The Secret to Mixing Pattern, Colour, Old and New
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The Secret to Mixing Pattern, Colour, Old and New

Here’s how the interior designer got it done.

By ELIZABETH QUINN BROWN
Mon, Oct 11, 2021 11:30amGrey Clock 3 min

FORMAL BUT but whimsical, the dining room in Chris Barnes and Maisha Closson’s home in Los Angeles’s West Adams neighbourhood bursts with wildly disparate design references. How did local designer Dee Murphy, founder of Murphy Deesign, convince a wavy-fronted mahogany buffet to coexist with chairs as rigidly linear as Pierre Jeanneret’s 1950s designs; a live-edge dining table with an antique Turkish oushak rug? Shouldn’t the mix be as jarring as it sounds? Expert layering, said Ms. Murphy, comes of pairing hues, materials and shapes, not periods. “Anything that has history and has stood the test of time, those pieces you can always use no matter what,” she said.

The aesthetic glue that unifies the dining room’s seemingly random components begins with the choice of William Morris’s Strawberry Thief wallpaper. The Arts and Crafts pattern, from 1883, features rhythmic flourishes of flora and fauna in enthusiastic colours. Its rich blues and luscious pops of berry red led Ms. Murphy to choose pieces with companionable hues and forms. “When I look at this room, what’s really tying it in and calming it down is the paint, wallpaper, window treatments and rug. Those were the base pieces, the starting off points.”

Here, the other decisions that helped this obstreperous collection of elements cohere.

Botanical Engineering

Ms. Murphy admits she would normally set the finely detailed Indian chests against a less hectic, larger-scale wallpaper pattern. “But there was something about these chests and the black-and-white nature that felt neutral enough with a paper that’s just as busy,” she said. The camel-bone inlay, which depicts flat-petaled blossoms and spirals of climbing plants, also helps the little dressers jibe with the wall covering. Just as you can use a consistent palette to make a motley assortment of elements feel familial, she said, “you can use consistent themes to tie pieces in.” Scalloped-edge sconces from Nickey Kehoe allude to the red berries in the print, and the painting’s lyrical arches and colour palette similarly reinforce the motifs of the paper.

Dissonance and Harmony

The brass base of the walnut-wood dining table has been fashioned into a butterfly, or wishbone, shape. “It’s about a contrast, right? And a tension,” explained the designer. “The table slab has a more masculine feel because it’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood. Then, you have the curves of the legs supporting it, and that’s more feminine.” An industrial or hefty base would have been much more predictable and created a cluster of angled legs. The modernist chairs and boho mirrors, meanwhile, respectively masculine and feminine, resolve their tension via matching organic materials: cane and wicker. “It’s very subtle, but it’s something that a discerning eye can pick out,” said Ms. Murphy. “There’s a reason why it feels fluid.”

Curve Balls and Line Drives

Interior designer Dee Murphy carefully weighed the formal qualities of the furnishings she included in the dining room of this home in the West Adams neighbourhood of Los Angeles. “Most rooms are square or rectangular, so you want to offset that and put some beautiful, curvy movement into the room,” she said. The undulating wallpaper pattern, the bow-front Federal-style sideboard, the looping wicker mirror frames, all contribute roundness. At the same time, angles and lines are needed to create dissonance. The sharply edged chairs were an inspired addition to the heart of the dining room, as was the slender, horizontal contemporary chandelier. Of her decision to hang a series of three petite mirrors from France she explained that repeating a single object allows you to make a statement but stops short of being garish. “If I had tried to add in a vintage, French, gilt gold mirror, that would have taken that moment a little too over the top.”



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The Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index reveals investments of passion are paying strong dividends, in some areas at least

By Bronwyn Allen
Tue, Apr 9, 2024 4 min

Art was the investment of passion that gained the most in value in 2023, according to Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index (KFLII). This is the second consecutive year that art has risen the most among the 10 popular investments tracked by the index, up 11 percent in 2023 and 29 percent in 2022. Art was followed by 8 percent growth in jewellery, 5 percent growth in watches, 4 percent growth in coins and 2 percent growth in coloured diamonds last year.

