Monday, May 20, 2013

No.10 Reflecting On Beauty, Art and the World of Eglomise with Miriam Ellner

Who: Miriam Ellner
What: Miriam Ellner Design - Verre Eglomise
When: Since 1990
Where: Based In New York City
Servicing Projects Internationally

If somehow, among your travels, when the stewardess stopped serving and the plane's cabin slept, you stayed awake to stare out the window at the eerie quiet of the ever-delicate clouds, and caught the rarest of moments between time and space, where the restless angels had abandoned their posts, and saw a glimpse of the pearly white gates rumored to be the entry-way to heaven; well, we're fairly certain, after the shock and awe of witnessing the perfect ether, looking closely enough, it's altogether likely we'd find the gates themselves were a Verre Eglomise masterpiece made by the hands of Miriam Ellner

22 karat gold-leaf polychromes make up this set of 3 Neoclassical wall panels by Miriam Ellner Design.
We assure you, if it sounds far fetched- it isn't. Even upon entering Miriam Ellner's Chelsea-based studio in New York City there is an ambiance of celestial bliss - especially for those with a deep appreciation of design and fine arts. In modest size the all-white room is illuminated with large, open windows and clad with stunning pieces of hand- crafted verre eglomise gems. From small square tiles to full scale entryway panels waiting for shipment, every piece of work has been meticulously tended to and contains an astonishing array of depth, emotion and beauty. 

What, you may ask, is verre eglomise? It is an ancient craft of custom glass gilding, wherein gold, metal or a myriad of other materials are applied to the back of a glass panel which show through to the front of the glass with the seamless quality of a
painting. After any variation of basic gilding application, the delicate leafing can be manipulated further with the simplest of tools to create imagery as rich as that of a drawing or painting. As a matter of fact, that's how many of these pieces begin.  
"I've always been something of a 'visual collector'." Miriam reflects on her career, a montage of eglomise samples floating like pictorial thought bubbles behind her. "I love doing research. I think books were one of my first loves."
Miriam Ellner has had a rich journey in the arts. Evolving all the way from her childhood affinity for the library (beginning her own collection of visual references even then) into the world of modern dance and even whirling through the realm of costume and set design, Miriam doesn't ever seem to cease learning. When she
A remarkable sample of a 4-layer laminate piece Miriam Ellner Design
is currently working on for a European Residence. It is part of what
will be 2 large panels for a set of doors- talk about inspiring.
 happened to stumble upon the Van Der Kelen School for artisnal crafts in Brussels she was mesmerized by the old world ambiance of the buildings and ateliers, so she followed her fancy and applied to be accepted the following year. (1985)  It was here that she got grounded in her new studies and received the formal training in decorative arts that would set the ball rolling to her current career today. It was at Van Der Kelen she learned gold leaf and eglomise. And she loved it so much, when she returned to the US, she returned a decorative painter. 

