NYC Designer Marc Houston Talks Art and Decor
Marc Houston’s aesthetic is, as he describes it, “a product of diverse cultural and artistic influences.” Just by looking at his creations, the melding of contemporary elements, eclectic refinement, drama and a touch of luxury are palpable.
We recently collaborated with Marc on a gorgeous project–he revamped an 830-square-foot garden-level condo, and incorporated feather art by Sean Gallagher to take things to the next level. See the transformation for yourself in the Winter 2016 edition of Boston Magazine. We recently chatted with the designer about his decor philosophy, views on art, and much more.
What’s your story, Marc Houston?
As a child, I was interested in theatre, music and art, and had a penchant for rearranging my bedroom furniture. In my teens, I would escape from my grocery store job during my lunch breaks to peruse the homeware aisles at a local department store. My official entrance into design came rather serendipitously while completing my undergraduate studies, when a friend alerted me about an opening in a contemporary lighting showroom. Though I had a peripheral interest in design, I had no real experience, so I was pretty surprised when I got hired on the spot! It was an immersive, trial-by-fire learning experience that would ultimately alter my professional course. I later decided to move to London to do my graduate studies and interned at a furniture studio, after which I returned to the States to work at two architectural and interiors firms in NYC before starting my own. The rest, as they say, is history.
Tell us about your interior design philosophy.
My work is developed for places where individuals and families will share private moments and create lifelong memories. With that understanding, for me, interior design is a sacred endeavour not solely about furnishing a room, but connecting the user with the space. My aim is to capture the unique needs and aspirations of each client and distill them into personalized composites that strike a balance of utility and fantasy, spontaneity and control and capture spirit over period, theme or trend. I’m drawn to clients who share my adventurous sensibilities and who rush toward the experimental. Those who are willing to take risks and push the envelope are my greatest inspiration!
In your eyes, what is the significance of art?
In terms of its application to interiors, art has such a powerfully transcendent quality to alter the mood of an environment to create interest, surprise, context, tension, or respite. I view it as a vital character in a cast of players, adding a unique voice to the stage.
What is your favourite genre of artwork?
I’m drawn to the unusual, the provocative, the grotesque, the subversive; works that explore darker or more radical themes, likely as a protracted rebellion against my puritanical religious upbringing where such exploration was taboo. I love the work of Francis Bacon, William Kentridge and George Condo. Also, the energetic abstract expressionist paintings of Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline. I’ve recently become obsessed with the work of the Italian avant-garde, like Paolo Scheggi, Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, all of whom employ geometric apertures and tensile manipulation to transform canvases into three dimensional objects.
As an interior designer, what value do you hold most dear to your heart?
Courage. You have to take chance and do something that frightens you or you’ll never know what you’re capable of in life and interiors.
(This interview has been edited for length)