Earlier this year, we received the tremendous honor of being one of seven design firms invited by DXV, the luxury division of American Standard, to create a space inspired by a classic work of literature.
Water for Elephants by novelist Sara Gruen was the novel we chose. It spoke to us on many levels, but primarily because of the beautifully tragic nature of the love story that unfolded in a third rate traveling circus, at the start of the Great Depression, between Marlena, the heroine and an orphan with no where else to turn, and her lover Jacob, the circus vet. The pages are filled with freaks and clowns, wonder and pain, anger and passion, which created a unique design opportunity for us to imagine what Marlena's only real retreat and refuge - her personal dressing room in a train car - may have looked like.
Marlena's signature color, pink, was a starting point for the creative design that guided the mood for this space. We kicked the design off with a custom wallpaper, the lush and robust leaf and lotus pattern of Shanti by PaperMills in a sultry and shocking hot pink, which we showcased within ebonized wood paneled walls of a traditional train car.
These elements guided many of the design details in both vignettes, with nods seen in the vintage brutalist lotus chandelier, the murano glass leaf sconces and floral pendants, and the custom scroll metal work that we designed on the water closet doors.
As is always the case with us, fabrics tell our story, and thus we incorporated the exotic textiles Lazlo and Idadora, both patterns from Tulu Textiles, and custom tassels and bouillon trim, created for us by our partners at Fringe Market. We envisioned Marlena primping at a vanity with a Hollywood style mirror, our custom designed brass luggage rack above her piled high with all of the necessities of the star of the show, nestled under the arc of the train car ceiling with a dressing screen and steamer trunk at her side.
And then as kismet would have it, we landed on the new DXV Oak Hill Suite including the soaking tub, freestanding sink and toilet paired with the Traditional tub filler and Rain Can shower head for their nod to the Depression Era. We also incorporated several accessories from the Randall collection, including the towel ring, toilet paper holder and robe hook. All of the DXV suites work so well and seamlessly together that it was a cinch to pull from the various collections that we felt best fit our overall aesthetic. And their gorgeous new Satin Brass finish is divine! Everything came together so beautifully, and paired elegantly with the Tempest Tileworks Dublin tile from Filmore Clark that we used for the dramatic backdrop within the shower. This all coalesced into a swanky getaway, a personal oasis for Marlena.
One of our favorite parts of this project, aside from having the total creative freedom provided by DXV to create this space exactly as we dreamed of it, was styling our set with the help of Jim Goulet. Fanciful vintage costumes, precious perfume bottles, beat up old luggage sets, and even a stuffed peacock all became a reality as Jim and his talented team found a way to bring our every whim to life.
Our set design became reality in a way that is so stunningly authentic through the creative vision and talent of photographer Earl Kendall and his team at Quincy Street Studios. Not to mention, Earl's light-filled studio was just about the perfect place to spend three days styling and shooting our set while noshing on scrumptious food, delicious coffee and sweets. We were totally spoiled! We owe a debt of gratitude to every single person involved in building our set.
We couldn't resist this beautiful finishing touch, a nod to the novel's title, a pair of Brass Elephant Handles from our friend Carla Stolper at CF Michaels.
Serious fun! We got all glammed up for a photoshoot that took place on set. Much appreciation and bravado for the talented and lovely Selena Salfen for capturing these swanky images of us, and to the very cool and equally skilled video team that shot the clip you saw at the beginning of this post, Run With Scissors, Inc.
Want to see more behind the scenes from this project? Check out our Pinterest board (which has been our private design & collaboration space for this project, until today when we made the board public!) as well as our Instagram account (use #dxvtopsecret and #clothandkindcircus) to see all of the pics we snapped throughout the course of this project.
Please also be sure to check out the rest of the DXV Design Panel and the incredible work of the other designers, who all nailed it!
Lisa Mende, Breakfast at Tiffany's
Regina Sturrock, Anna Karenina
Justin Shaulis, A Room With A View
Lori Gilder & Rebecca Reynolds, Like Water For Chocolate
We also want to give a huge shout out to our killer intern, Elizabeth Dooley, who contributed so greatly to this project before she graduated from The University of Georgia. This girl is a creative force to be reckoned with, as is evident in her renderings of our space below, and we have no doubt that someday you'll be reading about her in the pages of Elle Decor and House Beautiful.
There are not really words to truly express our thanks to the tremendous team at DXV and American Standard for including us in this visionary project of yours, and for taking our initial design concept (above) to beautiful and perfect completion.
Jeannette Long, Debbie Drury, Margaret Monteleone, Jean-Jacques L'henaff, we've immensely enjoyed this entire process from the very get-go and happily count you amongst our friends. Your product line is exceptional, your design work - visionary, and your team is simply the best. Sincere thanks.
Lastly, Miss V - Veronika Miller of Modenus, whose brainchild this project is, there are no words but you know how we feel about you. #soulsisters