I am so excited to have one of my favorite designers and friends, New York Interior Designer Brad Ford, joining me today as a Virtual Camp Counselor. Brad’s rugged good looks and nature-inspired sensibilities are such a fit for my Design Summer Camp posts. And the fact that he hails from my home state of Arkansas makes his creative ideas and inspirations hit so close to home for me.
So here’s a fun Design Summer Camp Q & A that Brad and I did earlier this week. Enjoy!
TF: I thought we could start out with a few “camp” inspired questions. Did you go to summer camp as a kid?
BF: I never went to summer camp growing up, but our family always went camping every summer on Lake Ouachita near Mt. Ida, Arkansas. We would go with several other families, set up tents and create our own little compound. As a kid, I almost looked more forward to those weekends than Christmas. We had such fun water skiing, grilling out, playing games and exploring the woods. There also happened to be a little motel on the property called the Shangri-La that had an old-fashioned diner with the best cheeseburgers and homemade cream pies. After a long day on the lake we’d walk over to the air-conditioned restaurant, and I’d order a slice of coconut cream pie and just be in Heaven. To this day, those camping trips with family and friends are some of my most treasured memories.
TF: Is there anything you remember about these Arkansas camping excursions that inspires you today?
BF: Absolutely! The landscapes in that particular part of the state are especially breath taking and whether or not I fully appreciated them as a kid, it’s had a tremendous influence in my design sensibility as an adult. I’ve always been drawn to natural materials, organic shapes and earthy colors. I especially love interesting woods and furnishings that have a hand-made quality to them. I believe all of these elements of my design were inspired by nature.
TF: What types of inspiration do you draw from the outdoors in the course of your interior design work?
BF:I think the longer I live in New York (going on 20 years) the more I try and draw inspiration from my childhood. There’s such a dichotomy in the landscape I was surrounded by growing up compared to the more urban environment of Manhattan where I live now. As much as I love New York and everything it has to offer, I still long for those wide open, green spaces and have probably tried to bring a touch of that into each of my projects. I think my work definitely has somewhat of a modern edge, but I like a lot of texture, rough-hewn woods, as well as “weathered” finishes which I think makes a space feel more warm, soulful and serene. All characteristics I feel when I’m surrounded by nature.
BF: I don’t have to look far from home for this one. I’ve always been captivated by architect Fay Jones’ Thorncrown chapel near Eureka Springs. It’s quite a majestic place and unbelievably inspiring, yet there’s something about it that’s so calming. One of things I most admired with Jones’ work was his organic aesthetic and the fact that he used a lot of materials and traditional forms found locally there in the Ozarks.
TF: What are your favorite nature-inspired trends and/or products?
BF: Again, I really like the idea of furniture, accessories, or finishes that either have a patina to them or look as though they’re handmade. I’ve always been drawn to the work of George Nakashima and his use of live edge wooden slabs. There are a lot of furniture companies who have clearly been influenced by his designs, but one of my favorites is a showroom here in the city called BDDW. Their work is incredibly handsome and very well-made. I always encourage my clients to buy at least one piece from them, because I have a feeling their furniture will be highly collectible one day.
TF: What’s a favorite paint color inspired by the natural world?
BF: My absolute favorite paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Abingdon Putty HC-99. It’s quite a complex neutral with a slightly green undertone, and it looks terrific in almost any application. You can’t go wrong with this color and it looks terrific with other greens, blues and colors often associated with the outdoors.
TF: What current designer who relates their designs to nature inspires you?
BF: I’m wild about the work done by the architecture and interior design firm StoneFox Design (see Brad’s favorite Stone Fox image above). They have a very clean and simple design sensibility yet you can clearly see they’re highly influenced by nature. I’d love to collaborate with them on a project one day.
TF: How do you like to rough it? Tent or cabin? Or can you not live without 5-star room service?
BF: Obviously I like the idea of having 5-star room service and certainly wouldn’t turn it away, but at the end of the day I feel most comfortable in a space with a little rustic charm. Whether that’s a tent, cabin or even a room back at the Shangri-La, I like the quirky spirit and unassuming character of a space that’s stylish yet still feels down-to earth and possibly offers up a little “camp”.
Here’s the handsome Mr. Ford at one of his favorite rugged retreats, The East Deck Motel in Montauk.
A HUGE thanks goes out to my friend Brad Ford for his inspirational insight into nature-inspired design!