material phenomenology

In all of our projects we go through an extensive process of trying to choose materials for interior finishes.  there are an almost infinite number of choices available for tile, wall and ceiling colors, flooring, etc.   The final selection should reinforce the ideas of the design as well as meet the technical and practical uses of each location.  so, beyond simply making aesthetic solutions based on the ‘style’ of the building or interior, we make selections to reinforce the spatial ideas of the project.

With this said, the challenge often comes not in the selection of any given material, but the coordination and synthesis of dozens of selections.  Beyond style and color, one of my guiding ideas for choosing materials is the relative level of abstraction that the material exhibits in relation to its ‘natural’ state.

level one

These images above are very different in terms of style and feeling, but they both are utilizing materials with little or no manufactured refinement, a single level of abstraction.  Rough stone, waxed cork, stained douglas fir beams, oiled shoji screen tracks are all quite close to the stone or wood as found in nature and sympathetic to each other because of that similar level of abstraction.

level two

whether traditional or modern, the sympathies of the materials to each other is reinforced by a similar distance from the raw material.  Taken in reverse, you might say this is the relative level of refinement of the material.  In the images above, marble mosaic tile, wrought iron and painted and stained treads and risers work together.  On the right, painted trim, honed travertine tile, clear tempered glass harmonize with each other, a second level of abstraction.

level three

In these images (one a computer rendering of a project under construction), a use of more refined materials – polished granite and book-matched polished wood cabinets in a traditional design on the left and resin panels, engineered flooring, stainless steel and birch veneer over MDF on the right in a modern kitchen interior.  This is a third level of abstraction, a combination of materials extracted, machined, polished, and further transformed.

While each material has a history of its use imbedded within it, they also exhibit a kind of phenomenology of their immediate history – a roadmap from tree to lumber mill to carpenter to finisher.  Some paths are longer than others and final destination is exquisite but hard won, some paths are short and there is  pleasure in the journey.