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Magazine    May 2001

Total Design

Interior designer Clodagh, whose long list of clients includes Robert Redford, Herb Alpert, the Elizabeth Arden spa and numerous others, starts her new book, Total Design, with a mantra:
contemplate, cleanse, clarify and create. It has to do with contemplating the space, cleansing it of unnecessary items, clarifying the resident’s goals, needs and desires and creating a unique environment. Fine, she has given the dictum, but how? Clodagh painstakingly gives detailed instructions on how to follow the mantra in sections called “Clearing Out,” “Personalizing a Professional Space” and many others.

Total Design is organized in chapters that introduce several of Clodagh’s design projects with pictures and text describing her clients’ desires and her solutions. In “At Home with Nature,” the interior designer explains how she reconciled Robert Redford’s love of the outdoors with his need to be in the city when he asked her to design his Manhattan penthouse.

Rather than trying to imitate natural scenes, which she decries as unnatural and disappointing, “raw materials like rough linen, patterned stone and sandy plaster help to re-create the variations we find in nature,” advises Clodagh, who used an exotic fabric against a textured plaster wall in one of the rooms (left) she created for the actor. “By contrast, a few highly designed fixtures and elements accentuate the rough easiness of these materials.” Note the metal fireplace screen in Redford’s living room (top left) and the faucet in the bathroom (above left), which she particularly relishes. “This abundance of textures balanced with the refined faucet, the glass wall, and a voluptuous stone sink are a celebration of our role as both creator and humble observer.”

In her nearly 20 years as an interior designer, Clodagh has created a variety of environments for living, working and relaxing—from stores and boardrooms to spas and bedrooms (above right). The latter, she believes, should feel like a sanctuary. “In especially stressful lives, no room is more luxurious than a bedroom stripped down to the bare essentials. There is a bed, of course, a chair for sitting, lamps for reading, a rug for warming the floor and absorbing sound. There should be a flower for fragrance and beauty, a window to drench the room in light and remind you of the world outside—and of your safe distance from it.”

The book is bursting with wisdoms and, most importantly, practical advice. Advice on how to buy lighting and furniture, what materials to use, types of windows and window coverings. The feng shui conscious will get a lot of tips from this book, as Clodagh is a dedicated practitioner, down to the floor mats.

At the end of Total Design is a workbook outlining the interview process Clodagh and her clients undergo to begin a project. She has published it as a step-by-step guide for readers exploring possibilities for their own residential designs. A must for anyone interested in making a home into a castle.

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Total Design by Clodagh
Clarkson Potter, $45
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