"I'm a risk taker." Says Miriam shyly of making her start in a new field and craft, "I made a list of the best [design] talent I wanted to work with and went after them. I only wanted to work with the best."
But often a new career or talent needs a push, and Ellner found herself at the hands of a high-end builder who was enamored with her work and made a point of helping introduce her around. 
An example of eglomise detailed furniture/ plated inlays
Miriam Ellner Design did with designer Michael Simon
"I used to go around to meetings with these little 2x3" samples of my work;" she laughs, insisting on bringing one out to show a small eglomise sample the size of a business card, "just to show something to designers I met." 
Which seems funny, upon looking at the vast array of samples and completed projects she's now surrounded by in her studio on a daily basis. But it was upon one fated meeting with renowned interior designer Robert Metzger that officially set her new path ablaze. Miriam still recalls showing Mr. Metzger her small samples and seeing the wheels turn in his head.
 "He just got it." she smiles, "[He] commissioned two tables with me and that was the start."
A favorite precedent image, Miriam finds herself inspired by the art of eglomise
being found as far back as 200BC, as with these bowls from Canosa, Italy
Since then Miriam Ellner seems to've taken the industry by storm, even earning herself one of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art's prestegious Arthur Ross Award's for Artisanship this past May. Either quietly or quite boldly, her work can be found among the projects of some of the design industry's top talent. After many years of sharing her vision of eglomise being brought back to the settings of projects everywhere, Miriam has also contributed to the age-old art by infusing some of her own style and expertise into her work. Her refined skills, well rounded viewpoint and inherent humility come through in her work with grace and confidence- but also some gusto; almost delicately saying 'that's lovely, but I'm going to push the envelope now'. 
A series of 7 eglomise glass panels in Jean Dunand style, composed of 22 karat gold leaf, palladium leaf, mica flakes, abalone and polychromes.
Miriam's long time business partner and development director, Wiley Kidd, notes 
"What makes Miriam such a master of design in her own right is that few people have pushed eglomise as far as she has." he admires, "She knows when to be restrained and when to push boundaries; instead of doing a small door inlay, she'll say, 'let's try the whole room'. People don't do that enough."
Turns out design risk takers and grand talents are indeed a perfect fit for Miriam's interest in bold style, here she pairs
with the grand talent at Kemble Interiors for Kips Bay Decorator Show House 2011, doing a whole ceiling in eglomise
Forget looking around the rest of the Show House, this ceiling for Kemble Interior's room is worth parking on
the couch to look up and admire.
And it's worth pushing boundaries. A craft like this that can be so masterfully honed can be utilized endlessly in design. Why not enrich more spaces by having artwork like this built into it? 

Color and depth stun in eglomise in these panels of 22 karat gold, mica
powders and polychromes for a private residence's powder room.
 As Miriam continues nourishing and growing her work and technique as well as her studies in the arts, it seems the only natural her next step is to learn through teaching- which she'll be having a hand at this Fall. Over the years she has also attended Dale Chihuly's exquisite Pilchuck Glass School on scholarship, as well as the Corning Glass Studio, just to expand her knowledge on materials and craft further. So after having years of putting her knowledge and talent to use, this fall is just as excited to be giving back, teaching a class on verra eglomise at the Society of Gilders Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana during the week long program of round tables, classes, lectures and exhibitions by experts in the field; an endeavor her schedule won't usually permit, but which she's made priority. 

Miriam starts a new piece by applying gold leaf to the back of a panel
As Miriam reflects with gratitude on the rare career she's created and has the pleasure of continuing on a daily basis, she reflects on the importance of eglomise to design, or perhaps just of art to the world:
"The idea of creating beauty is profound. I recall being at a Matisse show once and just being completely taken aback by how much beauty he contributed to the world." Miriam bats a glassy eye, "Forgive me," she smiles warmly, moved even by the memory, "Not to say that I'm Matisse!" she laughs. "But the thought of being able to contribute any kind of beauty to the world is one of the most fulfilling things I can do- and this for me is my form."
Well, we're glad it is. The world can certainly always use more of the thoughtful, intricate and distinguished details art brings to it. And if design is continuing to be enhanced by details like that of Miriam Ellner, we'll certainly be staying tuned in. 
"A series of verra eglomise glass panels in the style of Dunand, designed to line the walls of a dinning room above the
dado. Made up of 22 karat gold leaf, palladium leaf, various precious metals and polychromes."
Eglomise enriches a kitchen backsplash with this vignette. Made up of 22 karat gold leaf, mica powders & polychromes.
"A series of verra eglomise glass panels designed in neoclassical style, to line the walls of a dinning room.
All panels executed on full restoration glass and assembled like a Chinese puzzle. Made up of 22 karat
gold leaf, palladium leaf, tarnished silvers and polychromes."
Miriam Ellner Design has been featured in neumerous design publications, including Architectural Digest, Elle Decor and even on the Martha Stewart Living Show. She is a member of the Institute for Classical Architecture & Art, and was the 2013 Arthur Ross Award recipient for Artisanship. To contact her New York based studio or learn more about what she does please visit

