Focus On: Grant Larkin
Lainie Grant and Matt Larkin are the talented duo behind interior design firm – Grant Larkin. Specializing in high-end interiors and garden design.
How did you come to choose interior design as a career?
M: I have been in love with old houses and furniture since I was in Grade School. In College, I dealt in 20th-century decorative arts, and after graduation worked in a studio doing restoration of French Art Deco, when that ended, and Lainie and I married, we had to figure out what to do!
What do you like most about the work you do?
M: I think it’s the collaborative process. There are so many working parts and personalities that every day is different.
Do you recall your first design project?
M: Oh yes, We were commissioned to redo the original Alice’s restaurant in Stockbridge and we did it in exchange for our wedding catering. It was over-the-top fantasy with polished faux lapis lazuli woodwork, a cloud ceiling, and hand cast sconces that were woman heads with copper crowns. We had a blacksmith make a huge console table that had a forged frieze with a gastronomical theme that was gilded in 24K gold! It was crazy. The building inspector delayed the opening for a day because he thought the flakes of gold that were drifting thru the air was some kind of violation…
Do you focus on the same design details or are you each responsible for different aspects of a project?
M: I do the overall concept, I hand draw all plans and elevations. Lainie and I collaborate on the selection and design of the furnishings, and Lainie’s main focus is color, fabrics, and surfaces.
Does your approach to design differ from one another? If so, how?
L: We have been collaborating for 30 years now, our point of view has become refined and shared.
Do you have a preference for antiques or modern?
M: We LOVE design in all aspects. I grew up with love of the 18th and 19th century. Lainie opened my eyes to Edwardian, the Aesthetic period is especially attractive to us. In college, I collected and dealt in 20th century classic modern, and I have to say that the current trend toward contemporary craftsmanship and design is fantastic.
What advice would you give a young married couple contemplating entering into a business venture together?
M & L: Acquire a taste for clear liquor, and get dogs.
What quality or qualities must a “well designed” room possess?
M: Suitability is essential. We have been entrusted with creating the backdrop for people’s lives, and it must reflect their perspective, with a tweak, of course.
What’s your favorite room in a house to decorate?
M: The whole thing. We put as much care into the front hall closet wallpaper as we do to individual rooms.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
L: That is easy. Matt and I give our clients the BEST of whatever it is they like. We are as comfortable designing a Colonial Revival pile as we are with a sleek modern penthouse. And as students of design history, we love combining antique and modern. If we had to choose ONE thing that was consistent in our work it is realness. Hand plastered walls, the best hardware that the budget allows, classic silhouettes.
Do you ever disagree strongly on a design decision?
M: Sure, it is inevitable.
How do you reach a compromise?
L: Honestly, Matt usually wins, though not every time…
Has your style evolved over time?
M: Well, we look at stuff we did years ago and it still holds up, but there are design trends that our clients key into that we fit in.
Do you collect? If so, what?
M: Just a little… We haven’t met anything we don’t WANT to collect. Our Greek Revival home is furnished mainly with 19th-century antiques mixed with furniture of our own designs. We used to surround ourselves with LOTS of it, but we have been editing down to our favorite stuff. We have also over the last 10 years or so replaced most of the period art with emerging contemporary artists, often a friend’s work. Lainie has a passion for animal imagery, and German stuffed animals. I collect early photography, daguerreotypes mostly, stuffed in drawers…
Do you have a favorite item in your home? One you are unwilling to part with?
M: Here we go, it’s Sophie’s Choice… If there was a fire I would grab the Cynthia Wick painting of our topiary garden, and Lainie may grab the 19th-century clown shoes that we have owned since before we were married or her German gnomes!
Cynthia Wick Painting clown shoes
Is there a period or style that makes you cringe?
M: Oh yes, There was a fad recently of thinking rock maple colonial furniture from the 1950s and 60s was cool. In the words of the great John Fowler it is PPF/Poor People Furniture. And has no place whatsoever anywhere near us.
Cushman maple armchair
What quick fixes can we do right now to update a room?
L: Paint it, and throw half the stuff out.
Where do you turn for inspiration?
M: We have a huge library of books on design of all periods, but honestly, our Instagram feed now is as good as it gets.
Tell us about your most challenging design project.
M: Trying to work with difficult people, and by that, we mean those that don’t know what they do or don’t like. That is tough.
Not only do you create beautiful urban and rural interiors from classical to modern, your talents also extend to the great outdoors. In 2000 you founded Black Barn Farm Topiary. Tell us about your work there.
M: Well, it came about when we bought our home in Richmond, MA and I was determined to have a big topiary, and unlike Europe, it just doesn’t exist. So I took an adult education program at a local high school and learned how to weld so I could make whatever fantastical creature as well as traditional forms I wanted. The result is that we have a few hundred pieces of it in the garden. And, as a result of no one else doing it, I work on installations around the country both public and private. Is is also my justification for being outdoors!
You design high-end interiors and gardens, but wait – there’s more! You also have a custom furniture and lighting line available through Grant Larkin. How did that come about?
M: When I was doing restoration work after college I came in contact with incredibly skilled craftsmen that populate Berkshire County. Personally, I have always been a “maker”, so combining that with our passion for decorative arts it was a natural extension. Often you have a vision of what the perfect thing is for a specific location and the only way to achieve it is to have it made. I do the drawing, and use specific craftsmen to execute it. Over the years we have cultivated a handful of makers who know how we like to have things done.
M: The lighting started when we were doing a big modern house in the Berkshires and I wanted to introduce architectural lighting that would compliment the Nakashima furniture, an updated “Craftsman” look we were doing throughout. I started looking at the lighting of the Wiener Werkstatte, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Japanese architecture. The resulting “Mack” lantern was born. I gave one as a gift to our friend Gray Davis who used it in his office, whose conference room was shared with Thom Filicia. Thom used them in a home he designed for Jennifer Lopez
it was published in Vogue, and they totally took off. Thanks to the invention of Pinterest we still get calls weekly, and that’s over 10 years ago.
What are you currently working on?
L: We are putting the finishing touches on an apartment in the San Remo for clients that we had worked with up here in the country, a spectacular modern home that takes its inspiration from the Far East. The apartment is a calm oasis of pale tinted plaster, silvered floors, and contemporary furniture.
Berkshire Botanical Garden
M: In addition to that, we are currently working on the renovation of the Berkshire Botanical Garden’s historic Center House. It is a 2.5 M project for which we have designed all the interior spaces and lighting. It is really going to be a terrific addition to the visitor experience at the Garden, with gallery space to feature art focussing on botanical, landscape and natural history. There will be a spectacular entry foyer with living walls of understory tropical plantings, and a new classroom and teaching kitchen where the Garden can expand its programming in the popular “farm to table” movement that is gaining so much attention.
Grant Larkin located in Richmond MA can be reached by phone at 413-698-2599 or by e: mail email@example.com