Friday, July 22, 2011

Guest Post on Tobi Fairley's Blog Today

We were so honored to be asked by our new friend and fantastically talented designer Tobi Fairley to contribute a guest post to her blog today. Tobi is up in the Hamptons preparing for the opening of the Hampton Designer Showhouse this Saturday evening. Tobi and her team have designed a gorgeous bedroom in the house, so we thought it would be fun to write a little bit about the history of the Hampton Designer Showhouse. It's a huge draw for the Hamptons, and the opening gala is one of the must-attend benefit parties of the summer...But most people don't know how the Showhouse got started. Follow us over to Tobi's blog to get all the details, and see some of the great rooms from past year's Showhouses. And be sure to come back here tomorrow for a sneak peak at some of the rooms in this year's Hampton Designer Showhouse.

A Hamptons Home Theater by Mabley Handler

We know what you're thinking: When you hear "Home Theater" you can't help but visualize red velvet seats, heavy drapery, and bad art deco architecture. We've all seen gimmick home theaters in McMansions...It's amazing the amount of money some people spend to create something so awful. Well, put those images out of your mind! We're going to show you how we do a Mabley Handler Home Theater, Hamptons-style.

When one of our clients in Water Mill asked us to help them transform a portion of their lower level into a home theater, we knew we would have our work cut out for us. First of, the builder had put marble floors throughout the entire lower level...Luxurious, to be sure, but an acoustical nightmare! the room also featured two open doorways into the room, so we were challenged with creating an appropriately dark space to screen films that sounded as good as they looked.

To address the acoustical concerns, we proposed carpet laying carpet over the marble floors, and upholstering the walls to create a more favorable listening experience. We originally suggested a large U-shaped sectional sofa to add a social dimension to movie-watching, but our clients felt strongly that they really wanted a true movie theater environment, with individual theater seats for at least eight people. And most importantly, they didn't want the rood to be a heavy and drab...Or red! Their Hamptons house has the classic Mabley Handler styling, with plenty of grayish blues and silvery grey tones. They expected their home theater to have the same feel as the rest of their house.

Our first hurdle was the seating...The home theater seating we had seen in the past had struck us as being very, well, cheesy, for lack of a better word! We couldn't imagine incorporating them into a Mabley Handler-designed room...However, when we saw some of those same seats upholstered in a white leather, all of a sudden we found ourselves coming around! In the end, we selected Palliser Hiland chairs which had all of the power reclining features that our clients wanted, with the style that fit the room. As planned, we carpeted the rear elevated platform and floor, and upholstered the walls.

Our clients wanted the upholstered walls to be blue and silver, with an interesting style, texture or pattern...And we found a great fabric that had all of that: Kravet's Barbara Barry Inlay in Delft, a beautiful circle-and-square geometric fabric, in the perfect shades of blue, grey and silver. We had previously used the fabric for throw pillows on another project, so fortunately we had a swatch of it in our fabrics library.

To create intimacy in the room, as well as block the light coming from the two open doorways that framed the theater screen, we designed a single drapery panel for each opening. The panels would sweep to one side to allow our clients and their fellow theater-goers to walk in, and then they could be released to fall and cover the opening. We used some of Kravet's luxurious velvets...But instead of cliché red velvet drapes, we offset the weight of the panels by keeping the colors light: Off-white velvet panels, with a generous blue velvet leading edge, bottom border and tie-back, constructed by Enzo Valfré of Verduno Collection in Sag Harbor.

We added sconce lighting to the walls to create a softer glow around the room instead of having to use the harsh overhead recessed lighting. We selected the Hardy Cylinder Sconce by Visual Comfort from Circa Lighting. The fixture's square backplate and circular glass shade with silver rings complemented the geometric Kravet/Barbara Barry Inlay fabric perfectly. We were even able to center the sconces directly on the geometric pattern on the walls, thanks to meticulous planning of the layout on the part of our wall upholsterer.

The walls were upholstered by Chris Parks and his team from Arthur Parks Upholstery, and they really did an amazing job. If you've never upholstered walls, you have no idea how much planning, sketching, E-mailing and discussing goes on before the upholsterer even sets foot on the job, especially if the fabric has a geometric pattern in it that has to be matched up panel-to-panel. We had to lay out the fabric in such a way that the pattern ran continuously all around the room, and fell centered on the walls, despite the fact that there was not one wall that was symmetrical to the other side of the room. And we had to do all of this before we even bought the fabric...We need to figure out the layout so we knew exactly how much fabric to buy in the first place, with a minimum of waste.

Before: An ordinary lower level room

After: The Mabley Handler Hamptons-style Home Theater

We say all this not to dissuade anyone from considering upholstering walls in their house. On the contrary, it's a fantastic way to bring color, texture, pattern and interest into a room (with the added benefit of acoustical dampening)...We just recommend that you consult a professional to help you execute it. As we said, there is a lot of planning involved, so many details to think about ahead of time, and so many things to go wrong! So before you find yourself holding a wall stapler and a roll of fabric, talk to an expert first!

In the end, our clients were thrilled that their home theater was completed, just in time for their many house guests to enjoy it. And personally, we were very happy that we had proved to ourselves (and the world!) that we could create a home theater for our clients that evoked the look and feel of the rest of their house, rather than pander to the clichéd generic stereotype of what a home theater should look like.