Thursday, February 28, 2013

No.9 Appraising The Jewels of the House with Martin Grubman of P.E. Guerin

Who: Martin Grubman
What: P.E. Guerin - Custom Decorative Hardware
When: Since 1857
Where: Founded + Based in New York City
And Today Has Foundries + Showrooms Internationally

It's been said before that 'knowledge is power and convenience is costly.' A wise statement that holds true in everything from the food we eat to the car we buy; and where could this be more true than in the homes we live in? It's one thing to purchase the cheap products, materials or furniture we need to get us through the moment, but it's another to just get sucked into the cycle of purchasing more and more new throw-away's rather than saving, researching and educating ourselves on the best way to invest in the space we want to be in, that will last for the long run. Sure, change is inevitable, but truly thoughtful investments in the home are sure to not only enhance the personal experience of the space, but also it's monetary value. 

A P.E. Guerin Louis XIV hardware compilation.
We've spoken before about the assets of utilizing the truest of true Artisans when designing, drawing, decorating, and building a home/ building. What Artisans bring to the table in both the design process and the final product are both an enrichment in the literal value of a space, and the ability to enhance the artistic expression and personality in architecture and design. When it comes to the multifaceted world of artistic metalwork, it's been said many times that the decorative hardware is something of "the jewels of the house". And in no way could this be more tried and true than in the case of work made by P.E. Guerin, the oldest decorative hardware firm in the U.S. and last living and thriving traditional foundry in New York City.

Spanning 150+ years of existence and four generations, P.E. Guerin maintains every component of the traditional process of artisanal metalwork in decorative hardware, whose precedent example was set by its namesake and renowned talent, French immigrant Pierre Emmanuel Guerin, a pioneer in his craft. Many of Pierre Emmanuel's original work can still be found throughout New York City, and still in all it's luster and quality. So, despite the trends and culture of immediate gratification and now that rules so much of the consumer mindset today, this company has managed to stick to its guns in believing, to its core, that the production of something special that will last you for generations to come, should still be well thought out, intricately detailed and finished with expert precision.

A stellar example of Guerin's abilities, as seen in many top shelter publications today.
  "With the dumbing-down of society in this country, working standards and products become sub-par, and production is less formal;" says Martin Grubman, Vice President and Project Manager at P.E. Guerin, "maybe not by choice, but because we don't know any better anymore."  

Martin Grubman, who has been with P.E. Guerin for over 25 years now, has become a true advocate for the process and the product. 
Martin even noted that in common manufacturing of, say, bathroom hardware or faucetry today, there's been a mass decision somewhere along the line to attempt to alleviate skews and alter knob and lever creation (and their valves) so that each one goes a different direction. This is actually commonly practiced so as to have one less thing to do in production, saving manufacturers costs, but not necessarily creating a product that will last a lifetime. 
"We recently had a homeowner call us, who'd taken over an old family property in Pennsylvania, a house built in 1926, that had Guerin hardware in it," Martin notes, "They sent it to us to have us refinish the items and add a few new valves, then we sent it back to have it re-installed- it looked as incredible as ever. Actually, same thing also happened with an old hotel in San Francisco a few months back. It's all still immaculate."
It's impressive to say the least, and certainly no surprise Martin appreciated this moment in his work with Guerin. Having originally worked in the high-end building industry, Martin had seen a thing or two in the design + build process of high quality homes, and intimately understood the process when he met Andrew Ward, the fourth generation CEO and President of P.E. Guerin.    
A Louis XV Decorative Paumelle, gold-plated hinge
When he saw the difference in custom products versus mass produced products that were selected, ordered and installed in his work in building, he had come to know intimately that quality was far more important than quantity. When Andrew Ward mentioned he needed some help in his shop and studio, and Martin had gone in himself to see the process, he didn't hesitate to start working there part time, going in 3 days week. His work with Guerin quickly became of great interest, and not so long after he began working there full time, he felt right at home joining something of a family of artisans and craftspeople who had all also been with the company for multiple decades. 
Incredible detail on this tiny Lilypad + Dragonfly
"We'll take on someone new from time to time, and if they show aptitude in a certain part of the process, have them apprentice with one of our older artisans who's been with us a long time." Says Martin of the team. "But most of us have been here for decades." 
And P.E. Guerin, like many of the artisans we've spoken with, bring the process of design development and active collaboration to the table as they engage their designers, architects and homeowners in creating the perfect hardware for each and every project. But beyond being simply beautiful, nice 'things' used to decorate a space, they are both high-quality, functional assets, as much as they are a joy to look at, with products ranging from bathroom fittings and fixtures, to custom furniture and furniture hardware. And it's no wonder all of the products that come out of Guerin are meticulous and perfected, they are handled with care by highly trained, master craftspeople who are in fluid communication with one another (and have been for some time).

