Timeless Art Collections: Curating the Soul of the Home

Last week’s PDC lecture, “Timeless Art Collections: Curating the Soul of the Home,” explored one of the most intriguing collaborative aspects of design, how to develop a space worthy of housing an invaluable art collection.

Moderated by Los Angeles-based curator and art advocate Merry Norris, the discussion focused on an ambitious project: the majestic Los Angeles home developed for prolific art collector Chara Schreyer, member of the Board of Overseers at the Hammer Museum.

Led by architect Joe McRitchie of McRitchie Design and Architecture, designer Gary Hutton of Gary Hutton Design, and contractor Michael Grosswendt of All Coast Construction, the house exemplifies the true essence and difficulty of working with timeless art when conceptualizing and designing a new space.

“This is turning out to be a marvelous experience for me,” Merry exclaimed to the buzzing crowd of art, architecture and design enthusiasts gathered at the PDC’s Blue Conference Center. “All of these people are amazing.”

The panel opened with a conversation about the value of working with art advisors, and the breadth of knowledge that they bring to the table. Gary Hutton was particularly emphatic about the importance of taking the time to know a collector when creating a space, given the likelihood that art in any room will change at a moment’s notice.

“It’s about making sure that you’re creating an environment that will support whatever it is they bring to the table,” said Gary.

“It’s [also] about understanding the type of collection they have,” added Joe McRitchie, stating that individual collections provide a sense of direction, which helps architects tremendously.

Chara, regarded as one of the top contemporary art collectors in the country, touched on the personal and almost subconscious nature of her collection. She credits her long and fruitful relationship working with Gary to his awareness of the “dialogue with the art” and how the space might speak to each of the pieces.

“Art-heavy projects are thought out much more than average projects,” Chara said. “The more information that we can get, the better.”

When it comes to conceptualizing a space that houses invaluable pieces of art, Joe McRitchie considers every possible element from state-of-the-art security to temperature to how light might affect the space at any point of the day. Michael described this as the burden of working with timeless art.

“You start thinking about how serious this is,” he said. “It’s a museum. It’s a house, but it’s a museum.”

For a project of this magnitude, attention to detail was of particular importance. All technical elements must remain hidden from sight, which presents a particular challenge to those involved. It requires an awareness of the collection from the very beginning of the project.

“We knew that the house had to be worthy of presenting the art,” shared Michael.

The lecture ended with a brief Q&A session with the audience, followed by a reception at the recently opened Reagan Hayes showroom.

DESIGN|INSIDE-OUT is PDC’s ongoing lecture series looking to engage the brightest minds in design to advance professional education.