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This Is How To Decorate with Contemporary Artwork

In less than two weeks, Michael Richman combined smart furnishings and bold artwork for a pop-up at Trump Tower. Here’s how.

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Photography: Alan Shorthall

IN THIS AGE of pop-up shops and restaurants, why not a pop-up home? Designer Michael Richman took on an unusual project last fall: furnishing a 3,400-square-foot apartment in Trump International Hotel and Tower in conjunction with the art show Expo Chicago at Navy Pier. Curved walls of floor-to-ceiling windows presented challenges, but Richman “loved the drama of it.”

With about ten days to pull it together, he sprang into action, combining artwork from galleries represented at Expo with furniture and accessories from local vendors, including several pieces from his own collection. The result was an urbane, high-in-the-sky modern home that took shape, dazzled visitors, and disappeared as quickly as it came. (Who was that masked man?) Richman recently sat down to chat about the project, sharing tips on creating sophisticated spaces around contemporary art.

1. GO BEYOND YOUR WALLS  If you’ve got a great view, use it. The windows in this guest bedroom want no furniture pushed up against them, no drapery in the way. And the artwork—mirrored-vinyl lettering by Aaron Krach, applied to the glass—has major impact without taking up any space.

 

2. THINK BIG  In the living room, large furnishings with uncluttered lines cede the spotlight to David Maisel’s aerial photographs. A nine-foot sofa in an easy-to-work-with neutral fabric and a six-foot day bed were Richman’s starting points; between them, a coffee table with a poured-glass top is substantial without being ponderous. In the dining area, a mass-ive table with a stainless steel base and a top of Indonesian suar wood is joined by ottomans topped with sheepskin and a spriggy Swarovski crystal chandelier with LED bulbs.

 

3. MAKE FURNITURE STATEMENTS  Thinking of furniture as sculpture opens up all kinds of possibilities. In the den, a voluptuous sofa upholstered in tweeded wool is all about curves and comfort. “When you sit on it, it sort of envelops you,” Richman says. More functional art: Three smooth-finished, ebony-stained sections of teak trunks make excellent low tables.

 

4. STAY WITH THE GROUP  Display small- or medium-size works of art together for maximum impact; John Sparagna’s “Rupture and Void” photos of stacks of fashion magazines with holes drilled through them are arranged in an eye-catching grid in the entry. Richman mixed materials and periods to keep the symmetry interesting, positioning Louis XVI–style chairs on either side of a crisply contemporary marble-topped console with a white-gold leafed base. The chairs are upholstered with shiny vinyl in a rich hue.

 

5. PLAY WITH LAYERS  Now you see it, now you don’t: In the guest room, wood-block art and a lamp that swivels to enable bedtime reading sit on aLucite desk that Richman calls “there but not there”; Alex Webb’s photo of Ciudad Madero, Mexico, hangs over it. On the other side of the bed, a stump pedestal performs nightstand duties. Colorful stripes and patterns bring in the noise as well as the funk in a rug, a throw, and a pile of playful pillows.

 

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