What’s New In Art, Architecture, And Design

Originally appeared on sothebysrealty.com

Art is building on its scientific cred, residences are getting multiple primary suites, and the down-to-earth cottage look is back. Here are the latest trends in art, architecture, and design.


High-tech science has become a creative force in the art world.

London-based artist Susan Aldworth explores the human identity, or as she puts it, “what makes us who we are,” in works that are in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum, and Guy’s Hospital. Her interest in the “human mind, especially consciousness and our sense of self,” has led to collaborations with scientists.

For her suite of prints Transience, she helped develop a technique to capture the authentic marks of the brain on an etching plate. And her large-scale installation Out of the Blue, comprising 106 antique garments embroidered with words spoken by epileptics and suspended from the ceiling, is moved by computer-programmed pulleys to correspond to the algorithms of electrical activity in an epileptic brain. “Science,” she says, “offers fascinating explanations and methodologies to explore the world with.”

Klari Reis, a painter based in San Francisco, experiments with new materials and methods for her scientifically themed works. Using epoxy polymer, she explores its interaction with a variety of dyes and pigments, creating compositions on aluminum and wood panels that are characterized by colorful under-the-microscope smears, bumps, and stains. Her installation Hypochondria consists of hand-painted petri dishes mounted on walls in groupings of 30, 60, or 150 pieces. Reis, whose work is on display in the Peninsula Shanghai hotel, Morgan Stanley in New York City, and the Stanford University Medical Center, collaborates with biomedical companies. She says she is “driven by curiosity and my desire to explore and document the natural and unnatural with a sense of wonder and joy.”


Klari Reis’ work includes hand-painted petri dishes
Klari Reis’ work includes hand-painted petri dishes.



In grand estates, one of the latest luxuries gaining popularity is a series of primary bedroom suites akin to a five-star hotel. Sometimes they are two separate suites; in other instances, a pair of bedrooms shares a central bathroom.

Bobby McAlpine, the founder of the interior design and architecture firm that bears his name, says he’s designed several over the years. “When a pair of homeowners such as two couples or siblings share a vacation property, double master suites are the order of the day,” he says. “Other requests are for an upstairs master for use now and a ground-floor master for the homeowner to ‘age’ into in the future.”

The look of two primary bedrooms can create a symmetry, he says. He created mirrored primary suites in his first house, a move he described as “smart and downright pretty.”

For a client with a summer home in St. John, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Elissa Morgante, a co-principal of Morgante Wilson Architects in Evanston, Ill., designed a pair of main bedroom suites—one on the first floor and one on the second, creating chic symmetry.

A primary suite—one of a pair— in a St. John home designed by Morgante Wilson Architects.
A primary suite—one of a pair— in a St. John home designed by Morgante Wilson Architects



Cottage style—that humble-chic aesthetic—is making a comeback, particularly in accessory buildings such as carriage houses and pool houses.

“The human scale of the cottage is a perfect mix of softened roof lines and quaint, well-scaled facades,” says architect Kevin ten Brinke, a principal of KT2 Design Group in Sudbury, Mass. With interiors characterized by painted or decorated furniture, weathered finishes, floral fabrics, a garden-in-bloom color palette, vintage features, and natural textural accents like baskets, cottage style is “a great way of exploring more fun expressive details that would otherwise be too informal for the main residence,” he notes.


A kitchen by KT2 Design
A kitchen by KT2 Design.
Feels cottage chic.
Feels cottage chic

Living Walls’ Benefits Extend Beyond Their Beauty

A vertical garden can be a status art piece indoors and out.

Originally appeared on sothebysrealty.com

Vertical gardens, which transform plain walls into lush landscapes, are being employed as signature architectural features in interior and exterior spaces.

“Luxury clients, especially, perceive them as a differentiator, a status art piece,” says Irina Kim Sang, managing partner of Miami Vertical Garden.

Denise Eichmann, a senior project manager for Ambius, a global interior-landscaping company, says living, or green, walls are popular partly because “plants on a vertical space don’t take up any square footage,” and “sitting next to a living wall can feel like you’re being shaded by a canopy of trees.”

Living wall by Sempergreen.

Inside, living walls open up small spaces and connect rooms in open-plan homes. With few options for outdoor art available, green walls fill the void, even during winters in cold climates. “Living walls have been popular in Europe for 40 years,” Kim Sang says, adding that interest in the United States has room to grow. “They are also popular in Asia. Hong Kong is a top buyer.”


The gardens, which require sophisticated irrigation and illumination systems, are planted into walls in modular trays or pockets or in hydroponic setups with saturated sponges. They are usually $90 to $250 per square foot and can include thousands of plants.

“A true vertical garden that has a continuous root zone behaves like a regular garden,” says Oscar Warmerdam, president of Virginia-based Sempergreen. “We often prune them two times a year because the plants will grow two to four feet off the wall.”


Living walls offer many benefits beyond their beauty: They increase oxygen, create natural humidity, reduce particle pollution, save energy, and buffer noise. Studies have shown that a connection with nature reduces eye strain, fatigue, and stress.

“Living walls are dynamic. They have motion and rhythm,” says Jack Mascharka, senior designer for John Mini Distinctive Landscapes in Congers, N.Y. “If you can create that effect, the wall will always deliver delight.”