A photo of the original P.E. Guerin team in front of their [still current] home in
New York City's West Village. A copy of which still as it hangs in their office.
The four-floor building that houses each painstaking, hand-made step of P.E. Guerin's manufacturing and finishing process in New York City's quaint West Village, is also home to their headquarters and a majority of the company's history, having been their prime location since 1892. As you trot up the old wooden stairs you can almost imagine it as it was in decades past. Every nook and cranny of each floor has been carved out to create even the smallest station to customize their work. You can see exactly what this looks like when you take a tour at the famed foundry on Jane street [by appointment only], where clients, prospective clients, students and museum staff alike can call to try and arrange a tour of the shop / studio just for something of a peek into not only a rarely seen world of craftsmanship, but also a look back through time.
This custom Hippo faucetry goes from modeled mock up to priceless perfection.
We had the privilege of having Martin himself give us a tour of the facilities and the process from it's beginning stages all the way back down to the showroom. We couldn't possibly recapitulate all of the details accurately here (there are so many), but a few of our favorite moments certainly include seeing a live bronze pour, during which bronze that is heated to just below 2,000 degrees is poured into their meticulous moulds and cast into what will become someone's immaculate faucetry. The details the cast naturally emerges with are remarkable, and this is even before any of the other fine tuning to come. 

A Guerin Artisan Chases a custom doorknob in their New York Studio.
Jacqueline, one of Guerin's long time Master Artisans hammers away at a clients custom monogram detailed doorknobs.
Which brings us to our next favorite part of the tour- The Chasing. On the second floor of Guerin's long time home is a room of expert chasers- those who sit and hammer out the details (literally) of every last piece of hardware. Using any number of tools with any number of fine tips (imagine steel the shape of a pencil, and in place of a single point at the end, would be any number of small dots, lines, textures or patterns). Hammering these tips onto the flat surfaces and crevices of each product, a new piece of hardware is given remarkable detail and character. 

Some of Guerin's incredible history is sure to be tucked away in their archive.
These details are a result of P.E. Guerin's in-depth design development process, wherein mock-ups of finalized drawings are [often] first carved in wood to be sure scaling, measurements and details are all accurate and approved. If something looks like it could use a shift in design or detailing, Guerin could probably refer any designer to their archive of each and every detail they've cataloged or saved in their library (also something of a treasure to see). They keep some of their stock of wooden mock-ups and some of their precedent and research literature in the archive as well.

