It's All an Illusion
Judith Davidsen -- Interior Design, 3/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
All designs are at least a bit of an illusion. But some examples can confound perception to the point that small seems big, in might be out, two dimensions appear as three, and it's hard to know where things begin and end. In the late '60's and early '70's, that's exactly what a lot of people thought was cool, and designers knew how to pull it off without resorting to hallucinogens. Art movements and the designs they inspired eschewed traditional techniques of perspective, instead employing shape and sometimes color to create a sense of distance and dimension.
Supergraphics and patterns influenced by the op art movement were especially important for retailers eager to attract a young clientele—or for anyone who needed to appear, in the words of the era, with it. If a pattern appeared to move, even better.
A bit later on, illusionism ironically looked further back—to the abstract art of the '50's. Designers discovered that color fields could mask odd room dimensions or create a sense of motion where there was none. This use of color may not have had psychedelic effects, but it was emotional in its own way.
Top, from left: Plastic cups, glued together, became part of an Ari Bahat lamp. This beaded Universe tapestry was by Floriano Vecchi, who taught silk-screening to Andy Warhol. Groovy, a wall covering from United Wallpaper Co., layered circles in colorways including fluorescent orange with green.
Bottom: Masterminded by Interior Design Hall of Fame member Joseph Braswell, lacquered graphics, a foil ceiling, and a chandelier of acrylic rods came together by the third-floor elevator lobby at Bonwit Teller in Chicago.
In the corridor to Interior Design Hall of Famer John F. Saladino's penthouse office in New York, light played across the trellised walls and ceiling.
Wallpaper by artist Christine Tarkowski made this bathroom, at an investment firm by Architecture Resource Office, appear almost without dimension.
Defining every surface, strong lines focused the eye on the jewelry at a boutique that Glamorous Co. designed in Kobe, Japan.
Ford & Earl Design Associates placed Tony Rosenthal's cube sculpture in RCA's Indianapolis design center to reflect the graphic surroundings.
The National Society of Interior Designers's Connecticut chapter mounted fabric and wallpaper in chrome frames for a "room of tomorrow."
Op Art was the name of this wet-look vinyl wall covering from the Columbus Coated Fabrics division of the Borden Chemical Company.
Verner Panton's Geometri I fabric, Peacock chair, flowerpot lamps, and stools were reunited at the R 20th Century gallery in New York.