Modern is spare in form, a point of view. It’s more than just function or a style. It’s a way of life.
Design award-winning husband and wife, Timothy DeFiebre and Dorothy Cosonas, live in an elegant 1924 pre-war apartment on Park Avenue in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan. Their apartment is light, spacious and came with much sought-after high ceilings, and they were fortunate that it was never updated or gutted making it an ideal space to work with. The renovations they have undertaken respect the integrity of the original space.
Upon entering their apartment, I could easily allow myself to slip into believing that I was in Milan for a moment, with the apartment’s good bones and the couple’s design aesthetic. It consists of a restrained modern elan, furnished, with comfortable seating including an upholstered window seat in a reintroduced Knoll archive fabric, Anni Albers; Saarinen dining chairs upholstered in one of Dorothy’s fabric designs, for Knoll; and an ample sized coffee table. A Spartan dash of color through the artwork and throw pillows that keep the yin and yang balance in check. To the left of the fireplace is a Woven Wood Screen that Timothy designed for Brickel Associates, John Derrain decoupages, and other accessories that reflect the Cosonas personal cultural history. Pops of color that add interest, character, and warmth are found in the kitchen with a framed salvaged Greek sardine box label, a carefully restored Greek Deco ceiling lighting fixture illuminating the foyer, and an architectural fragment and ceramics mostly from Dorothy’s grandparents home in Greece. They have a wonderful collection of original prints, photographs, and furniture including; Ellsworth Kelly, Josef Albers, Vivian Maier, Charley Harper, Poul Kjaerholm, Alvar Aalto, Arne Jacobsen, Ward Bennett, and Charles and Ray Eames. They relish design books and recently Dorothy acquired a historic run of American Fabrics Magazine as well as a spectacular large format edition of Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color.
I try to bring something more to minimalism - something intriguing and beautiful.
Timothy is one of six boys, born in Wilmington, Delaware and raised in the Midwest after his father’s career as a chemist moved them to Hinsdale, Illinois and then later to Columbus, Ohio. After, he graduated from Dennison University with a BFA in Theatre and Cinema he decided to move to the Northeast, where he worked as a carpenter in theatrical design. Later, he learned to draw while studying technical design and production at the Yale School of Drama. He credits his mother for his first exposure to the visual arts with regular visits to the Chicago Institute of Art, although she omitted providing any background information or context of what her children saw. Nevertheless, these museum excursions must have had an impact on Defiebre and offered direction. He fondly recalled these outings, mentioning a few preeminent artworks he saw: Georges Seurat’s ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte,’ Winslow Homer’s ‘The Herring Net,’ and Mary Cassatt’s ‘The Child’s Bath’. Another memorable part of these day trips was seeing the Thorne miniature rooms composed of sixty-eight Lilliputian interiors depicting French, English and American design periods of the 13th to the 19th century. Long since those childhood visits, he continues to revisit them with Dorothy and when they are in Chicago for NeoCon (North America’s largest of commercial design show).
Given DeFiebre’s education and life experience, it’s a harmonious progression that he became a furniture designer - and a very accomplished one at that. He got his start working at Brickel Associates in its frame facility and then became as a design assistant and model maker for Ward Bennett, eventually being promoted to Director of Design. In 1998 he founded Timothy DeFiebre Designs. His work is sculptural; some of the attention to detail in his furniture designs reminds me of work of the artist Louise Nevelson.
My mantra at Knoll Textiles has been to live up to the name, not off of it.
Dorothy is from Syosset, New York and is the youngest of three, with an older sister and brother. Growing up she spent her summers vacationing in Greece. She was raised with creative parents - her mother a consummate calligrapher and architectural renderer, and her father a painter and fabric merchant. Cosonas has two Degrees - one in Fine Arts and the other in Textile Design - both from Fashion Institute of Technology. Since 2005, Cosonas has been the creative director of Knoll Textiles for and Knoll Luxe. Before, joining Knoll, Cosonas worked her way up from intern to Vice President of Design at Unika Vaev. “If one is in textile design one is in the beauty business,” says Cosonas. Interior textiles frequently draw their design directive from the fashion trends of European fashion capitals such as Milan. Cosonas thoughtfully synthesizes fashion trends with what will work for the commercial textile market. Color is emotional; the palette cannot shock. Neutrals such as beige and grays are favored by the consumer, yet she does add the unexpected exuberant color and a captivating mix of ideas. Lately, she is drawn to the colors indigo blue and emerald green. For every collection, she starts from scratch and it can take a year to fourteen months to launch a collection. Sometimes, she works with guest designers. This year she drew her inspiration working with Knoll archives to pay homage to Florence Knoll as it is Florence’s one hundredth birthday and the seventieth anniversary of Knoll Textiles. Florence Knoll revolutionized interior fabrics in the same way Coco Chanel did for women’s apparel. They both utilized menswear fabrics from Scotland. Cosonas has re-envisioned the past for today’s tastes and needs with the Legacy Collection consisting of six upholstery fabrics, two drapery, and three high performance wall coverings.
Dorothy Cosonas and Timothy DeFiebre have offered me a fresh look at Modern Design and I’m now considering a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago and NeoCon.