i+D - July/August 2019 - 41

The Older,
the Better
Museums hold a host of art and artifacts that tell visual stories about the
past, sharing quality and craftsmanship that has endured through the ages.
So, they're on one designer's hit list for creative inspiration. Here's why.
"You can't know where you're going if you don't know where you've
been," says designer Corey Damen Jenkins. So, when he begins an interiors
project, the first place he heads to for inspiration is a museum-to find
the oldest iteration of design that he can. "We're informed by what our
forefathers have done in the centuries leading up to now," he explains.
"We want to be fresh and relevant, but by remaining within the historic
vernacular of what we've achieved in design and architecture." And, the best
way to see those achievements, he notes, is to look at past civilizations-
the Egyptians, Romans, ancient Greeks-and see how they dressed, how they
lived in their homes, the furniture they sat on. "It opens our eyes and then
we can make it fresh and modern for the 21st century," says the designer,
who is based in Birmingham, Michigan.
So, how does one visit, say, "Watercolors of the Acropolis: Émile Gilliéron
in Athens" at The Metropolitan Museum in New York (Jenkins' go-to
museum for inspiration overload), and bring these depictions of architectural
sculptures from the ancient citadel into their home in a practical way?
"I bring my clients with me to museums. And, even though you can't take
that piece of art out of that Lucite case, when I see their eyes brighten up,
I ask, 'Why does that speak to you? What makes your heartbeat race,'"
Jenkins reveals. "Then, when we go shopping at flea markets and antiques
centers, we can pick something that has a similar effect on them." The
varying periods and styles of an exhibit lead Jenkins to choose for his more
classic, traditional interiors patterns and palettes, paintings and sculpture,
and furniture pieces that have a historic flavor.

For this year's Kips Bay
Decorator Show House
in New York, Corey
Damen Jenkins created a
space that was a rich
combination of historical
and modern-day influences.

But, a museum exhibit doesn't have to always translate to traditional.
Jenkins might visit a midcentury exhibit and find inspiration in decidedly
modern forms. No matter what your aesthetic might be, he maintains that
considering the history of textiles and furniture-and the artisans and
craftsmen who came before us-is the best way to inform your direction
today. "Fads and trends don't last forever," he says. "But, the textures,
art, rugs, fabrics, furnishings, sculpture, busts that you see in a museum-
they've been beautiful for centuries and resonate for a reason. I may use a
contemporary sofa, but I pair neoclassical furniture with it or an
Italianate frame that will still harken back to centuries past and will never
date. People think of museums as old, but if the pieces are still standing
today, it speaks to the quality and craftsmanship. The Met is my favorite
example. They have a beautiful medley of artifacts and pieces that
speak to me. They celebrate all different forms of art that represent a
microcosm of the human journey."

(Image: Marco Ricca)

i+D - July/August 2019

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i+D - July/August 2019

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