For Cross Contemporary Art curator Jen Dragon, the plan was to provide paintings and sculptures to the 2019 Kingston Design Connection Showhouse. But when a small vestibule on the second floor became available, Dragon jumped at the opportunity — not just to fill it with her unique art pieces, but design the room from top to bottom.
“More than 9 months ago, I responded to an appeal for applications to participate in the showcase and I was accepted!” Dragon tells Chronogram. She had participated in a showhouse before, participating in the Holiday Design Showcase curated by Haynes Llewellyn at Kingston, New York’s, Loughran House in 2016 and 2017.
View this post on Instagram
The Kingston Design Connection continues both online and in real life! Online: Niche Lighting (Hand blown pendant light on the right) has an amazing sale happening now: http://bit.ly/Niche Lighting (LINK IN BIO use code FALLFS2019 in checkout for 30% off) plus we are uploading all the art and sculpture on Artsy: http://bit.ly/ccaktcartsy (LINK IN BIO) In Real Life: there is a special panel at Herzog’s in the Kingston Plaza about the why’s and what’s of Interior Design plus a special house viewing after (info: kingstondesignconnection.com) and lastly a RECEPTION for all of the artists and makers of Kingston Design Connection Sat. Oct 19, 5-7pm with reduced rate tickets of 10.00! Photo: Painting by Ann Provan, Lighting by @nichemodern #hudsonvalley #kingstonny #catskills #woodstockny #interiors #interiordesign #kingstondesignconnection #kingstondesignshowhouse2019
But, she admits, her work at the Kingston Showhouse is a far bigger undertaking. “It encompasses an entire house and not just a few rooms,” she says, marveling at its scope. “It really took my breath away—both the ambition and the scale!” She decided to not just take on the art installation—but the fixture choices, wall colors and overall remodeling of the space.
Whereas most designers would let the color of the walls and ceiling dictate the contents of the room, Dragon approached her vestibule from the perspective of a gallery curator: art first. She began with two paintings requested by the showhouse’s owners — one painted by Kevin Paulsen, the other by Kathleen Griffin.
“I let the mood of a painting or sculpture determine what the rest of the room will become,” she says. “This is directly opposite to how many designers work but I enjoy the inspiration of the client’s art collection — or I introduce new artworks into their lives.”
Because both Paulsen and Griffin’s were nature-inspired paintings, Dragon decided the design theme would be “Nature Moderne”—which, to her, means evoking the natural world through a contemporary lens.
To that end, her next step was to invite artist Jeff Johnson to create two pieces — a bench that conveys river boulders, and an undulating walnut shelf fastened in the wall. Inspired by burbling Catskills mountain streams, Dragon commissioned a light fixture from Niche in Beacon with small bubbles in the hand-blown glass.
There was another factor for Dragon to consider: the tiny space had no windows or natural light. To circumvent any problems this could cause, she kept the wall colors subtle and light as to not glaringly contrast the artwork — and chose a clear minaret chandelier from Niche Modern Lighting in New York to maximize the light she had to work with.
Dragon once worked as part of the Ann Singer Interior Design firm, and she credits her time there for learning the value of cooperation and friendship with other designers. “One of the few ways we can express ourselves as artists — and make any money doing this — is by collaborating with others,” she says.
“[And] there are so many reasons to be excited [about the showhouse],” she continues. “I’m eager to share some of my favorite artists with the design community and communicate my love of art with the world.”