Art in Construction is a Brooklyn-based company that had its start in the 80’s replacing old-fashioned 3/4″ thick plaster walls, ceilings, and ornament.
Since then, they have expanded into a specialty artisan construction firm, specializing in unique plaster-based finishes and objects which include, but are not limited to, interior wall and ceiling surfaces, cement plaster flooring, cement staircases, shower wall and floor surfaces.
“We also produce three-dimensional cast pigmented cementitious objects – furnishings, tables, sinks, tubs, counter tops,” says owner Stephen Balser. “Additionally, we produce a steady flow of in situ sculpture and art installations as envisioned and directed by the artists who conceive them.”
Architects, designers, and general contractors are drawn to the company based on their long-range success and longevity of their work with the types of finishes they create.
The process begins by fostering dialogue, either by showing the client samples and photos of completed work, or by reviewing photographs, samples, or locations provided by the client. The goal is to get a clear picture of the performance, color, finish and appearance required for the project.
Site visits are conducted, samples are produced, and full-scale mock-ups are created and submitted upon which the final installation is begun.
“Clients can expect to interact with artisans who are fully and truly passionate about their craft,” adds Balser. “They will end up with something they can be quite proud of.”
IN THE BEGINNING
Balser was inspired by a trip to Italy in 1984 and began experimenting with pigments and traditional lime putty plaster. As well as its’ durability, longevity and low maintenance, lime plaster is environmentally friendly.
“It gives off zero VOCs,” says Balser. “It has no off-gassing chemicals and has mold resistant attributes. It is non toxic, non-allergenic and while curing, it absorbs carbon dioxide much like a tree, increasing optimal indoor air quality.”
The materials they use are not much different from thousands of years ago. They are comprised primarily of mixtures of slaked lime, fine sands, pulverized marbles and quartz, powdered earth pigments, metallic oxides, gypsum and water. The custom mixtures are trowel applied and polished by their skilled artisans.
COLOR AND PERCEPTION
And what about color?
“Color has a profound effect on how surfaces are conceived,” says Balser. “For example, concrete grey-colored surfaces are typically experienced as concrete, whereas leathery-type browns are naturally experienced more like leather or wood, and super-saturated colors are experienced more like polished jewel stones.”
“Also quality of light is astoundingly influential on how colors are perceived and experienced. One can create rooms with totally different ‘feels’ using the same colored surface but varying light sources. Lighting can never be ignored.”
When asked what his favorite color is, Balser replied, “As a youngster, I would have automatically said blue, but at this point I have no favorites; they all have their place depending on mood or need. I think I get the most thrill when I see two colors reacting in a visual harmony – like cobalt blue and ivory white, or maroon and cream beige, or an electric blue and cocoa brown.”
Blending Art in Construction with modern touches and design elements is a collaborative process between artisan, designer, client and architect. Adds Balser, “we just do our best to make their ideas succeed as envisioned or better!”
“Color can be a powerful way to evoke feelings and to connect interior and exterior spaces.”
Jody Beck of Traction Architecture became interested in architecture through studying art and architectural history.
“I loved the way that buildings could be unraveled to tell stories about distant times, places and cultures. By understanding the soaring space inside the nave of a Gothic cathedral, or the meticulous proportions of Palladio’s villas, you can learn a lot about the aspirations of the people who built them.”
The view of space as a conduit to story inspired us to learn more about this successful Florida-based company that often uses Modwalls‘ tiles in their work.
How does your company’s approach differ from other architects?
The phrase that most defines our work is “design for thoughtful living,” and by that we mean creating architecture that addresses the spirit of a place – not just its physical characteristics, but also the subjective narratives that it evokes. Many of our projects are houses, which, while humble in scale, are the single most important piece of architecture to the family who lives there.
We strive to create thoughtful spaces that address the way that people live and interact. We are interested in design that celebrates the mundane activities of the everyday, in creating moments that are suggestive of old memories and capable of generating new ones.
How do you use color in your work?
Our work is generally pretty subtle, especially when it comes to finishes. Sometimes we like to let a well-chosen color set the mood for a space. We try not to overpower the sensory experience but a judicious flash of color can have a big impact.
“Seagrass” is a favorite but also, in the strong Florida sun, we like some of the quieter shades such as “Thistle” & “Rain”. We like the richness and consistency of the colors in the Modwalls’ tiles.
Color can also be a powerful way to evoke feelings and to connect interior and exterior spaces.