Each product may be of a different material, but can also be finished in a myriad of materials and styles. From buffing, polishing or brushing anything from bronze, nickel or pewter, P.E. Guerin informs on the best products for specific use as well as recommended maintenance and care (which is often quite simple). Each of these distinct differences and are part of a selection process that will still ensure a long lasting product, it's more about an educational component to the program, rather than a blind selection and purchase. And in line with the educational moment in P.E. Guerin's tour, Martin also always likes to laugh and quiz any visitors he may have, asking: 
"Do you know what the main difference between brass and bronze is?" Sometimes there are good guesses, but few know the answer: "Brass has more than 12% Zinc, Bronze has less than 12%..." Martin smiles.
A Louis XIV Doorknob with incredible detail.
Martin notes that while they are both Copper compounds, most people will refer to a product or material as Bronze because it sounds 'sexier' or more expensive, and they can charge more for it. Sure, you may note it's likely a yellower tone could indicate Brass and Bronze tends to be a bit redder, but this isn't always the case. For Martin, and P.E. Guerin, it's more about knowing exactly what you're using and how you want to use it, this will actually enhance the value and afford proper care instructions.

Having gotten to know so much more about the process of creating something magnificent that lasts, and also how open so many of these artisans and custom ornamental professionals are to informing their customers, it is a breath of fresh air to know we can get on board and learn as much or little as we like at any time. After all, investments take research, interest and a desire to learn (or even simply, to know what it is we're paying for, and why it may be a good or bad idea). And again, if we're seriously thinking about investing in our homes, what better place to start than with some of the details that top off and complete each space and will make them our own. 

But beyond all the wonderful new insights we've learned and the incredible work we've viewed by Guerin's artisans, if there's one thing Martin Grubman would like to leave us with it is also the reminder: 
"We do everything- Modern, Transitional, every period imaginable, Deco, Nouveau, (after all we did live through that period)... We don't soley specialize in 18th Century ornamentation." Martin speaks of the process, the stock and the custom abilities, "Some people don't realize how tactile it all is, what a treat it is to look at everyday when it's all said and done."
We can't argue with that. When we purchase our first property, we know exactly who to call for the hardware. We think it's well worth saving for.
A whimsical bathroom will get this Swan Basin set in Pewter and Gold.
A fantastic marine and nature inspired basin set from Guerin's recent "Whimsy" collection. 
A fantastic stepped set of Art Deco inspired hardware.
Martin Grubman still works and thrives at P.E. Guerin and can be contacted at their Jane Street offices for an appointment. P.E. Guerin has been seen and written on in a number of publications, including recent articles in Veranda, Hyland, Traditional Home, and many more. To learn more about them, you can visit their website at

Thursday, January 31, 2013

No.8 SPECIAL GUEST: Architectural Designer & Author of The Art of Classical Details Phillip Dodd Shares on Artisans, Art & Architecture

