It is often said that all you need for great design is one inspirational piece to build a look around. But what happens when you have a collection of artwork from around the world and all of it deserves center stage? When Jeanne Collins, founder of JerMar Designs in New Canaan, CT, met with her Greenwich, CT, clients to discuss ideas for their living rooms she had the joy and the challenge of this very dilemma.
“As with so much in life, the challenge is the strength,” says Collins, a corporate executive who turned her passion into an award-winning profession a few years ago.
Many of the clients’ pieces were from India, where the husband is from. It was important to the couple to have the artwork featured prominently. They also wanted to design two living rooms for entertaining—one more formal and one casual—each with multiple areas for conversation. There were so many pieces the clients wanted to incorporate that spatial planning was essential. “I leaned into my mindset that a home should be a serene sanctuary that helps you live your best life and was mindful that everything flows, and the objects have space to breathe. From the buddha that welcomes you into the space, to the alignment of each sculpture, the energy is welcoming and serene.”
With a collection of art, says Collins, keeping the décor neutral provides a backdrop on which the art will pop and allows the eye to focus on some more subtle design elements. “It never looks bland because there are dramatic pops of color in the cranberry throw pillows, deep green velvet chair and of course the art,” says Collins. For example, a photograph of an Afghan woman taken by Steve McCurry for National Geographic, which the couple purchased from Cavalier Galleries in Greenwich, anchors the formal living room. Collins chose soft window treatments for the flanking windows and a curved settee to sit beneath it. Velvet throw pillows that carry deeper pigments of the artwork accent the décor.
“Great design is all about contrast and layering materials, textures and design elements together,” says Collins. She loves working with art collections as inspiration for her work. They not only provide a jumping off point for the décor but also help to show off her clients’ style and taste. “The bold artwork allowed me to complement it with incredible textures in the furniture, such as pink mohair and rich green velvets. The Holly Hunt Lens coffee table is one of my favorite pieces as it functions as a piece of artwork, too.” To complete the look, Collins also commissioned bespoke round lacquered ombre side tables fabricated locally by GS Woodworking. The tables have interesting curves and a high-gloss finish that also add interest.
“Art and design are seen in connection with each other and it’s the conversation between the furnishings and the art that brings depth and beauty to a space,” says Collins. For clients who don’t already have a collection to work with, she loves helping them source art. “Not everyone has an art collection as a starting point,” adds Collins. “I love to help clients starting from scratch take the mystery out of that process.
Photo Credit: Amy Vischio