In one of our projects, the Bougainvillea House, a deeply inset window is positioned at eye level to serve as an oculus to focus the view. The exterior head, sill and jambs of the oculus are painted a vivid blue that casts a calming glow into the space suggesting the sky and the nearby sea.
Speaking of color – you lit up the sky with your Sky Striker installation. Can you tell us a little about that and how you came up with it?
Sky Striker was an interactive urban experience that transformed an iconic cylindrical-shaped Tampa skyscraper into a giant carnival game.
Participants – young, old, big and small – lit up the city’s skyline by swinging a mallet and striking a carnival high-striker that was wirelessly connected to light fixtures throughout the Tower. With each hit, the puck shot up the machine and simultaneously illuminated rings of light around the building, broadcasting the strength of each participant across the skyline.
We wanted a way for the average ‘passer-by’ to be able to interact with this landmark in Tampa’s skyline and have that person be able to transmit what they were doing visually to people across the city.
Inevitably, people miles away were staring at the blinking lights in the skyscraper thinking ‘what’s going on downtown?’ Tapping into that sense of wonder and observing people engage with architecture on a range of scales was both fun and thought-provoking for us and our firm.
What are some examples of how design can enhance the every day?
One example that comes to mind is the creation of framed views. Sometimes, instead of providing the maximum view possible, if you deny a general view but curate a specific view, you can draw attention to aspects of the environment that may otherwise be overlooked. For example, a view highlighting a single tree or branch of a tree can illuminate the texture of the bark or the arch of a twig – the details that are hard to notice when viewing the whole forest.
How can transformed spaces transform lives?
We design many of our homes around an open den area, which we think of as a “modern hearth.” It’s often elevated above the main living space, so that it is visually connected but separate. It’s a special space where family can gather for a wide range of interactions – helpings kids with homework, working on a puzzle, planning the next pillow fort, or simply a place for quiet contemplation.
“You really want to own your personal style and run with it.”
Robert Valin of Robert Valin Coaching + Consulting has an extensive background in graphic design and publishing, working at Conde Nast and Hearst Magazines, so when he became certified as a life coach, many of his colleagues asked him for help with their branding.
“I used my background to help them figure out what the look and feel of their business would be.”
WHERE DO YOU START?
Valin’s initial goal when working with clients is to get a feel for what excites them in life; what they’re drawn to visually; what music or colors they like; who their role models or heroes are, and then he works with them to expand that into their individual or company brand.
“It’s discerning who you are and going with it, unapologetically.”
Valin’s own style is modern and simple. His favorite colors are blues, greens, and shades of black.
“I find those colors calming. Shades of black are modern and cutting edge, which I like. I also like clean lines and Mid-century design.”
He describes his office as Room & Board meets Conran’s. When you walk into his office, you are immediately comfortable. The simplicity serves the intention which is to focus on you, the client.
“I hate clutter,” says Valin. He is speaking of design, but the sentiment underscores his desire to hone in on his client’s personal taste to build a compelling brand. He seeks to clarify his client’s passions, needs and vision – all of which build the framework of you, whether it’s expressed as a logo, an office, or a wardrobe.
JUST THREE THINGS
The three things people can do to affect change in their life include figuring out what you are passionate about and going with it; striving to live your life for yourself and not other people; and if you feel stuck, Valin suggests going to a museum, gallery or into nature.
“It really clears your head and opens you up to new possibilities,” he adds.
Valin is married to landscape designer, David Kelly, recently featured in the New York Times and they live with their dog, Benny. For a free 30-minute life-changing consultation, contact Valin at email@example.com.
“Red hibiscus – it’s almost like a kiss.”
That is how artist, resort-wear designer, and illustrator, Dana Cooper, describes a color. “Green, for me, is the color of happiness. It’s one of my favorite colors – specifically lime green. Also, turquoise and aqua because they remind me of the ocean.”
Cooper’s resort and swimwear reflect the colors and environments of her native home in Bermuda. Her father was a sailor so when she wasn’t with him on the boat, she was running barefoot on the beach.
“You’re surrounded by the Atlantic, and the colors of the sky…it’s like watching God in motion.” She talks about shades of blue, orange, magenta, and “tons of rainbows.” These are the colors she captures in her work, first as an illustrator, and then as a clothing designer.
WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES…
“In 2005, I got divorced, and I designed my first beach wrap. It was basically a leap of faith.”
