i have been spending a lot of time with Thomas O’Brien‘s “American Modern“. I know the book has been out for a while and you are probably familiar with it by now, but I just cant seem to get it out of my system now that its in my house.
I am particularly drawn the the two houses that O’Brien has designed for himself – a 1930’s era apartment in Manhattan and a stunning federal colonial estate upstate that was once a boys school. There is so much to look at in each of the spaces (in fact he shows both incarnations of his city apartment so its really like seeing three houses). I admire his ability to be true to each of the spaces with such strict editing that they look as undersigned and unworked as you would want them to be. This I think is a skill which takes much practice and strictness.
I love how we can see his progression as a designer through these three spaces. His first incarnation of the 1930’s apartment is very strict indeed, beautiful and effortless but you can visibly see how restrained he was in this first apartment. I love this. Its like getting a glimpse into the studio paintings of a great master, that timeline of inspiration to change fascinates me in every medium.
It seems that in his Academy (the name of his upstate house) project he lets his strictness (but not his keen editing eye nor his mastery of textiles and mixing of periods) relax a bit and I just cant get over the results. It feels so personal but I could easily see myself living there as well. I especially love how all of his spaces feel so gender neutral, the perfect balance.
If you havent spent time with this book I highly reccomend it. I keep finding myself thinking about an image or phrase from the pages and going back to flip through and find what I’ve been thinking about.