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Playing by the Rules: The Faulkner 14

Rural Intelligence Home and Garden
Many interior designers, when pressed for useful advice, will say, “It’s impossible to generalize—there are no hard and fast rules.” Not Frank Faulkner. An artist who also practices interior design (he says) by default or (we say) by popular demand, Faulkner speaks of his sideline in maxims, as though he were patiently relating for the umpteenth time the formula for a perfect vinaigrette. The other thing Frank Faulkner does all the time is buy and sell houses in Hudson, his first in 1982, well ahead of the pack, for $35,000. Presently living with his partner Philip Kesinger in his fourteenth, on 5th Street, he has recently purchased his fifteenth, on 4th. True to form, he claims he’s not sure he ever wants to leave his present address for the new one, which (as always, when he first buys them) is a wreck. But if past performance is any indication, the magical place you see here will be on the block before the paint on the new one is dry. So to preserve #14 for posterity, we asked Faulkner to reduce what he’s done there to a list of rules, one for each house in Hudson he’s loved and left—the Faulkner 14.

Rule 1
Make it a Pavilion; Add French Doors
“This was the last cheap house in Hudson—an old carriage house with nasty metal awnings and an attached garage lined with baby blue vinyl. I thought I might use it as a painting studio. I didn’t have it inspected before I bought it, then afterward I discovered the sills were totally rotted—just another in my succession of Mr. Wrongs. Since I had to rebuild the whole thing, I thought why not make it a pavilion. In 18th-century France, court etiquette was so murderous that nobles had to have a place to get away.  So they built modest (by palace standards) pavilions. These little pleasure palaces outside of Versailles are like lanterns—you can see through them from front to back—and their classical layout tells you how to move through them. Every house I do, I think of as a pavilion.”

Rule 2 
Bring in Light and Life
“They are the two most important things a room can have. Sunshine, breezes, plants, books, of course, but also sparkle—mirrors, candles—lend vitality.” 

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Rules 3 & 4
Curtains Should Blend
“Curtains should match the color of the wall as closely as possible. The cheaper the fabric, the better, so they can be very full. And they should always be unlined. I usually do them out of muslin with brass grommets at the top, so I can hang them from a simple rod with white plastic shower rings. I always tell myself the rings are ivory.”

Treasure Threadbare Rugs
“I am a member of a confederation called The Rotten Rug Society. Nothing is more hideous than a new Oriental rug or a brightly colored one.” The painting is Faulkner’s Cold Sun.

Rural Intelligence Home and GardenRules 5 & 6

Upholstery Should be Anonymous
“What’s interesting here is the Mark Beard painting and the board-room photographs, not the chairs.  As a rule, upholstered furniture should be the least eye-catching thing in a room.  And I nearly always slipcover it. I like slipcovers to be a little baggy—they should look as if the housekeeper ran them up in her spare time.”

Use Color Cautiously
“I love color but I use it very respectfully. Generally, I employ a huge range of non-color colors that go from the whitest whites to the darkest darks and everything in between.”

Rural Intelligence Home and Garden
Rule 7
Trust Symmetry
“When you shop, look for pairs.  If perfect symmetry isn’t possible, then aim for balance by using things of equal volume.”

Rural Intelligence Home and GardenRules 8 & 9
Mix the Humble with the Refined
“I like Mark Hampton’s maxim, ‘If it looks good, it is good.’ I’d just as soon take a piece of junk and tart it up as buy an expensive antique. I’ll often spend as much as $40 a weekend at Mark’s Antiques or at Dan the Man’s Flea Market [both on Warren Street, Hudson], and I’ll find things that give me more joy then an antique with the highest provenance.  If I do have something good, I’ll put something humble next to it, to de-glaze the good thing—make it less pompous.  This sepia print was in Hudson Antiques Center for at least two years.  I finally bought it and hung it over this rather good Biedermeier chest of drawers.  I can’t tell you the number of decorators who’ve since asked to buy it from me.  Yet it sat there for two years, unloved and unwanted, for no money.”

Distrust New Wood
“I don’t like wood that isn’t old, dark or distressed—for anything; furniture, floors.  I hate floors that get sanded, then covered with orange polyurethane.  I paint floors unless they are very dark or very light, as in our kitchen, like scrubbed Swedish pine.”

Rural Intelligence Home and GardenRule 10

Nothing is Sacred—Paint it, Strip it, Bleach it!
“When I found this Gothic cupboard in a flea market, it had a starved dark brown varnish finish. I’ve painted it, over the years, white, gray-green, several shades of red (you’ll never see me use a clear, true red; I like orange-reds, corals) and, finally, as it is now, black-overlay with some red showing through. I sometimes buy good quality department store lamps in lacquered brass or bronze, then prime them with Bin, and gesso them.” [Bin is a primer available at hardware stores; Gesso, the thick white material artist’s use to prime canvasses, is available at art supply stores.]

Rural Intelligence Home and Garden
Rule 11
Play with Scale
“The dealers I most respect—Vince Mulford in Hudson, Michael Trapp in West Cornwall—have an incredible understanding of scale. It’s an instinct: Nothing’s more fun than an over scaled piece of furniture when it’s right, yet I’ve bought huge sofas and had to get rid of them. Even if you’ve spent a lot of money for something, if it doesn’t work, throw it out. Otherwise, it holds the entire room hostage.”

Rural Intelligence Home and Garden
Rule 12
Spend as Little as Possible on Kitchens and Bathrooms
“Fancy kitchens depress me. I think kitchens and baths should be simple and utilitarian.”

Rule 13

If It’s Gloomy, Paint it Gray
“When we finally got it all stripped down, there was a little bit of gloom.  You can’t force cheer just by painting everything yellow, it never works, so throughout the house, I painted all the walls gray [Benjamin Moore’s ‘Nimbus’], and used the same color cut by half with white on the ceiling and the woodwork. The floors are also painted gray [Benjamin Moore’s ‘Shadow’]  On furniture, I like to use a Walmart flat latex in a color they call Aluminum that is the perfect French gray.” 

Rural Intelligence Home and GardenRule 14 

Collect Busts
“They’re classical and whimsical at the same time.  And I love plaster as a material—in nearly every room, there’s some object that’s made of plaster, and often it will be a bust. This wrestler is by the same artist, Mark Beard, who did the painting of the fencer in the living room.”

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 04/30/08 at 12:43 PM • Permalink