A textile manufacturer from Bali encouraged her to take her colorful illustrations off the page and transfer them to fabric. She started with a leaf design found along the shores of Bermuda and Florida and added beads to it. Much to her surprise, the orders started pouring in.
“An old friend of mine who works in the fashion industry started a company and wanted to take my design one step further, so we went from a square beach wrap to dresses, skirts, and other stuff.”
Soon her line was sold at Saks, Calypso, and small, hip boutiques. In 2013, she branched out on her own.
“People respond to the prints; they resonate. They’re seeing a landscape. It’s a landscape embedded in my mind.”
She splits her time between Bermuda and New York, and is proud of the fact that all her work is made in the U.S. and hand sewn in New York. Her line includes SPF fabric, which is in high demand, and there has been interest in expanding her collection to include home textiles such as duvet covers, pillows and sheet sets. “People have remarked how soft they are. They’re like a baby’s blanket.”
To view more of Dana Cooper’s designs, visit her website and receive 10% off their first order – just mention your friends at Modwalls!
Micheline Auger is a freelance writer who loves art, design and all things Modwalls.
Lucia DeSimone of Before and After, the popular New York staging and redesign company, is not afraid to move. During a ten-year period, she moved eight times.
“I loved moving, and not everyone has that experience. The minute I would walk into a new apartment, I would think, ‘what can I do with this space?’ I knew that I needed to do something with that.”
YOUR HOUSE IS A STAGE
DeSimone works with home sellers so that they can get a greater return on their investment. “The longer your home is on the market, the lower the price.”
She contends that when sellers work with a staging company, their homes sell faster and the National Association of Realtors seems to agree. According to one study published by NAR, 32% of buyers’ agents believe staged homes increase the dollar value by one to five percent.
DeSimone adds, “only 10% of home buyers can visualize the potential of a home.” Her goal is to make a seller’s home an inviting place for a buyer’s imagination (and investment). The cost? “You don’t always have to spend additional funds on purchasing new items.”
She brings a designer’s eye to what sellers already possess, and focuses on furniture placement, clutter-removal, and adding simple but effective accents, like fresh flowers.
These techniques are useful for new homeowners, or anyone who wants to make their home or office more reflective of their personal style. “Every piece of furniture in my space is a reflection of who I am,” says DeSimone. “There is not a single plant, not a single item of soap, or a succulent, that doesn’t belong there. When I’m working with a client, I want to know who they are.”
WHO ARE YOU?
But, um, what if you don’t really know who you are, or, at least, what your style is? DeSimone’s technique is to ask, look and listen. When doing a walk-thru, she pays attention. “There are things that clients really love, and things they don’t pay attention to.”
She translates these observations into design elements that reflect each client’s personal aesthetic and aspiration. “I had one client who didn’t necessarily have an interest in design, but we’ve been in touch regularly, and now she’s found her own personal style and has fun with it.”
And how does DeSimone, as Modwalls’ likes to say, ‘live her colors?’ “I’m totally neutrals and earths – all the way. My favorite colors are based on my favorite type of paint, Farrow & Ball. I love Tanner’s Brown, Pale Oak, and Vert de Terre.” And accents? “I would pop that with a mulberry, or a magenta – like a purple – definitely.”
Lucia DeSimone works with clients in New York City, Miami, and nationwide. For more information, or to schedule a phone consultation, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Micheline Auger is a freelance writer who loves art, design and all things Modwalls.
Do you ever see a painting that would look great in your living room…if only it were a different color? Do you love art but think collecting it is for other people? Meet Jennifer Broussard Artworks.
Jennifer Broussard is a contemporary photographer and artist who starts with a photograph and then uses color and design to create a work of art. Her clients range from retail to interior designers to gallery owners, resort hotels and health care centers.
“Clients look at what I have and sometimes they’ll have specific things that they want, so I’ll create it for them; or designers will send me the design of a room – the color palette, what the chairs and walls will look like, and I’ll work with that.”
THE ART IN NATURE
She takes her inspiration from the natural world creating vibrant collages from images of oceans, flowers, mountains, animals and butterflies.
“I start with a color and then take it as far as I want. The Animal Kingdom Series started with the Longhorns and received such a huge response. I use color to layer, design and erase.”
In addition to her collection of animals and landscape collage, she has created the Auntie Jennie Series which is made up of pieces that are as colorful as they are whimsical – perfect for a nursery or play center.
