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An in-depth look at the design process of James Huniford, who is renowned for his skill in juxtaposing oppostites—contemporary with traditional, rustic with refined—to create a timeless whole.

James Huniford, universally known as Ford, explores his design process thematically, with chapters on approaching a room, considering scale and proportion, selecting materials and art, using color effectively, and marrying form and function. His goal is to create "a modern sensibility of calm." Of special interest is his ability to create artworks out of found objects, compositions of tools, baskets, or metalwork that become compelling wall sculptures or freestanding pieces.

Examples are drawn from a rich variety of projects—elegant Upper East Side apartments to raw lofts on the Lower East Side to contemporary condominums in new "supertall" towers in Manhattan, country houses in Connecticut, Upstate New York, and Martha's Vineyard, and across the country in Nashville and Marin Country, California. Special insight into his process can be gleaned from his own homes, a loft in Tribeca and a historic house in Bridgehampton that he readily admits are laboratories for his ideas.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580935173
Publisher: The Monacelli Press
Publication date: 11/10/2020
Pages: 232
Sales rank: 450,951
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 10.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

James Huniford, known to all as Ford, founded Huniford Design Studio in 2008. Raised in Upstate New York with summers in the Thousand Islands region, Huniford explored the world of design living in New York and Los Angeles and traveling through Europe, with extended stays in Paris and Rome. His work is widely published in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, and Veranda, and other magazines, and he has been named to the AD 100 and Elle Decor A lists.

Former design editor of the New York Times Magazine, Pilar Viladas is the author of the recent monograph on Achille Salvagni and a frequent contributor to Town & Country, 1st Dibs, and Architectural Digest

Read an Excerpt

JAMES HUNIFORD, known to all as Ford, creates rooms that are elegant, comfortable reflections of their owners’ personalities and lifestyles, in a way that is both empathetic and intuitive. He blends old and new, high and low, formal and casual, with a skill that makes these contrasts look utterly effortless. Each of his projects is different, and each is an authentic response to its place and its occupants.

“I believe clients are drawn to my creative process, not a formula,” he says. “I listen to them and create a home that corresponds to how they live. It’s not about leaving my mark; it’s about figuring out what needs to be done, taking chances, and creating something unique for them.”

Summers on the St. Lawrence River and visits to historic houses on the Thousand Islands sparked Huniford’s early interest in architecture. As a boy, he was “drawn to architecture and design by seeing things that were different from what I knew,” and it was here that he first realized that things we often take for granted could be designed. They were, he recalls, “simple things, like a porch that was rounded, or cantilevered over the water,” or “something beyond the simple purpose of a house,” like the diamond-paned windows he saw in some of the buildings. Years later, Huniford added such a window to a bathroom in his own house in Bridgehampton on Long Island. Never mind that it wasn’t like the others in the house; for Huniford, the fact that it “changes the feeling of a room” was more important. “I’d much rather have pure and authentic,” he says. “It doesn’t have to match.”

Huniford can pair an early twentieth-century chair by Josef Hoffmann with a modernist lamp by a 1940s ceramicist or works by A-list artists with found industrial objects that he treats as sculpture. While these “don’t necessarily make sense on paper,” he notes, “they have a thread, and when they’re in the same environment, they work.” In the same vein, Huniford doesn’t always take a house’s existing floor plan as gospel. In one case, he turned a dining room into a den, and placed a long trestle table at one end of the living room. “It’s not the expected thing,” he says. “I don’t always play by the rules.”

Nevertheless, Huniford’s respect for context is a constant. A cozy, antiques-filled farmhouse in Connecticut; a sleek, modern Manhattan apartment; a Nashville house where traditional architecture contrasts with contemporary art; or a luxurious Park Avenue apartment—the spaces could not be more diverse. But Huniford’s sensitivity to his surroundings—shaped by his travels as a young man to Europe, where he saw how architecture, art, and decorative arts “can co-exist across time periods, cultures, and styles”—results in an authenticity that runs through all his work. “My job is working with the context,” he says. “I know that’s what I really enjoy. I can’t put into words how I achieve it, but it’s something I conscientiously adhere to.”

A hallmark of Huniford’s approach is his collaborative relationship with his clients. He developed this skill as a founding partner of the firm Sills Huniford. But after going out on his own in 2008, he was able to give free rein to his intuitive, contextual approach. “I try to create the sensibility of the client, he says. “We talk about what home means to them and about creating a sense of calm and comfort. I talk about the opportunity that I see—which is often different from what might exist.”

Many of Huniford’s clients are art collectors, and he, too, is influenced by artists, as with Louise Nevelson’s use of found objects in her wooden assemblages, the minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd, or Agnes Martin’s rigorous paintings. Huniford might place a sculpture on a dining table rather than on a pedestal or put three pieces of art where there could be just one, so that no single piece is “that important.” He mixes contemporary art with older works, and blue-chip pieces with humble ones. “That’s what makes a great space, that kind of freedom and flow,” he says.

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