Portrait By: Peter Olsen
Who: Phillip J. Dodd
What: Architectural Designer & Author of Upcoming Knockout Publication
When: The book is due out March, 2013
Where: A Native to Manchester, England he now lives and works in Connecticut
We tend to fancy every guest we feature here at Artisanal Specs. quite special indeed. Alas, keeping with our promised sub-series of 'Special Guests', we are honored to share our first very special guest interview and book review with none other than the renowned architectural designer, artist, historian, writer, educator and expert on classical design: Phillip J. Dodd, author of upcoming knockout publication The Art of Classical Details: Theory, Design And Craftsmanship. Aside from giving us a tour behind the scenes of The Art of Classical Details, Phillip also gives us a thoughtful and incisive look into his minds eye. With a passionate take on architecture and a healthy dose of that warm British humor, Phillip shows us how integral it just might be to maintain a well-rounded and all-inclusive discussion of what goes into creating contemporary classical architecture.  
In keeping with Artisanal Specs.' love for and focus on the artisans, trades and specialty craftspeople that work thoroughly alongside architects, designers and builders to bring design to life, there is good reason we were so excited to cover The Art of Classical Details. Unlike many of the other wonderful books out on design, from the perspective of architecture, Phillip has worked with tender and extensive care to curate a publication that tells the story of contemporary classical architecture and design from the in-depth and multifaceted viewpoints of architects, designers, artists (himself), scholars and artisans and craftspeople; an opportune and rich perspective we do not often get to hear. With his own craftsman-like precision, Phillip has carved out a space to facilitate a discourse on design from an elevated and uniquely all- inclusive point of view. He brings to the table a pallet of voices that paint a larger picture of how and why it is worth carrying out the principles and practices of classical architecture in the modern world. Before we totally dive into our talk with Phillip, here's a shortlist of some of the incredible talents and minds you can expect to hear from in this book: David Easton, Henry Hope Reed, Quinlan Terry, Ken Tate, Dinyar Wadia, Richard Carbino, Foster Reeve, Peter Pennoyer, Richard Cameron, Mark Ferguson, Oscar Shamamian, Jeremy Musson, Alain Oliver, Robert Adam, Paul Chesney, Julian Bicknell, Anne Fairfax, Richard Sammons and so many, many more.
As you may have gathered by now, we love to begin by asking our features why they do what they do and what their journey has been in the field. So when we sat down to talk with Phillip we knew we liked him already when he replied to our 'So Phillip, why architecture?' with:
"I saw The Towering Inferno as a kid and wanted to be Paul Newman." Pause. We both laugh. "I love drawing. Since grade school technical drawing was my best subject..." Phillip shifts to sincerity.
"Drumlin Hall, Dutchess County, NY, Peter Pennoyer
Architects" Pg 188, as seen in TAoCD, The Projects.
And therein lay the start: drawing. The Art of Classical Details came to fruition at the hands of someone who began with the arts and was drawn to the space architecture created where both art and mechanics, the creative and the logical minds, were coming together.
"Architecture is a funny subject. It's both artistic, but it's also technical. There's a rigor to it. You have to be very mathematic, to be able to have that kind of mindset- but you also have to be artistic and able to draw..."
Phillip, who hails from Manchester, England, where he attended both the Manchester School of Architecture as well as studying architecture at the renowned Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture in London (and that's just before he came to the States, where he would gain his Master's in architecture from The University of Notre Dame), has spent quite a bit of time studying architecture. If there's one thing he has grown passionate about it is the necessity to have a well rounded understanding of both the fine arts and mathematical/ analytical, to be able to comprehensively create accurate and good architecture.

Fluted Doric column with modillion block entableture by
John B. Murray Architect, Pg 10 as seen in TAoCD.
 Aside from the experience Phillip got in school, especially the Prince of Wales Institute, after being convinced by a friend to travel to the U.S. and just try working here for a while, he got his dose of training at the hands of Fairfax and Sammons co-founder, Richard Sammons. Back when the firm was going by Richard Franklin Sammons Architect, and there were only 5 people in the office, Phillip received dedicated and insightful instruction from Richard each day- an experience well worth the stay. As the firm grew and the tides shifted, Phillip found his way to Connecticut where he joined Dinyar Wadia's renowned team of designers and builders (where he continues to work) at Wadia Associates. After his many, many years of study and exercise, Phillip found Dinyar was glad to let him unleash his talents and practice architecture as he knew it.
"Richard [Sammons] taught me, and Dinyar [Wadia] allows me to practice what I've learned..." Phillip reflects.
What Phillip wound up receiving in his journey, turned out to be something of a rare, modern day apprenticeship in architectural design, an experience that may be leaning toward rarity. Which is not to say, however, that merely having the experience of working with top architects and designers themselves doesn't also offer it's own education. Phillip likes to give nod to this by noting that the realm of designers in each generation come from something of an organic family tree in design, offering an innate 'trickle down of character', each with it's own inheritance of knowledge and then offshoot of new creativity (just have a look at those who've spun from the offices of Parish Hadley or Robert A.M. Stern and how those experiences and teachings of hands on work has informed their disciples...).

