Apartment Therapy on Copying to Learn

Apartment Therapy on Copying to Learn

Maxwell Ryan
Jun 11, 2013

My kitchen Before.. just two-three months ago.

Name: Maxwell & Ursula
Type of Project: Light renovation of a rental apt
Location: Soho, NYC
Type of building: Two bedroom apartment

Whenever I am asked how you learn to make good interior design decisions, how to trust yourself or how to just plain have style, I say the same thing. Start by copying. I don't mean the type of copying where you cheated in high school by looking at someone else's answers. I mean the type of copying folks do in art school where they spend the first few years learning to look at great art and copy it with pencil and brush. 

This is a great picture of Gerald King learning/copying at the National Gallery

The oldest way of training your creative instincts is to take something you love and try to replicate it yourself. Whether it's learning music, cooking or design, if you try to copy what you love, you learn. And then, eventually, you start to add your own interpretation, your own slant, your own voice. 

Then you become an artist. 

I remember one of the seminal moments in my design career. Years ago I wanted to have a bedroom with adventurous and colorful sheets - just like I saw in a Company Store catalog lifestyle shot. Not knowing why the bed in the picture looked so great, I decided to buy all the sheets in the picture on faith and put it together for myself. 

When the sheets arrived, I struggled to copy the bed in the picture, but in the struggle I began to "get it." I then began to have a real intuitive feeling for what was going on there that has stayed with me and given me a real courage in mixing and matching bedding. And it became fun. 

So, cut to this past month. I was looking at my new kitchen and feeling that after all the hard work that has gone into it, it was lacking conviction. It was boring. I wanted to go further.  

And these pictures kept popping up in my head from this great blog post.

A BLACK WALL in my kitchen??? Are you kidding. 

No. I wanted to do it. I wanted to see what it would take to get that high contrast and clean Scandinavian feeling right into my New York City apartment. 

So I took my kitchen below and tried to copy it. 

The pictures below here I took last night, and, as you can see, I've done pretty well, but I'm still not totally there. What's missing? I've been looking at the photos tonight and my kitchen and trying to figure it out. 

When I do, I'll push it a little further, trying to capture the bold feeling in that picture, and learning a new step at the same time. 

p.s. of course it could be that their photographs are just better than mine. Their black is so saturated and lovely with natural light, and mine is dying under the halogen bulbs. :)

p.p.s. I am LOVING the kitchen. :)

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