The weakest performers were rare whisky bottles, which lost nine percent of their value, classic cars down six percent and designer handbags down four percent. Luxury collectables are typically held by ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) who have a net worth of US$30 million or more. Knight Frank research shows 20 percent of UHNWI investment asset portfolios are allocated to collectables.

In 2023, the KFLII fell for only the second time, with prices down 1 percent on average.

Despite record-breaking individual sales in 2023, a surge in financial market returns contributed to a shift in allocations impacting on luxury asset value,” the report said. “… our assessment reveals a need for an ever more discerning approach from investors, with significant volatility by sub-market.

Sebastian Duthy of AMR said the 2023 art auction year began with notable sales including a record price for a Bronzino piece. But confidence waned as the year went on.

“It was telling that in May, Sotheby’s inserted one of its top Old Master lots – a Rubens’ portrait – into a 20th Century Modern evening sale. But by then, it was clear that the confidence among sellers, set by the previous year’s record-busting figures, was ebbing away. In the same month, modern and contemporary works from the collection of the late financier Gerald Fineberg sold well below pre-auction estimates.”

The value of ultra contemporary or red-chip’ art contracted the most in 2023.

“Works by a growing group of artists born after 1980 have been heavily promoted by mega galleries and auction houses in recent years. With freshly painted works in excess of £100,000 almost doubling in 2022, it was little surprise that this sector was one of the biggest casualties last year. There is a risk there are now simply too many fresh paint artists with none really standing out.”

In the jewellery market, Mr Duthy noted that demand was strongest for coloured gemstones of exceptional quality, iconic signed period jewels, single-owner collections, and items with historic provenance in 2023. In the watches market, Mr Duthy said collectors chased the most iconic and rare timepieces.

A Rolex John Player Special broke the model record when it sold for £2 million at Sotheby’s in May, double the price for a similar example sold at Phillips in 2021,” he said.

Although whisky was the worst-performing collectable in 2023, it has delivered the highest return on investment among the 10 items tracked by the index over the past decade, up 280 percent. Andy Simpson of Simpson Reserved, said 2023 was a challenging year but the best of the best bottles gained 20 percent in value. In my opinion some bottles that lost significant value in 2023 will return through the next two years as they are simply so scarce and, right now at least, so undervalued, Mr Simpson said.

Whisky was the worst performing collectable in 2023 but it had highest return on investment over a 10-year period. Image: Shutterstock

Classic car expert Dietrich Hatlapa said the 6 percent fall in collectable vehicle values in 2023 followed a 22 percent surge in 2022. The strong performance of other investment classes such as equities may have dampened collectors’ appetites it’s a very small market so it only takes a minor change in portfolio allocations to have an effect, and there has also probably been a degree of profit taking. However, we have seen some marques like BMW (up 9 percent in value) and Lamborghini (up 18 percent), which appeal to a younger breed of collector, buck the trend in 2023.”

Mr Duthy said a dip in the share price of the top luxury handbag brands last Autumn appeared to spook investors. Last autumn it was possible to pick up an Hermès white Niloticus Himalaya Birkin in good condition for under £50,000. The recent slide reflects a general correction at the upper end that’s been underway for some time rather than changing attitudes to the harvesting of exotic skins.

According to Knight Frank’s Attitudes Survey, the top five investments of passion among Australian UHNWIs are classic cars, art and wine. Fine wine values gained just 1 percent in 2023 as the market continued its correction, said Nick Martin of Wine Owners. “It’s been a hell of a long run, so I’m not that surprised. Some wines from very small producers that had enjoyed the most exuberant growth have seen the biggest drops. It had got a bit silly, £50 bottles had shot up to £200 or £300.”

Favourite investments of passion: Australia vs Global

1. Classic cars (61 percent of Australian UHNWIs vs 38 percent of global UHNWIs)
2. Art (58 percent vs 48 percent)
3. Wine (48 percent vs 35 percent)
4. Watches (42 percent vs 42 percent)
5. Jewellery (18 percent vs 28 percent)

Best returns among investments of passion (10 years)

1. Whisky 280 percent
2. Wine 146 percent
3. Watches 138 percent
4. Art 105 percent
5. Cars 82 percent

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