Today, with so many leading schools focusing on the use of the computer to design spaces, it has become easy to stray from the importance of spacial interpretation and the focus drawing inherently facilitates, taking away from a building's ability to be a relatable space to the people who use it. (We understand this debate, as per which is more influential, people>buildings, buildings>people, can be controversial, but let us hear out this side for now).
A bespoke fireplace designed by Allan Greenberg, as seen in TAoCD
"I think today, with all the use of computers for design, you have people who would have at one time gone into engineering or computer programming, instead going into architecture. But in architecture you really have to have a combination of lots of both artistic and analytical..." Phillip notes. "When I went to architecture school in England we didn't have computers, you had to take with you a portfolio of your artwork, to show them that you could draw. That was most important for admission into architecture school."
When posed with the question as to whether or not he might consider himself an artist as well as an architectural designer, or if he thought architecture itself to be an art form, Phillip recalls poignantly that during his time at the Prince of Wales Institute one of the widely elected studies that was imperative in the coursework was a life drawing seminar, where the students would sit and draw nudes- twice a week, mandatory. An answer to these questions could simply be yes, but it's not so simple (as the arts never are), and Phillip won't let it go at that, as architecture is multifaceted, and never one-sided. He notes that part of the importance of continuing to develop and nourish those skills cultivated in drawing nudes, is the necessity to understand the human form, in all its "ergonomics" and proportions. 

"Apprentices at SYMM ’s workshop are trained in the traditional
skills of specialist joinery and cabinetry, finish carpentry,
painting, decorating and polishing." Pg 19, as seen in TAoCD
"Buildings are spaces people live and work in, if you don't understand people, how can you have a building that works?" Phillip asks. "A building isn't just a series of details, some of those details have to evolve as you grow to understand what you're creating, the various hierarchies and proportions..." 

A good point. It isn't about producing a series of pretty drawings to then move forward and capitulate into a building, so much as studying potential and then fusing that with a wide range of data, geometry, analysis and technical details. Phillip notes that while yes, architecture is an art form, perhaps architects are more like artisans than artists, in that they maintain that fusion between the two minds to create the real and true finished product that tells a story.

Phillip notes that while he prefers the voice of classicism, it isn't because modern architecture inherently 'isn't' or 'can't be' good, so much as that there may be (or often tends to be) an underlying dissociation between the study of the human experience and form and a building. He notes it is not just about shape or size, but also material, texture, color...all the things that go into shaping a space. Classicism is more about traditions than merely about history, as Phillip likes to emphasize. For him, an ideal experience in designing a house is not about recreating some historical precedent merely to have it spat out of time in a new location; it is about the process of listening and learning and applying traditions of architecture to a customized design.
"I'm not a big fan of telling people what to do, or how to live their lives. I don't like it. I think people inherently know what they want." Phillip notes. "...There's a big difference between liking something and appreciating it."
He goes on to discuss how if you listen carefully to people, they design their homes for you. It shouldn't be a mystery where the rooms are from the outside of a building, and each room should sensically speak to the home-owners life and lifestyle, desires, wants and aesthetic expression. Traditions, he believes, are not to be thrown out, but upheld and learned from along with the new; and in creating The Art of Classical Details, Phillip has gone to great lengths to show a wide range of how Classicism can be applied and utilized to continue to foster innovation. Classicism should perhaps (and certainly could) serve as something of a tool-set for achieving the best outcome.
"There's no work in the [book] that I don't like. Each project featured is a great design- whether it is my cup of tea or not, I cannot sensor based on my own aesthetic tastes... but I appreciate all of it. And that's why it's in the book."
Julian Bicknell stuns with "Henbury Hall, Cheshire, England, Julian Bicknell & Associates" as seen in TAoCD, The Projects

Phillip's own training and insights into creating classical architecture today keenly informs his decision to include essays by artisans themselves within this book. Often one may think of an apprenticeship as a one-on-one training and transferring of knowledge and skills from a 'master' craftsperson, usually with a building material, to another; but as Phillip received something of this kind of training himself in architecture (and art), he understands that the artisans and craftspeople are just as integral in design as the architect. Which may be why there was not a question or moments pause to his desire and feeling that their voices were just as necessary in the chorus to having The Art of Classical Details' ring true in a proper ode to classicism today.

