Screen Designed by Margery

“How do you come up with these cool custom designs?”

This is a question that we get all the time as we are designing more and more custom items for our clients. With that in mind, I thought I’d write a bit about the process of designing something special, from start to finish.

Designing furniture and accessories can be one of the most fantastic and satisfying experiences for an interior designer. You start with a creative vision and then work through all the details to see it come to life. When Margery Wedderburn Interiors (MWI) designed the Living Room for the DC Design House in 2017 in Potomac, Maryland, I wanted to create something in one of the corners that felt lyrical and fluid while still feeling textural. I went to the Niermann Weeks furniture factory in Millersville, Maryland, and they generously assisted in fabricating this vision.

Work in Progress on this fantastic custom-designed screen by Margery for the Living Room of the DC Design House 2017.

I started by drawing sketches and really thinking through exactly what this incredible screen should look like. Because it was custom, I could consider the scale and proportion of how it would fit into the corner in this huge Living Room that I designed. I then discussed it in great detail with the Niermanns, and we brainstormed just how this vision would become reality.

Screen finish detailing takes a great deal of time as this is the base of everything.

Once the screen was finalized on paper, we needed to start the finish details for the screen and then for the leaves as well. The screen base needed to be interesting with many tones of gold and gesso. See the image above for the final faux finish, which includes many layers of paint and gold.

The screen planks – four of them – ready to move to the next step.
Above: One of the main leaf shapes attached to the screen. This piece is cut our of a very light metal which can then be bent and shaped exactly how we wanted in order to create this very lively flow of leaves, as if the wind just blew in and rustled them around the screen.
Above: The various leaf cutouts received the beautiful gold leaf layered finishes from the excellent Niermann Weeks team. Note how they catch the light, with so many different layers of color and gold. Just stunning work by Niermann Weeks.

Working with Eleanor and Claire Niermann of Niermann Weeks was such a treat as they have this incredibly vast knowledge of furniture-making, the history of furniture design and super high-end style and finishes. I soaked up all the information I could while there with them creating this vision. We created these leaf patterns which were made of very thin malleable metal so that we could bend them any way we wanted to get this complete movement in the leaves.

These leaves started as paper shapes which were then cut out as thin metal pieces.
Working with the super-talented Claire Niermann on the design placement of all the leaves. I am actually standing on a ladder at that point to get a good vantage point of the entire screen!
Also involved was the uber-talented Eleanor Niermann, seen here assisting in the actual layering effect created on the screen. My part was so much fun; the Niermann team then had to assemble these pieces to ensure they would “hold” onto the screen!

I can’t even begin to tell you how rewarding this custom piece was to design. Creating this absolute flow of the leaves and ensuring that there were enough leaves and that they were placed in exactly the right spot took hours. I stood on a ladder for much of that time to get a bird’s eye view of what this piece would look like when complete.

Starting to take shape. Note that the base screen already has this beautiful finish that I’d previously designed and worked through with the NW team. And note that the screen is not yet put together… it’s just the plank boards at this point!
We’re getting there! See how it’s taking shape across the planks. But I also wanted this feeling that some of the leaves were still billowing around, and so there are these additional leaves scattered a bit here and there in the corners.

One of the challenges of adding these leaves was that they had to be nailed in one-by-one, which was labor-intensive for the NW team, but also it meant that we needed to ensure that each leaf covered part of another leaf so that the nails would not show.

The layout of the screen is almost complete! Nothing screwed in yet though.

And then the final reveal was actually at the DC Design House where this screen “Held Court” in the Living Room for the entire month that the showhouse was open.

Notice how the movement of the screen “speaks to” the black and white art on the left wall as well as the gorgeous curvilinear lines of the center table.

We’ll have some more custom “Work In Progress” articles in the weeks to come.

Until then, stay inspired!

Margery Wedderburn

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