulous hand-crafted jewelry from around the world is the stock and trade of Charon Kransen Arts: contemporary innovative jewelry books and catalogs. The New York City gallery was the talk of the show. And no wonder. These pieces are aggressive — no-string-of-pearls girls need apply. Which brings us to our new campaign, real jewelry for men. Forget those buttoned-down watches and rings. Ditch the boutonniere and go for the brooch that makes a statement. Charon Kransen himself and Adam Brown aren’t waiting for the fashion world to catch on. They are working the booth sporting big bright breastpins.


Charon Kransen wearing an architectural piece by Chinese artist Alice-Bo Chang, and Adam Brown wearing a brooch by Kaori Juzu of Japan at the Charon Kransen Arts booth at AD20/21. The photographic art piece in the background is by Brown from his series on Cape Cod.



We also like Charon Kransen’s necklaces and bracelets made from heavy twisted line finished with a sprinkling of crystals that look like coral. Chokers run about $800.

We are all about local craftsmen, especially those who use local materials. Add to that the simple lines of Jonah Zuckerman’s pieces and we are sold. Zuckerman operates City Joinery in Easthampton, Massachusetts, where he builds contemporary furniture using traditional techniques.


Jonah Zuckerman with a tall cabinet from City Joinery.


The Stiletto Dining Table from City Joinery.

The Stiletto Dining Table from City Joinery is 90-inches long, but can be custom made to any size. It has soft corners and bevels in the edge of the solid table-top that reflects the structure and geometry of the legs, which are formed from laser cut steel. It starts at $5,700.

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