“I have been selling these to the retail market – a lot of families, or for gifts; some hospitals have been purchasing them for their children’s areas. My work has been chosen by people who have studied evidence-based design because it’s seen as being healing.”
USING ART TO FEEL GOOD
Evidence-based design is a field of study on how design can reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being and healing. Research shows that patients who have access to views of nature (as opposed to a brick wall) require less pain medication and recover more quickly.
Art, lighting, furniture, texture and color are all tools that can be employed to influence how we feel, function and communicate – and businesses, institutions and decorators are taking note.
“I’ve sold a lot of my work to cancer units – like the butterfly collages, for instance. Hotels and hospitality tend towards more modern, abstract, and contemporary designs.”
HOW DREAMS EVOLVE
Jennifer began her career with commercial portraits and image development, often working with musicians, actors and other artists.
“I liked doing that, but I reached a point where I told my boyfriend, ‘I think I’m an artist without any art,’ so I sat down and, for three months, made twelve-inch squares of painting and photography. When I was done, I had 99 pieces.”
One of those pieces was a leaf collage that she showed to an sales rep who asked for five more. A few months later, he asked her for pieces with palm trees for a hotel client.
“I didn’t have any but I said I could shoot some, so I drove around Malibu, took photos, showed him, and then I had a career. Everyone went crazy over the palm trees.”
Jennifer took that model and expanded on it. She now has a collection of 250,000 photographs and 15,000 collages.
“When I went digital, I got everything under my control. I didn’t have to rely on a printer or a retoucher. All these ideas that had been pushing to come out – all this creativity that had been stuffed inside of me – just poured out, and now I have to manage that because it’s really hard to know when to stop. It just keeps coming!”
Jennifer Broussard Artworks is offering Modwalls’ customers 10% off their first purchase! Visit www.jenniferbroussard.com and enter MODWALLS during check-out. For inquiries, please email info@JenniferBroussard.com.
Micheline Auger is a freelance writer who loves art, people who make art, and all things Modwalls.
Regina Gong is a good friend and because of that, she has good friends with good taste. As they say, ‘like attracts like,’ but is it possible for some really gorgeous tiles to come between two friends?
“I was on Houzz looking at all these tiles and complaining that I couldn’t find anything that was unique or in our budget. It was pretty depressing.”
Enter Regina’s friend, Anita.
“Anita said, ‘check out Modwalls! It would match your aesthetic,” explains Regina. “The prices are really reasonable and the staff is wonderful to work with.'”
Regina fell immediately in love with the Carmelita Lush Tiles – the same Carmelita Lush that Anita had.
“My husband and I were very reluctant to choose that tile,” continues Regina, “because we didn’t want to, quote unquote, ‘steal’ someone’s idea, or risk any weirdness in our friendship, so we asked her and her husband’s permission to use the tile.”
“They just started laughing. They said, ‘we don’t care at all. We love it!'”
A FAMILY DECISION
Even though her heart was set on the Carmelita, Regina picked out a bunch of tiles that she liked and showed her husband without telling him of her preference.
“I laid it all out for him and he pointed to the Carmelita right away and said it was a no brainer. We also have a three-year-old daughter who wasn’t really part of the decision but really likes it.”
JOY, LOVE AND GOOD FOOD
“The house is not that big but we wanted the kitchen to be the hub of everything,” says Regina.
Regina’s husband is a chef so they knocked out a few walls and have an open kitchen with what her husband calls – not an island – but a peninsula, with counter stools and a dining table next to it.
“We knew the tiles had to be the centerpiece, and we knew we wanted red. In terms of psychology, red is in many restaurants because it promotes hunger and the desire to eat. When anyone comes in, the first thing they say is, ‘Oh my God, I love the tiles!’ It’s a huge statement, and it’s very vibrant and happy. It reflects our family. It is very communal, very warm, and very fun.”
RED AS THEME
Regina has loved the color of red since she was little. She wears red as an accent, but it functions more than just an accessory color for her.
“I’m of Chinese descent and red has always signified joy and love and is very vibrant and happy. I got married in a Chinese long gown that was red, and all the decorations were red. In our American wedding, our invitations were red and robin’s egg blue, so red has played a very significant part of my life. It represents joy and warmth and life, so I want our house to represent that. That’s what the tiles are for us.”
Show the world what color means to you and join us in celebrating our ten-year anniversary with 10% off retail orders in 2015 with MOD10 at checkout!