"Fluted pilasters with delicately detailed Corinthian
capitals Peter Pennoyer Architects," as seen in TAoCD
Phillip notes that the reason artisans are so important (just as much today as any other time prior in history) is that they embody the complete fusion of building and art in what they do. Each craft with its own specialized background and palate of materials, provides a highly trained understanding of the smallest of details. Only a true artisan understands the direction, shape and size a single leaf should have in a rinceau as well as the depth, shadow and proportion any one section of ornament with all its parts so that it upholds the utmost artistic integrity but also maintains balance and perspective within architecture. A true artisan has a sixth sense for the process of taking a design from an artistic rendering phase to a sketch with thoroughly plotted out measurements (and their correct scales), and then the artistic mock-up, material selection and fine tuning of a single section of work (for any one single room). No small order indeed... worth looking deeper into, don't you think?
"You know I remember, there was a publisher when I was in school, Andreas Papadakis I believe, yes he published Academy Editions, a series of small architectural monographs by some of the top classical architects around," Phillip recalls, "and you know, they were fantastic. That was in the early 90's... And I haven't seen anything like them since..."
Indeed, these Academy Editions were a rare series of monographs that were wonderful and highly insightful, and at times a bit academic, but were mostly projects and not so much writing. Even these gems were missing the inclusion of the craftsperson.
"Outstanding craftsmanship means using traditional techniques, whether that be hand carving or
forging steel on a blacksmith’s anvil. These are labor intensive and highly skilled processes for
which there is no substitute. Chesney’s" Pg 246 as seen in TAoCD.
"No craftsmen were featured or anything like that. I don't think there's ever been a book actually where the craftsmen have wrote;" Phillip says, "it's always been scholars and architects who have written...but [in the book] I wanted there to be a lot of voices... I tried to fill in the gaps... It really is a great group- scholars, architects and artisans all mixed in. And artisans... artisans, who have never been asked to write anything before."
But Phillip has, and boy to they have some fantastic things to say. We're thrilled. It is a trail blazing effort to fuse the old with the new even in terms of a more traditional formula to creating a book on architecture. What makes the book special is not only the range of experience, perspective and talent in design that shares their expertise, but also the thoughtful lens through which each offers their own personal fondness for this effort and encouragement for the conversation to continue.
"You never see those close ups in books anymore," Phillip says about architectural detailing, "and we need to keep these crafts alive."
Between the countless years of design expertise and personal insight shared in this one of a kind homage to classicism, we believe that The Art of Classical Details may be proving to be an important tool for the new and future generations of designers, artisans, scholars and architecture aficionados alike. The book has just gone and created it's own history simply by providing a space for so many voices to come together and speak. (Who knows what this could mean to a student who didn't even know how a plaster mould was made or what it could be made into? Or if they wanted to find a better way than AutoCAD to approach a building?) All this said, we will certainly be keeping tabs on Phillip as he moves on and continues to discuss architecture in all it's grandeur, but in the mean time, we'd start by just strongly recommending you grab yourself a copy, have your own experience with this wonderfully thorough and incomparably beautiful publication, and find out more about what classical architecture in the modern world means to you.
"Ferne Park, Dorset, England, Quinlan & Francis Terry Architects," Pg 198, as seen in The Art of Classical Details.
"The dining room is decorated with Gracie handpainted wallpaper that compliments the highly detailed door casings and ceiling crown. Eric J. Smith Architect." Pg 12&13 as seen in The Art of Classical Details.
And again we say, congratulations Phillip J. Dodd and The Art of Classical Details: Theory, Design and Craftsmanship, on a job very well done!
Phillip J. Dodd is a Senior Architectural Designer and Marketing Director at Wadia Associates in New Canaan, CT. He is also the author of New Classicists: Wadia Associates, which features a foreward by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales and Introduction by Paul Gunther, President of the ICAA. You can read much more about him and his work here. A list of book signings, lectures and events will be posted within the month, and the books official release date is March 16, 2013. You can also connect with Phillip and The Art of Classical Details on Facebook.